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PM Narendra Modi’s Central Asia Tour

July 21, 2015

We have been tracking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign tours. In these columns we mentioned that business diplomacy, terror concerns and hard selling India as the best destination for foreign investment to give fillip to his “Make In India” campaign seem the core of Modi’s foreign policy. (https://www.elections.in/blog/narendra-modis-three-nation-visit/)

“My visit to all five countries in the region demonstrates the importance that we attach to a new level of relationship with Central Asia,” Modi said in Kyrgyzstan.

Narendra Modi’s Central Asia Tour

 

Modi’s Focus on Extremism and Terrorism

A distinct trend that appears following his latest trips to the five Central Asian nations and Russia (where he attended the BRICS summit as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Ufa), is Modi’s knack for leveraging his overseas tours to nail Pakistan at every given opportunity not just for harbouring terrorists, but for being the fountainhead of terror activities in India.

In Uzbekistan, Modi raised the issue of “…rising threat of extremism and terrorism in our extended neighbourhood”. In Kazakhstan, he again stressed, without naming Pakistan or Afghanistan, that the “region must remain stable and peaceful, free from conflict and the violence of extremism and terrorism”. In Turkmenistan, he pointed out that the defence agreement between the two countries “is a reflection of our shared interest in closer security cooperation, including in combating terrorism”. In Kyrgyzstan, he said that both the countries “seek a peaceful and secure neigbourhood at a time of challenges in our region. And, we have shared interest in combating extremism and terrorism that has become a threat without borders”. Finally in Tajikistan, Modi pointed out that both India and Tajikistan were located “in the proximity of the main source of terrorism” and that combating terrorism and extremism “has always been an important and productive area of cooperation”.

At the plenary of the SCO at the Russian town of Ufa, he emphasised on working “with SCO to combat terrorism and extremism that is a rising threat to the entire region”. As it appears, there has been a concerted effort by Modi to marginalise Pakistan on international platforms for the latter’s support to terrorism and as a warmonger in full international glare.

Other Platforms Where Modi Raised the Issue of Pakistan-backed Terrorism

  • At the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014, Modi gave a fitting reply to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s call for a plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir. he went on ask Pakistan to shun any form of terrorism – “good terrorism or bad terrorism” – if it wanted to engage India in any serious bilateral dialogue. To further isolate Pakistan, he called upon the UN to adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism – a proposed treaty which “intends to criminalize all forms of international terrorism and deny terrorists, their financiers and supporters access to funds, arms, and safe havens”.
  • On the sidelines of the UNGA summit, Modi sought to isolate Pakistan in the South Asian diplomacy as he ignored Sharif and selectively discussed a “strong SAARC” with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and his Nepali counterpart Sushil Koirala.
  • Later in Washington, without naming Pakistan, he subtly conveyed to the American lawmakers that Islamabad did support militant outfits that used its soil to carry out terrorist strikes in India. ( See more at: https://www.elections.in/blog/narendra-modis-us-visit-indias-arrival-in-the-big-league/#sthash.KVYQ5qhY.dpuf).
  • At the SAARC summit in Kathmandu, Modi called for a pledge to combat terror and trans-national crimes.
  • During his visit to Australia in November 2014, without naming Islamabad, he exhorted the Australian Parliament to make a resolve to “isolate those who harbour terrorists”.
  • Even during his visit to China in May this year, Modi raised concern with Chinese President Xi Jinping over the latter’s $46-billion proposed investment in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and called for a mechanism to deal with terrorism.
  • During his three-nation tour to Germany, France and Canada in April this year, Modi took France on board over the release of the 2008 Mumbai attack’s mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi by the Pakistani court, which coincided with Modi’s visit to Paris. In Berlin, he raised the pitch against terrorism and called for a “comprehensive global strategy to deal with this global challenge (of terror)…” In Canada, he issued a joint statement with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper “…for further efforts to eliminate terrorist safe havens…and stem the cross-border movement of terrorists”.

It is interesting that wherever and whenever Modi shared a global platform with his Pakistani counterpart, he has displayed an uncanny ability to use it to rebuke Islamabad for harbouring terrorists and also for its frequent violations of the ceasefire agreement between the two countries. He did so at the SAARC and at the UNGA.

His tactics seemed to be working for him as in Ufa. On the sidelines of the SCO Summit, New Delhi issued a “joint statement” (though it was never classified as such on the official website) with Islamabad, where there was no mention of the contentious word ‘Kashmir’ at all.

Pakistan continues to violate ceasefire and cross-border firing continues unabated. However, Modi’s media managers are quick to quote Pakistan National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz’s interview to Dawn newspaper where he had said that Kashmir will now be discussed “under the back channel Track II mechanism”, and assert that this is a big achievement to compel Islamabad to shift from its perennial Kashmir-centric stance.

Yet another assurance in the “joint statement” was “to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.” But this again requires certain amendments in Pakistani laws as “there is no law in Pakistan that allows the prosecution to forcibly obtain the voice sample of an accused”.

It may be mentioned that only recently China had blocked India’s demand in UN to take action against Pakistan for the release of Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. On the sidelines of BRICS summit at Ufa, Modi did take up the issue with the Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, China subsequently reiterated that “As a permanent member of the UN security council China always deals with the 1267 committee matters based on facts and in the spirit of objectiveness and fairness”.

Need for Evolving India’s Policy Towards China

Intricacies of international diplomacy are unsettling at times. Modi is credibly mobilising international community to sustain pressure on Pakistan. Yet, it is on the Chinese front that it needs to evolve a definite policy for China and Pakistan do require different yardsticks. India’s failure to persuade China over the Lakhvi case in Ufa is a pointer that the policy of running with the hare and hunt with the hounds may not work out well vis a vis China. Just consider how Modi had made a swipe at China in Japan in September 2014 by stating before the Japanese businessmen that “We have to decide if we want to have development or expansionism which leads to disintegration. Those who follow the path of Buddha and have faith on ‘vikas vaad’, they develop. But we see, those having ideas of the 18th century, engage in encroachments and enter seas (of others).” Though Modi did not name any country, his remarks did prompt China to react guardedly.

Yet again within a month, this time in the USA, Modi rubbed China the wrong way when an Indo-US joint statement “expressed concern about rising tensions over maritime territorial disputes” and the need to ensure “freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea”. China was quick to express its displeasure saying that “…the dispute in the South China Sea should be resolved by countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, and any third party should not be involved in the dispute.” China even warned India against falling “prey to the ulterior motives of the United States” that prompted the US to clarify that “US and India have very close relations with China in many fields. Nobody is aiming for confrontation with China or even to contain China…”

Modi has indeed worked hard with Xi for a thaw in India-China relationship. Modi’s participation at the SCO – the first Indian Prime Minister to address an SCO summit – is a fitting testimony of this. Instead of countering each other, both countries need to cement their ties further from here.

Other Takeaways from Modi’s Central Asia Tour

As for the other tangibles from Modi’s Central Asia and Russia trip, they were:

a)Discussions on steps needed to implement the contract for supply of uranium from Uzbekistan signed earlier.

b) Drilling of the first oil well with Indian investments in Kazakhstan.

c) Modi’s call for early implementation of the $10-billion TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project during his talks with Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. A joint statement termed the TAPI project a “key pillar” of economic engagement between India and Turkmenistan

d) An agreement with Kyrgystan on defence cooperation to provide a framework to broaden the engagement of two nations

e) An agreement with Tajikistan on promoting the International North South Transport Corridor that will considerably reduce transit time and cost for transportation of goods between India and Central Asia and beyond.

f) Full membership of SCO was attained by India.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

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