By Haider Abbs
There is a lot ‘happening’ between India and Pakistan. It was on December 15, 2022, that Bilawal Bhutto, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan had made a personal attack on India’s PM Narendra Modi at United Nations, New York, saying, “the butcher of Gujarat lives and he is the Prime Minister of India”, in comparison to Osama Bin Laden who is dead. Within weeks, after that new-low between India and Pakistan, India has invited Pakistan Chief Justice and Bilawal Bhutto and Chinese FM Qin Gang for the upcoming Shahghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) meetings to be held in Goa in coming May, informed IndiaToday 1 on January 26. SCO is a China conceptualized body, based in Beijing, which consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan and India. ‘The invitations were sent as part of the laid-down procedure but there is no confirmation whether Bilawal Bhutto and Qin Gang will attend the event.’ Invites have also been sent to other Central Asian countries.
There are no qualms that this SCO meeting is going to be held at a very precarious time. India and China relations are quite topsy-turvy owing to border disputes i.e. in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh etc, while India and Pakistan are at loggerheads on many issues. This is in the backdrop of the raging Russia-Ukraine war since almost one year now.
The big question is why would India invite Bilawal Bhutto? Perhaps, India does not want any hiccups into organizing its biggest event-the G-20 summit in September 2023. But, since the venue is to be Jammu and Kashmir, it is enough to antagonize Pakistan and China alike. India had abrogated the Article 370 of Constitution which gave Special Status to JK and Ladakh on August 5, 2019. . Moreover, it has also been reported in The Indian Express 2 on January 25, that India has also lost ‘26 out of 65 patrolling points’ to China in Eastern Ladakh. In the year 2020 India and China came to blows in Galwan valley in Eastern Ladakh, in which India had lost 20 of its soldiers while China had lost 4.
Pakistan had long declared that it was to boycott the prestigious G-20 summit and had been lobbying against it with China, Turkey and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, reported LiveMint 3 on June 29, 2022. Pakistan had already absented itself from attending to Voice of the Global-South virtual meeting, on January 12-13, in which 125 nations represented, through which India had given a successful message of being voice of the Global-South to the world. Apart from this Pakistan had also decided to give a skip to SCO film festival, slated to be organized from January 27-30 in Mumbai. Pakistan has withheld any of its film entry too from the festival, The Indian Express 4 on January 25, has informed.
There seem to be a deadlock in Pakistan stand on SCO, G-20 and film festival, yet India has gone ahead with an invitation to Pakistan, which in general has perplexed the foreign policy experts. However, what might have surely sent a chilling message to Pakistan is ‘counterterrorism’ as a foremost agenda in the SCO meeting. This is when in particular Abdul Rehman Makki has been blacklisted as a global-terrorist at United Nations, as per The Hindu 5 on January 18. Ironically, China had withdrawn the technical-hold it had placed on the listing last year. ‘The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had called the Makki listing as “conducive to enhancing international counterterrorism cooperation” and a “recognition” of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism.’ India contests China as India wants action against four other persons too. They are ‘Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha, 26/11 handler Sajid Mir, LeT recruiter Shahid Mehmood and Abdul Rauf Azhar (Masood Azhar’s brother) wanted for the IC-814 hijacking.’ This hijacking had taken place in 1999. India right now holds the Presidency of SCO.
Pakistan had also been delisted from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list into white-list on October 21, 2022, which has made India ‘more concerned’. India mobilized the third ‘No Money for Terror’ conference, according to LiveMint 6 on November 18, in which around 450 delegates from around 75 countries attended. Pakistan as understood was not present. Pakistan non-participation in the coming SCO summit has just not been officially announced, but given the Pakistan ‘understood absence’ it will convey a negative message that SCO as a group lacks power and influence in the world polity.
What however, may finally topple the plans for SCO meeting is the news from Ladakh, which Reuters 7 has informed on January 27, that India is now almost bracing for more clashes with China in Ladakh. The situation is expected to escalate as China has revamped its military infrastructure alongside the Indian border. A recent clash also did occur between the two nations on December 9 last in Arunachal Pradesh. There were no deaths. China has reportedly now pushed the border into the Indian territory through creation of buffer-zones apart from a massive military built-up. An elaborate report on these developments has been submitted to PM Narendra Modi.
The aggressive posture of China, however, has as yet met with a trepid response from the Indian side, despite BJP led NDA massive majority government. There is virtually no Opposition in the country, but on the external front, it does not paint for rosy picture as such. The India-China duel can be witnessed across all the neighbouring nations, where China seems to have outdone India through investments in infrastructural development and financial assistance in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar or in Sri Lanka. How India will relate to this ever growing Chinese presence in its neighbourhood is not to be an easy task, despite the hullabaloo of G-20 conclave. But, before G-20 will come SCO, and there are still clouds of doubt if either of China and Pakistan are to be a part of it.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.
7- India expects more clashes with Chinese troops in Himalayas – documen
Pakistan is imploding. Darkness, both literally and figuratively, has descended upon it. It is not at all unlikely that Imran Khan will be reelected to lead the next government. In which case, the little boy Bilawal – grandson of the butcher of East Pakistan and the son of an accused corrupt politician & alleged murder abettor- will most probably flee from Pakistan to England.
India should have waited until the next national election in Pakistan is held.