Yet another summit of BRICS leaders has taken place—this time in Johannesburg in South Africa—where familiar resolves have been voiced and terrorism has been condemned in no uncertain terms. But the world is where it was a year ago when the five member-nations (Brazil, Russia, India China, and South Africa) issued a declaration in Xiamen in China which voiced the same sentiments.
It is not as though the grouping is helpless but in the name of the sovereign rights of nations it is not prepared to act to protect its resolves either as a grouping or as individual countries that command clout. There is no dearth of expressions of concern but no action on the ground.
India’s over-riding concern is with the brazen manner in which the Pakistan government connives in fuelling terror in Jammu and Kashmir. The perpetrators are terrorists trained and armed at the behest of the Pakistan Army in camps that are the hotbeds of terror but when it comes to applying pressure on Islamabad to desist from perpetrating terror even a country like China which enjoys immense clout with Pakistan fails to put a stop to the nefarious activities.
One may well ask what good is a forum that persistently shows rank impotence but just as BRICS has no answer to it, other seemingly well-meaning groupings across the world are in the same boat in similar situations.
Last year, there was much back-patting in the Indian delegation when the declaration named two terrorist groups—Lashkar e-Taiba and Jaish e-Mohammad—as perpetrators of terror along with other terror outfits that do not impinge on Indian interests. But what has it yielded?
When it was identified by the US as a terror outfit responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 and also listed by the UN as a terrorist organisation, the optimists thought Lashkar e-Taiba would not be allowed to contest elections in Pakistan. But the optimists were proved wrong as Lashkar reincarnated as Jamaat ud-Dawa and later in a new garb as Allahu Akbar Tehreek and was first rejected but on pressure from the Pakistan Army accepted as a political party that was allowed to contest.
That in the just-concluded elections, the Hafiz Saeed-supported obscure outfit has drawn a blank despite contesting over 250 seats in Parliament and State assemblies is a measure of the poor public support for the terror elements, which is a good sign. But that the “laadla” (favourite son) of the people, Imran Khan, who is on the verge of becoming prime minister is apparently not ill-disposed towards Hafiz Saeed is ominous for India.
The good sign
That Prime Minister Narendra Modi put his best foot forward in dealing with terrorism at BRICS is as it should have been. There is little point in shunning useful groupings just because they do not and will not do anything beyond paying lip service to controlling terror and terrorists.
In today’s world for a country of India’s size and stature, it is important to be associated with key groupings to serve some kind of a leadership role, at least as a regional power if not a world power.
It is myopic to deny that BRICS is a useful forum in furthering India’s interests in trade and investment.
Considering that the summit is being held in the backdrop of the US trade war which is likely to hit all five nations of the group, this is an opportunity to consolidate intra-BRICS trade through reduced tariffs.
For India, the economic benefits could accrue from not only cultivating the Russia-China axis as a counterweight to the US which is becoming increasingly inward-looking, but also to project its market as wide open for a higher level of investments from these countries.
The outreach to Africa, especially in the shape of China-India collaborative projects, could prove lucrative for both countries. That this was discussed by Xi Jinping and Modi first in Wuhan and now in Johannesburg is indeed a good sign.