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Mainstream, VOL LV No 38 New Delhi September 9, 2017

BRICS Summit, India-China, Rohingya Issue

Saturday 9 September 2017, by SC


From all available information, the Ninth BRICS Summit at Xiamen in southeastern China has been a success from the Indian standpoint. Not only were the substantive talks between China’s President Xi Jinping and PM Narendra Modi most constructive in terms of maintaining peace along the Sino-Indian border but the discussions within the BRICS forum also yielded a productive outcome. China and India alongwith the other three countries—Brazil, Russia and South Africa—that comprise the BRICS grouping openly declared their resistance to economic protectionism the Trump Administration is seeking to foist. The BRICS member-nations reiterated there commitment to an “open and inclusive” multilateral trading system while Beijing’s agreement to include the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad among the several terrorist groups threatening regional stability, and leaving out any reference to China’s contentious Belt and Road initiative were indicative of Beijing’s recognition of New Delhi’s sensitivities that went a long away towards the successful conclusion of the BRICS summit.

At one point it was feared that the long China-India military standoff in Doklam at the trijunction of India, China and Bhutan could derail the summit itself. Not only have these fears been belied but on the contrary, as noted by The Hindu, both Modi and Xi, “by putting up a united front at the BRICS summit, and proposing a revival of the Panchsheel principles of peaceful cooperation,... have signalled they are trying to put the bitterness of the past few months behind them”. The poistive nature of this development cannot be overemphasised. However, as mentioned in some sections of the media, one should be wary of any kind of self-congratulation precisely because China has displayed, time and again, its proclivity to change its colours especially in its dealings with India. Nevertheless, the significance of whatever has been achieved at Xiamen cannot and should not be minimised.

The PM’s first visit to Myanmar after the Xiamen BRICS summit was doubtless noteworthy and he did not gloss over the problem of Rohingyas in the Rakhine State but, while sharing the concerns of Myanmar over “extremist violence” in Rakhine, he told Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi: “When it comes to a big peace process or finding a solution to a special issue, we hope that all stake- holders can work together towards finding a solution which, while respecting the unity and territorial integrity of Myanmar, ensures peace, justice and dignity for all.”

The Rohingya issue has evoked considerable concern and the Modi Government’s avowed position of sending back the Rohingya migrants to Burma has been roundly criticised by human rights crusaders, both in India and abroad. In a brilliant article recently eminent scholar Shiv Visvanathan has pointed out:

‘It is not just a question of saving a beleaguered people, it is a question of saving the soul of India. The idea of India is being threatened today. Should civil society remain mute and indifferent? There is a Rohingya in all of us.”

September 7 S.C.

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