New Delhi: Members of the group comprising South Asia and Southeast Asian countries, known by the acronym Bimstec, represent the polar opposite of a terrorism-promoting polity, Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Tuesday, drawing a stark contrast between other countries in South Asia and Pakistan.
Addressing the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) media forum in New Delhi, Swaraj also said the world community “must be prepared to extract costs for those who sponsor and support terrorists, who provide them sanctuary, and who, despite their own claimed victimhood, continue to make the false distinction between good and bad terrorists.”
Though she did not name Pakistan, it was clear that Swaraj’s message was aimed at India’s western neighbour whom India blames for terrorist attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir and other parts of the country.
“Brics has always been global in its approach and today there is no bigger global challenge than state-sponsored and state-protected terrorism,” she said.
Referring to India inviting the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation or Bimstec group of countries for an outreach session with the leaders of the five major emerging economies—Brics—in Goa on 15-16 October, Swaraj said these countries were “focused on improving the quality of life of their people, on skills and employment, on education and health, and on the quality of governance and the deepening of democracy.”
“These are nations who are actively promoting connectivity, cooperation and contacts amongst themselves. Their interface with the Brics has a message in itself. This is that a world changing in a positive direction as reflected by the Brics has its regional expression in a community like Bimstec that is able to visualize a prosperous collective future. There cannot be a greater contrast with those who reject even trade and connectivity for political reasons,” Swaraj said.
Bimstec comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, bringing together 1.5 billion people or 21% of the world population, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over $2.5 trillion.
India had taken the decision to invite Bimstec leaders for the outreach session in April-May—well before India announced that it was pulling out of a meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or Saarc on 21 September. India’s pull-out followed a terrorist attack on an Indian army garrison in Uri on 18 September.
India-Pakistan ties have been in free fall since July after Pakistan described a terrorist shot dead by India as a “Kashmiri leader” and a “martyr”. The 18 September attack by terrorists on an Indian army garrison in Uri only exacerbated tensions. On 27 September, India said it was pulling out of the Saarc summit that was to be hosted by Islamabad on 9-10 November. And on 29 September, India said it had conducted surgical strikes against terrorist launch pads inside the territory held by Pakistan.
Swaraj’s comments on Tuesday follow two broadsides from Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeting Pakistan on Sunday. At the opening of the Brics summit on Sunday, Modi described Pakistan as the “mother ship of terrorism” and later said “terrorism was Pakistan’s favourite child”.