BRICS Summit 2017: Amazing turnaround on terror from Goa to Xiamen, but uncertainty remains post-Doka La

Like a world-class tennis player lobbing the ball from the base line to just across the net, India appears to have expertly brought India-China relations back on balance. For India, the declaration from the Xiamen BRICS summit marks a sea-change from the belligerence which China demonstrated just a few days ago.

Carefully focused diplomacy by India's security managers appears to have borne fruit. So much so that Pakistan, which had treated China until now as its most dependable and trusted ally, has rejected the declaration which was adopted while China was in the chair. No less than Pakistan's defence minister stated its rejection.

 BRICS Summit 2017: Amazing turnaround on terror from Goa to Xiamen, but uncertainty remains post-Doka La

Leaders of BRICS nations come together at Xiamen on Monday. Reuters

The Xiamen declaration condemned Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, both of which primarily target India, as terror outfits. Further, the India-China meet on Tuesday morning agreed that peace should be maintained on the mutual border. The two countries' security and defence chiefs are to stay in touch to ensure this.

All this contrasts sharply with the series of belligerent statements from China during the Doka La standoff between the two countries' troops over the past three months.

It is possible that China was testing India's response, nerve, and staying power through those statements – which included specific threats of war and a thrashing by the Chinese Army.

Turnaround since Goa

The Xiamen declaration marks a turnaround from the previous BRICS Summit at Goa. The unwillingness of China and Russia to allow India to highlight terrorism in that declaration had come as a rude shock to the Indian side.

India's security establishment has carefully charted and executed a laudable course correction over the past few months. Notably, there has been no further mention of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, or freedom fighters in Balochistan or Gilgit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's public announcement of support for freedom movements in Balochistan and Gilgit during his Independence Day speech in 2016 had ruffled China's feathers. This should have been predictable since the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) arm of the Belt and Road Initiative passes right through both those areas.

India's security experts had apparently underestimated China's commitment to its alliance with Pakistan and the extent to which China considers those areas of vital strategic importance. China has committed to invest 46 billion dollars in CPEC.

It would be most interesting to know the economic dimensions of the strategic talks between and Chinese president Xi Jinping on Tuesday morning. It was India's refusal to attend the OBOR Summit in mid-May that marked a steep decline in China's attitude towards India. The Doka La standoff began a couple of weeks later.

World in flux

A major question mark hangs over the extent to which India has now succeeded in blunting Chinese and Russian friendliness towards Pakistan. The situation has become particularly piquant after United States president Donald Trump recently declared an alliance with India – with regard to Afghanistan and the Asia-Pacific region in general.

North Korea's defiant nuclear tests and missile launches have complicated things just as great power relations are in flux around the world. It is worth asking whether the current focus on North Korea, which appears to be at least subtly backed by both China and Russia, has influenced both countries' responses at Xiamen.

Trump's unpredictable nature had already unsettled matters considerably. And although the Islamic State militias appear to be on the back foot in West Asia, various sorts of terror-based groups continue to pose a potent threat in various parts of the world.

Amid all this uncertainty, one can be sure that China would like nothing more than to emerge as the dominant power in world affairs. A very pertinent question in this regard is, how could India's concerns and ambitions fit with this?

During this very big moment in the super league of global politics, India must build its defence capacities and prepare for all eventualities. Although the successes at Xiamen are very encouraging, it would be foolish to forget the extreme bellicosity that emanated from China just last month.

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Updated Date: Sep 06, 2017 12:11:06 IST