Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s famous remark that “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests” always deepens one’s fascination with the art of successful diplomacy which stipulates, among other things, that convergence and divergence of interests among countries determine the character or shape of their bilateral relationship. What happened at China’s picturesque city Xiamen on the last weekend, however, constitutes an insult to the role of a country that has undoubtedly rendered more sacrifices in terms of loss of human lives and suffered greater economic losses than any country in the war on terror in the region and beyond. Instead of offering an expression of acknowledgement of Pakistan’s contributions towards the global resolve against terrorism or expressing concern on the rise of communal ideologies under Narendra Modi-led coalition government in India, the leaders of the five emerging market BRICS powers have for the first time named “militant groups based in Pakistan” as a regional security concern and called for their patrons to be held to account. Calling for an immediate end to violence in Afghanistan, the leaders said in a declaration signed, among others, by President Xi Jinping. “We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, (Islamic State)…, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.”
China was among the signatories to the BRICS document, although it is a widely known fact that the “all weather” China-Pakistan friendship is plausibly considered deeper than the oceans and taller than the Himalayas. This economic bloc also includes Russia, the successor state of the erstwhile Soviet Union which, along with China, had at the Eighth 2016 BRICS summit in Goa effectively blocked India’s similar anti-Pakistan move to succeed. But this has happened on China’s soil where Pakistan was “named and shamed”.
The Ninth Summit of BRICS, in other words, has provided India with some new ammunition to launch a new diplomatic offensive against Pakistan. Welcoming the move “as an important step forward in the fight against terrorism”, India is of the view that naming the Pakistan-based groups in the BRICS resolution is an important win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration that at last year’s summit described Pakistan the “mother ship of terrorism”. It also argues that wording in the communique is a “very important development” and that there is “recognition that the world cannot have double standards when dealing with militant attacks.”
Sharing BRICS’ alarm at terror threat, Pakistan’s Foreign Office, however, has called for attention to the rise of extremist ideologies and persecution of minorities in the “neighbourhood”. It also pointed out that many terrorist groups based in the region, including Afghanistan, such as the TTP and its associates like JuA have been responsible for extreme acts of violence against Pakistani people. The FO ought to have asked, for example, how China and Russia could ignore the fact that it is India that has been using Afghanistan-based proxies as a policy tool to carry out terrorist activities in the length and breadth of Pakistan, particularly in its province Balochistan, with a view to hampering its social and economic growth. Isn’t India inimical to the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it often indulges in levelling allegations against China by claiming that Azad Jammu and Kashmir where the latter has undertaken massive development works belonged to India? Has Beijing succumbed to the pressure that New Delhi had tried to exert on it through the boycott of launch of the One Belt One Road project and the recently-ended Doklam standoff?
Last but not least, we need to put our own house in order. Speaking at the opening session of the three-day envoys’ conference, foreign minister Khwaja Asif said that the country had made mistakes in the past and that Pakistan should not have participated in the war following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s. He also reportedly averred, “we need to tell our friends that we have improved our house. We need to bring our own house in order to prevent facing embarrassment on the international level”. The foregoing suggests that the government seems to be struggling to choose the right approach to a myriad of policymaking challenges. Needless to say, the situation brooks no complacency.