China sprang to long-time ally Pakistan’s defence on Monday after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi branded Pakistan a ‘mother-ship of terrorism’ at a summit of BRICS nations. Beijing’s unequivocal support came as the Modi administration drew the opposition’s flak at home for its failure to muster support of BRICS nations against Pakistan at the recent summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in Goa.
The Indian leader’s invective escalated his diplomatic drive to isolate Pakistan, which New Delhi accuses of sponsoring cross-border terrorism. Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours have been running high since a Sept 18 attack on an army base in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) killed 19 Indian soldiers in the worst such assault in 14 years. New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad militant group for the attack, though it does not have any evidence to substantiate its claim.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, asked about Modi’s comments, said China opposed all forms of terrorism and that the international community should increase counter-terrorism cooperation. “We also oppose the linking of terrorism to any specific country, ethnicity or religion. This is China’s consistent position,” she told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
“Everyone knows that India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. Pakistan has made huge efforts and great sacrifices in fighting terrorism. I think the international community should respect this,” Hua added.
She said Pakistan and India should resolve their disputes through dialogue. “We truly hope that they can resolve these differences in a peaceful way through dialogue and consultation, so that India and Pakistan relations can develop. This serves the interest of the two countries and the region,” she added.
Islamabad has repeatedly said that Kashmir is the main cause of friction, but New Delhi is unwilling to discuss the festering dispute and instead calls it integral part of India, even though the United Nations has accepted it as a disputed territory.
China’s statement in support of Pakistan is the most unequivocal one since India stepped up its campaign to isolate Pakistan. A day earlier, Modi called for a strong united stand against the ‘mothership of terrorism in South Asia’, in a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan.
“In our region, terrorism poses a grave threat to peace, security and development,” Modi said while speaking at the BRICS summit. However, in their joint statement issued later, the BRICS leaders made no mention of Pakistan while condemning recent attacks against some of its members ‘including India’.
India’s main opposition Congress party was quick to discern. Congress leader Manish Tewari said the BRICS declaration was a ‘sterling example’ of the Modi government’s failure to get a consensus on its efforts to nail ‘Pakistan-based terror groups’.
“The Goa declaration of BRICS is perhaps the most sterling example of the government’s absolute and abject failure,” he said. “Despite all the rhetoric and the laser sharp discords on terror and isolating Pakistan, what you have is one sundry remark. One little generic remark in almost a 20-paragraph Goa declaration and what does it say, ‘We strongly condemn the recent several attacks against some BRICS countries including that in India,’” he said.
On Sunday, Pakistan reacted angrily to Modi’s verbal assault, saying the Indian premier has no moral ground when his own government is involved in state terrorism in IOK.
“The Indian leadership is desperately trying to hide its brutalities in IOK, an internationally recognised dispute on the UN Security Council agenda, where innocent people are being killed and injured by occupation forces daily with impunity,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs said in a statement.
“Pakistan joins all the members of BRICS and Bimstec in condemning terrorism and reaffirms its full commitment to fight the menace of terrorism without discrimination, including against the Indian state-sponsored terrorism on Pakistani soil.”
Pakistan says the Modi’s campaign to isolate Pakistan is a reaction to its aggressive diplomacy to shine a spotlight on India’s state terrorism in IOK. More than a hundred Kashmiris have been killed, hundreds blinded and thousands injured by Indian security forces in their ruthless campaign to quell a popular uprising triggered by the extrajudicial killing of a young separatist leader, Burhan Wani in July.