Should BRICS joint declaration ring alarm in Islamabad?

Image source: IndiaTimes

(CRSS Blog) – The BRICS summit held in China – sending out a strong worded joint declaration against terrorism by also naming Pakistani terror outfits – is being hailed as ‘a major diplomatic win’ by most sections of the Indian media. The ‘supposed’ win was claimed as the Bloc named and showed concern towards Pakistan-based groups such as Haqqani Network, Jaish E Muhammad (JM), Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), and Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The declaration, while commenting on the Afghan situation, stated that:

“We support the efforts of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in fighting terrorist organizations. We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.”

Even though the media frenzy and excitement in India was natural, experts in Pakistan opine that the declaration is nothing new for Islamabad. Ambassador Abdul Basit – former diplomat and High Commissioner to India – in his tweets argued that names of these organisations were also mentioned in the Amritsar Heart of Asia Summit, with Pakistan on board.

This declaration presents a number of challenges and complex scenarios for Pakistan:

  • The Americans, under Trump, are looking at Pakistan through the Indian and Afghan prism, thus rejecting any narrative that Islamabad presents on counter-terror. Thus, with US support, India has finally succeeded in reinforcing its regional narrative.
  • The joint declaration also raises expectations for future BRICS summits, where India wouldn’t find it hard to bring forward specific proposals directly naming (and shaming) Pakistan.
  • Pakistan is already committed to fighting terror, especially against the groups mentioned in the declaration. Yet, with foreign media’s guns blazing towards Pakistan, it is obvious that Islamabad is presenting a weak case of its counter-terror efforts to its regional and global allies.
  • Both Russia and China have so far showed their support towards Islamabad, and praised Pakistan’s efforts towards counter terrorism. By the same token, groups such as JM and LeT come under the definition of terrorists organizations that are a target of global efforts against terror. Russia and especially China would not be able to ignore both these organizations for long if Pakistan fails to act against them in a concrete manner. Also, both these countries would want Pakistan to ensure that core and fringe terror groups – such as those mentioned in the declaration – are not involved in terror activities abroad.
  • Both JM and LeT are a reality in Pakistan, especially through their wide networks of religious seminaries and welfare organisations. If Pakistan has committed towards eradicating terrorism, it needs to do something demonstrable that helps the country sell its narrative abroad.

Pakistan’s silver lining in the current situation is China still holding technical hold over the UN veto on terrorist designations proposed by India. Having said that, Pakistan is now presented with the challenge of not only cracking-down against all groups designated as terrorist/banned organisations, but also sell its narrative effectively in the international arena.

© Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and Afghan Studies Center (ASC), Islamabad.

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