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BRICS meet under the shadow of Doklam, North Korea’s nuclear test: 10 points

NEW DELHI: Although Brics is a grouping of five nations, India and China are the two that inevitably hog the spotlight, and this year looks no different. The annual BRICS meet got underway yesterday in China under the shadow of the now-resolved India-China border standoff in Doklam and North Korea‘s sixth nuclear test.

India is definitely expected to bring up the issue of terror safe havens in Pakistan. China is definitely expected to not like that. And Beijing has already been forced on the back foot ahead of BRICS, no thanks to North Korea’s detonation. All of this is expected to impact this year’s meet. Here are the top 10 developments that provide context to the 3-day BRICS meet:

* The India-China border standoff in Doklam was resolved, after a fashion, just about in time for the BRICS summit. So close to the meet did the standoff continue that there was even speculation Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not attend. The two countries managed to come to an agreement though last week and both withdrew their troops from the faceoff site.

* Still, Beijing didn’t back down entirely gracefully. Its Army said a day after the so-called disengagement of troops was announced, that India should “draw lessons from the stand-off” that lasted 75 days. “The Chinese military will remain vigilant and firmly defend its national territory and sovereignty following the military stand-off between China and India,” said China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

* A week or so after the PLA statement, China’s foreign ministry too appeared to be instructing India on how it should conduct itself, this time at the BRICS meet in Xiamen. The ministry said that it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for India to bring up the issue of Pakistan and terror. “We also noticed that India, when it comes to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism, has some concerns. I don’t think this is an appropriate topic to be discussed at BRICS summit,” said Hua Chunying, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.

*Appropriate or not, India plans to bring up the issue, said the ministry of external affairs, hours before PM Modi left for Xiamen on Sunday. “We had raised it (terrorism) in Goa summit and sure it will revisit us in this summit as well,” said Preeti Saran, secretary (east), MEA. Saran was referring to last year’s BRICS meet in Goa, when Modi christened Pakistan, without naming it, “the mothership of terror”.

* This year, India is in an even stronger position to raise the issue of terror safe havens in Pakistan, because US President Donald Trump too has come down heavily on the country. Last month, while announcing his new Afghanistan policy, Trump accused Pakistan of sheltering terrorists and threatened to withdraw financial aid if Islamabad refuses to mend its ways.

* China, of course, came out in defence of its ‘all-weather friend’ Pakistan, after Trump’s comment. “Pakistan is at the forefront of counter terror efforts and has made sacrifices for this. The international community should recognize their contributions and sacrifices made by Pakistan,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman last week. China routinely refers to “sacrifices” made by Pakistan in battling terrorism.

* In what came as a surprise to many, though, it was Chinese President Xi Jinping who first broached the issue of terror at this year’s summit in his remarks on Sunday, the opening day of the summit. Xi’s comments may have been an attempt to pre-empt India, as it were. Xi talked of a “holistic” approach toward dealing with terror, which includes looking into its “symptoms and root causes”. The reference to “root causes” will trouble India as it is usually used as a code for Pakistan justifying its actions in the context of the troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir.

* Then there’s the sticky issue of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India was markedly absent from the BRI launch in May, an event even the US attended. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a crucial component of BRI and India has protested it as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. On Sunday, Xi referred to the initiative in his opening speech at the BRICS meet. Xi said BRI “is not a tool to advance any geopolitical agenda, but a platform for practical cooperation.”

* Xi may be trying to assuage Indian fears on BRI, but Sunday brought him more bad news that calls for his assuaging of global fears. That news? North Korea on Sunday conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, which it said was of an advanced hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile. China is North Korea’s sole major ally and biggest trade partner. The US has been urging China to cut off energy supply to North Korea. Beijing has resisted.

* So what was China’s reaction on Sunday to the nuclear test that took place on Day 1 of the BRICS meet? It strongly condemned the nuclear test and urged Pyongyang to stop its “wrong” actions. Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met on the sidelines of the summit, agreed to “appropriately deal” with North Korea’s nuclear test, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported. As The Sydney Morning Herald put it: “China hates nuclear tests on its border the way the US hates an intercontinental ballistic missile test that could potentially reach the US mainland.” That means, the “Ball (is now) in Beijing’s court” because North Korea has crossed China’s red line.

Source : timesofindia



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BRICS meet under the shadow of Doklam, North Korea’s nuclear test: 10 points

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