The September 3-5 Brics summit at Xiamen in China came at a specific moment for India - just days after the end of the military standoff at Doklam. In fact, there is a strong probability that China diplomatically agreed to the disengagement as it is the current chair of Brics and the summit was being held on its soil. It couldn’t have risked India’s absence, for that would have meant devaluation of the conference, if not its cancellation - as was the case with Saarc in Islamabad that India declined to attend. As such, President Xi Jinping went out of his way to be charming with India. In his hour-long one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, the Chinese leader appeared statesmanlike. He spoke of the need for the two neighbours to look ahead in their ties (right after Doklam).
In addition, Mr Xi didn’t hesitate to permit the inclusion of the names of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, the two anti-India terror outfits that operate out of Pakistan with the open support of the Pakistani military, in the document emanating from Xiamen.At the Goa Brics summit last year, China had prevented the mention of Pakistani terror outfits in the summit document. Predictably, the Indian media has been encouraged by our top officials to tom-tom the mention of Pakistani terrorist groups as a “win” for India, facile as it may seem to experts. We really should be wary of such self-congratulation.The mention that gladdens us in no way means Beijing will now change its stance and agree to let Lashkar and Jaish and their leaders be sanctioned by the UN in order to meet an Indian concern.
The reference in the Brics document to the terrorist outfits doesn’t cost China anything with Pakistan. It must be kept in view that at the UN, the Chinese view is that India hasn’t mustered the evidence against Jaish and its leader Masood Azhar. Such a cynical view can be sustained easily.Two important institutions Brics has created are the Shanghai-based New Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement - to meet adverse foreign currency fluctuations of members. But for both institutions, these are early days. It is doubtful Brics can prosper as an economic, financial and trade-enhancing grouping - either to correct international economic governance or offer a counter-thrust - if the shadow over the political relationship between India and China is not removed fairly soon. Glib summit documents or tactical charm on Beijing’s part won’t do it. Nor will Indian officials and media’s meaningless crowing about a “win”. New Delhi and Beijing should get serious if they seek to grow a healthy bilateral relationship. A good place to start is to settle the boundary, and for Beijing to stop playing games in Pakistan’s company.