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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 44 New Delhi October 22, 2016

Goa Meetings in Perspective

Sunday 23 October 2016, by SC

EDITORIAL

Several major developments have taken place in the last few days. But none of these can possibly minimise the importance of the recent meetings in Goa: the Indo-Russian summit punctuated by the Modi-Putin meeting on October 15; the BRICS summit on October 15-16; and the BIMSTEC meet as well as the BRICS-BIMSTEC outreach summit on October 16.

As for the Indo-Russian summit, as former Indian ambassador to Moscow P.S. Raghavan wrote in The Hindu yesterday in an article entitled “Reinventing Old Links”, the summit was high on both symbolism and substance.

The three defence cooperation projects and notable, not only for their functional importance, but also for the speed of their progress from announcement to agreement. The decision to jointly manufacture Kamov Ka226T helicopters in India was announced in 2014, an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was concluded in 2015, and a shareholders’ agreement was signed in Goa. The S-400 air defence system and building of naval frigates have taken an even shorter time from inception to IGA. This is a refreshing departure from the glacial progress of most defence projects. Two other decisions could have a far-reaching impact on India-Russia defence cooperation: the establishment of a ministerial-level Military Industrial Conference to identify new projects and resolve pending issues, and a Science and Technology Commission to facilitate development and sharing of cutting-edge technologies.

Beyond defence too there has been significant progress to raise bilateral cooperation to a new level—for example, the units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant are under finalisation and six more are in the pipeline.

The Indo-Russian Joint Statement has also declared “zero-tolerance for direct or indirect support of terrorism” with the emphasis on the need “to deny safe haven to terrorists”. This was reflected in the Statement’s observations on Afghanistan as well. At the political level Moscow reiterated its support for New Delhi’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Much has been written about the BRICS summit. Even a cursory glance at the 110-para Goa Declaration of the Eighth BRICS Summit would bring out that as many as five fairly lengthy paragraphs cover the issue of terrorism. True, there is specific reference to ISIL or Daesh but not to LeT and JeM. However, why should one be blind to the specific demonstrations of solidarity with India on the subject? As, for example,

We strongly condemn the recent attacks against some BRICS countries, including that in India. We strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stress that there can be no justification whatsoever for any acts of terrorism, whether based upon ideological, religious, political, racial, ethnic or any other reasons. We agree to strengthen cooperation in combating international terrorism both at the bilateral level and at international fora.

Further,

We call upon all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, which should include countering violent extremism as and when conducive to terrorism, radicalisation, recruitment, movement of terrorists including Foreign Terrorist Fighters, blocking sources of financing terrorism, including through organised crime by means of money laundering, drug trafficking, criminal activities, dismantling terrorist bases, and countering misuse of the Internet including social media by terror entities through misuse of the latest Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Successfully combating terrorism requires a holistic approach. All counter-terrorism measures should uphold international law and respect human rights.

Yet some commentators have taken exception to two paras in the beginning of the Declaration that highlight the “transition to a more just, equitable and democratic multi-polar international order” requiring “a comprehensive, concerted and determined approach based on the spirit of solidarity, mutual trust and benefit, equity and cooperation, strong commitment to international law and the central role of the United Nations”; the “commitment to resolutely reject the continued attempts to misrepresent the results of World War II”; and the connection between “development and security” that are “closely interlinked, mutually reinforcing and key to attaining sustainable peace”.

The formulations in these paras have been criticised for being anti-US. In reality there is nothing in these two paragraphs which can be objected to if one reads them without jaundiced vision.

As for the BIMSTEC document, it has been even more explicit on the issue of terrorism. The relevant paragraph clearly spells out the necessary tasks on this score at this juncture bringing into focus that “our fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminate terrorists, terror organisations and networks, but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against States who encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues”, while asserting: “There should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs.”

Overall the meetings were rewarding and the final documents highly balanced. Of course PM Modi wanted special stress on cross-border terrorism which the BRICS summit declaration did not project. But this can hardly be construed as the summit’s failure.

The successful outcomes of the Goa meetings far outweigh the so-called “negative results” that are being deliberately magnified by certain elements at the behest of vested interests.

October 20 S.C.