China, the biggest and most influential member of the emerging markets grouping and a key ally of Pakistan, which harbours these groups, had scuttled a similar move pushed by India last year.
In the past year, Bejing—seen as India’s strategic rival—has also thwarted several attempts by New Delhi to get JeM’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar named a terrorist by the United Nations.
The naming of the two groups in the BRICS joint statement comes a week after India and China pulled back troops after a 73-day face-off in the Bhutanese plateau of Doklam. The disengagement, coming as it did after threats of war from China, was also seen as a victory for India.
The BRICS statement, issued in the Chinese city of Xiamen on Monday, contained some strong language against terrorism. It deplored “all terrorist attacks worldwide" and condemned “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever", while stressing that “there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism".
“We reaffirm that those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable," it said.
Significantly, the statement did not refer to Pakistan by name; nor it did it refer to “cross-border terrorism"—India’s way of describing terrorism originating in Pakistan.
But it did express concern over “the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH (Islamic State), the Al-Qaida and its affiliates, including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan ) and Hizb ut-Tahrir."
Briefing reporters in Xiamen, Preeti Saran, secretary (east), in the ministry of external affairs, underlined that “for the first time, specific listing of terror organizations has been made (in the BRICS declaration)".
“Terrorism is a scourge that has to be addressed collectively by the entire international community. And, I think, increasingly there is a realisation that you cannot have double standards in tackling this scourge," she said, explaining the references to terrorism in the 43-page statement.
When asked why China was seen as changing its stance to seemingly take on board India’s concerns on terrorism, Saran said the question was being “addressed to the wrong" person. The fact that the statement had been approved and endorsed by the heads of all the BRICS countries was significant, she said.
Analysts in India welcomed the naming of the LeT and the JeM, along with known terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS in the BRICS statement.
“Indian diplomacy has proved effective," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, who noted that naming the JeM and the LeT in the BRICS statement came after China’s foreign ministry last week said it would be “inappropriate" for India to discuss Pakistan’s counterterrorism record at the BRICS forum.
The two groups being listed as terrorist groups did not guarantee that China would not block future efforts by India aimed at getting JeM’s Masood Azhar listed as a terrorist by the UN, Sibal said, adding, “China is quite capable of managing such contradictions."
Harsh V. Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College in London, said India and China could have worked out a quid pro quo—i.e. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not mention Pakistan by name at BRICS meetings, thereby not embarrassing China, while Bejing would agree to the two groups being mentioned in the joint statement.
“China sees BRICS as an important platform to showcase its leadership" as part of an alternative democratic global order," Pant said, adding, “Having India on board burnishes the credentials of BRICS."
“BRICS shows that China can work with other countries," Pant said adding that India could have indicated that if BRICS cannot accommodate India’s concerns, New Delhi “could consider its participation in BRICS which could have piled pressure on China to respond in a concrete manner."
The BRICS statement also expressed China’s and Russia’s support for India,Brazil and South Africa’s ambitions for a “greater role" at the UN.
“China and Russia reiterate the importance they attach to the status and role of Brazil, India and South Africa in international affairs and support their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN," the statement said.
India, Brazil, Germany and Japan are part of the G4 grouping that is seeking an expansion of the number of veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council as part of UN reforms. China is opposed to Japan’s inclusion while Italy objects to Germany’s candidature. India’s bid for a seat in an expanded UN Security Council is opposed by Pakistan.