SCO and Indo-Pak relations after Goa CFM

This was not the outcome anticipated or expected by anyone in the two countries
India's Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) . [Representational Image]
India's Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) . [Representational Image]File: ANI

The Council of Foreign Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Goa, India, is over, but not behind us. It has left a legacy which will haunt India-Pakistan relations for a long time to come.

The political and diplomatic calculus says that the relations between the two immediate neighbouring countries have deteriorated further. It is not known that how long will it take now to reverse from the level where it has reached to the pre May 5 CFM position. It is not even zero sum game. It is more serious than that.

This does happen in diplomacy, but stakes of the two countries are too high that these can be ignored at the cost of stability and security of the region. The SCO is meant for these two elements vital for the whole of the region encompassing China, Russia and Central Asia.

At the conclusion of the SCO meet, the two countries are weighing their success; how rhetorical they were during and after the meet. Measuring accomplishments in terms of having spoken, rather more than what was intended before the start of the conclave, signals a complex trajectory. At least this was not the outcome anticipated or expected by anyone in the two countries.

There might not have been a breakthrough moment, but it could have stayed where it was. The blame game will continue for quite some time. That has its own consequences. The sparring between India and Pakistan has left a bad taste, as not only an opportunity was lost to stated positions but also to the high-pitched rhetoric.

It was good on part of Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari Bhutto to have come to India to attend the multilateral meet – SCO. Before embarking on a journey to Goa, he said that he was visiting India to uphold Pakistan’s commitment to SCO.

That sounded very good. He also made it clear that his visit was not bilateral, and accordingly he had toned down bar of expectations that some over-optimistic quarters had hoped for, despite all odds stacked against bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the meet.

Had it stayed there, it would have been better than the situation that has emerged now. Indeed he had the compulsion to cater to his domestic constituency and to berate Imran Khan who was breathing down his neck, but the limits were defined. India is very familiar with that. India could have, as it did, stated its position. In fact, India had already made it clear that there was no meeting between Jaishankar and Bhutto that was scheduled on the sidelines of the CFM.

Things were very clear; Pakistan Foreign Minister  was  coming to attend the SCO. Since India is holding presidency of the group, it also is the host. India had sent invitation to Pakistan, like all other members of the group. The SCO is an overarching group in which the regional matters and the issues concerning the nations are discussed.

It has a mandate and protocol of its own. But this doesn’t mean that there is no room for the bilateral talks between the member states. As it turned out, India and Pakistan foreign ministers held bilateral talks with  Chinese and Russian foreign ministers and few other members of the group. The conspicuous missing optic was a meeting between Dr S Jaishankar and Bilawal Zardari Bhutto.              

Pakistan Foreign Minister, in his  speech at the  SCO,  argued , “the collective security of our peoples is our joint responsibility. Terrorism continues to threaten global security. Let’s not get caught up in weaponising  terrorism for diplomatic point scoring … our success requires us to isolate this issue from geo-political partnership.”

This  argument  was  in response to the opening  remarks of Indian Foreign Minister, who  recalled  that how the menace of terrorism continued  unabated  even when the world was facing COVID and its consequences.

“Taking our eyes off this menace would be detrimental to our security interests. We firmly believe that there can be no justification for terrorism and it must be stopped in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism.

The channel of finances for terrorist activities must be seized and blocked without distinction. Members need not be reminded that combating terrorism is one of the original mandates of the SCO,” Jaishankar asserted. These were thinly veiled remarks about Pakistan.

Jaishankar, who has been a career diplomat, and well versed with the geopolitical realities, had to drive this point home to the SCO members, and especially to his Pakistani counterpart that terrorism cannot be normalised in a civilised society. Bilawal spoke of his own experience of losing mother Benazir Bhutto  in a terror attack in December 2007, and also that how Pakistan has suffered due to  terrorism.

There is a fundamental difference between the two sets of terrorism. Bhutto was talking of terrorism in Pakistan, which is home grown. The terror nurseries were set up long before the terrorism of the 21st century, traced to 9/11. Pakistan hosted, and then launched all the mercenaries who came from different parts of the world, especially Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia – Osama bin Laden  being one of  them - to fight the Soviet  troops in Afghanistan. Later it was during her  mother’s government  that Taliban was created.

It is not the Indian problem that Benazir Bhutto was pressured by Pakistan army to do so, the fact remains that she was the Prime Minister of the day. And, no one has forgotten that it was  again, during her government, that militancy was  set up in Jammu and Kashmir. India is victim of cross-border terrorism. Pakistan is victim of its own terrorism. The cross-border terrorism that it claims it is facing from across the border from Afghanistan – is also its own creation.

This difference has to be noticed. That is in Pakistan’s interest and also that of the security and stability of the region. It must bell the cat at home.

Arun Joshi is author of " Eyewitness Kashmir- Teetering on Nuclear War" and writes on strategic affairs of South Asia

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir