That the BRICS declaration is being regarded in Pakistan as anything more than a furtherance of US President Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Pakistan providing safe havens to militants fighting the USA in Afghanistan, is because China is one of the members of BRICS, and has indicated that it will not support Pakistan in whatever it does. The reason for such a declaration is the ‘I’ in BRICS: India, which has managed a diplomatic triumph over Pakistan by this move.

However, one of the most damaging aspects for Pakistan is that BRICS contains the alternates to USA that Pakistan was seeking, especially Russia and China. Pakistan has been seeking to build relations with other BRICS members, what with ‘B’ (Brazil) having been visited by the previous COAS, Gen Raheel Sharif, and ‘S’ (South Africa) having sent a contingent to the March 23rd parade this year. All the states which Pakistan had hoped would back its narrative against the USA have thus backed the USA. And why shouldn’t they? Especially when a fellow BRICS member, India, is constantly drumming into their heads that Pakistan is backing terrorists.

Pakistan has long predicated its foreign policy on friendship with the USA. China is also an important friendship, and it became even more important after President Trump not only castigated Pakistan, but invoked India as its main ally, in Afghanistan. With the US making open the Pakistani establishment’s backing of militant groups, it was left no option but to scramble for allies elsewhere. Those allies were not just China, but also Russia. Now even those allies have apparently decided to follow the USA.

One of the reasons why China has decided to opt for this is included in the list of organisations that the BRICS mentions Pakistan as harbouring: Islamic Movement of Turkestan. Pakistan may well be more exercised by the mention of such organisations as the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Lashkar Taiba, but China is deeply concerned about the Turkestan organization, because it upsets its plans for Xinjiang, which is the capital of Chinese Turkestan. Incidentally, the Pakistani establishment is deeply invested in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which links Pakistan to Xinjiang. Pakistan seems to have been brushing under the carpet the fact that CPEC allows Pakistan to be used as part of the struggle by the Chinese establishment to absorb Xinjiang into the Chinese mainstream.

BRICS countries all have their individual reasons to wish to avoid a quarrel with the USA. More significant, none has the motive to take Pakistan’s side against the USA. That the USA might be right is not important, but it might mean that it has come around to a view of the situation that they share. It is also to be noted that the only two BRICS countries which do not have nuclear weapons, Brazil and South Africa, actually gave them up voluntarily about a quarter-century ago, when India and Pakistan were still in a race, with Pakistan not yet having declared its weapon. Brazil’s military coups preceded and paralleled Ayub Khan’s in 1958, which adds a weird significance to General Raheel’s visit.

The BRICS declaration’s criticism of Pakistan allowed it to show that it agrees with the USA on a particular point. Brazil and South Africa are respectively the most powerful states in their continents, with South America being the first stage for US interests and where it formulated the Monroe Doctrine, while Africa is where it has formed its latest Command. China has the most serious problem with the USA, because of its clash with Japan over the Spratly Islands, as well as because of North Korea’s nuclear test; but India has grown close enough to it that it may be considered to voice US interests where the USA is not present. When that task means bashing Pakistan, Modi’s India will not avoid it.

Actually, the BRICS declaration should be seen by Pakistan as the second drop of a deluge. The first was Donald Trump’s Afghan policy remarks, which apparently declared open season on the Pakistani establishment’s support of militant organisations. The BRICS Summit Declaration implied that it was all right for multilateral forums to express a view about this support. The next step, for which Pakistan should be prepared, is that India will push through declarations at other multilateral forums, this time at those where Pakistan is a member. Though Pakistan may well be able to stop India by the simple means of preventing a consensus, the knowledge of Pakistani isolation at such forums as the SCO, NAM and the Commonwealth would become well-known in diplomatic circles. It has been China so far which has prevented Jaish-e-Muhammad founder Maulana Masood Azhar from being placed on the UN list of terrorists. Maulana Masood is not so much a mujahideen leader as much an asset for the agencies for the Kashmir movement.

It is the Kashmir movement which is behind these moves. India seeks a free hand in Kashmir, where it wants to apply even harsher methods in suppressing the liberation struggle being waged there. More particularly, it wants that struggle to be described as terrorism. Pakistan has tried to resist this, with less than signal success. One reason for its failure has been its unwillingness to differ with the USA publicly on this, and its cooperation in the War on Terror. Since 9/11, all parties have been in office, including the military, and the only outcome of the support provided by all parties (including the military, including the Tehrik-e-Insaf which rules the crucial KP) has been the USA drawing closer to India.

One of the contingencies that might have made Pakistan’s switch to China nonsensical, once it moved away from India, has occurred: China and India find themselves on the same page. This has made Pakistan face some very stark choices. For example, if it wants to carry on with the US alliance, it will have to implement its agenda, the centerpiece of which will be to mend fences with India on India’s terms. That will involve ending support for the Kashmir freedom struggle, perhaps by calling it ‘terrorism’.

The policy of calling some third power against India has been shown by the BRICS Summit declaration not to work. One way out would be to accept that the aspirations of the Pakistani people cannot be fulfilled. The other is to stop looking at the USA, China, or any other power to help fulfil them. The only option left seems appealing to the Muslim world as a whole. Not the governments, which are as mired as Pakistan’s in the current set of within-box solutions, but the peoples. It is too often said that the peoples do not care, but it is too often forgotten that most Muslim peoples have their voices suppressed by dictatorial governments. The governments have a soft spot for India, which may be expected to increase now that the USA looks favourably upon India. A diplomacy designed to make Pakistani aspirations those of all Muslims would work better than the present one of trying to appease one power after another.

 

n             The writer is a veteran journalist and

founding member as well as executive

editor of The Nation.