Bimstec represents polar opposite of terror promoting polity: Sushma

New Delhi: In what is an obvious reference to Pakistan’s use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said that the invitation to member states of the Bimstec group for an outreach summit at the BRICS Summit last weekend showed that these countries “today represent the polar opposite of a terrorism promoting polity”.

“The selection of Bimstec as the outreach group for the Goa Summit of the BRICS is also worth reflecting upon,” said Sushma Swaraj while inaugurating the BRICS Media Forum here.

“Members of Bimstec- Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand – today represent the polar opposite of a terrorism promoting polity,” she said.

“They are 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.”

After last month’s cross-border terror attack on an army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers, India launched a diplomatic blitz to isolate Pakistan in the international community.

India has blamed the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed for the Uri attack.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meet that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November in protest against Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan too followed suit citing the same reason while Sri Lanka held that a Saarc summit would not be possible in India’s absence.

As host of this year’s BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit held in Goa on October 15-16, India decided to invite neighbouring countries belonging to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) instead of the Saarc countries.

Pakistan is a member of Saarc but not of Bimstec.

Sushma Swaraj said that the Bimstec countries were “actively promoting connectivity, cooperation and contacts amongst themselves”.

Stating the Bimstec nations’ interface with the BRICS has a message in itself, she said: “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 visualise a prosperous collective future. There cannot be a greater contrast with those who reject even trade and connectivity for political reasons.”

Sushma Swaraj reiterated that terrorism was universally recognised as a key threat to stability, progress and development and said that it featured strongly in the BRICS Summit narrative and its eventual outcome.

“Indeed, what we saw was not just an understanding of the dangers posed by terrorism to the economic aspirations of the world but a growing recognition that this has now become a truly global challenge that the international community can only ignore at its peril,” she said.

In The Goa Declaration adopted after the BRICS Summit, all five nations strongly condemned “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”, including the recent attacks on India.

Stating that there was a developing consensus that it cannot be business as usual, Sushma Swaraj said: “We 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. 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 that as chair of BRICS this year, India brought the summit-level meeting of the five-nation group “outside the conference room and endeavoured to instil it in popular thinking”.

“To do that, we partnered organisations and activities across the breadth of civil society. We were conscious that the BRICS not only represents a sixth of humanity, but is also a powerful voice of hope for future generations,” Sushma Swaraj said.

“It is for this reason that, in line with Prime Minister Modi’s vision, we have sought to lay particular emphasis on the people-to-people linkages that will bring our nations closer.”

The External Affairs Minister said that from its very inception, BRICS has focused on issues of development and economic growth, addressing challenges confronting the world and encouraging the emergence of a more equitable and sustainable global architecture.

“Initially, its deliberations concentrated more on economic and financial issues. But over the years, it has broadened to cover larger global issues, even as it has promoted the creation of BRICS institutions and mechanisms,” she said.

In this connection, Sushma Swaraj mentioned initiatives like a BRICS rating agency that can complement the New Development Bank formed by the five emerging economies, a railways research network and an agriculture research platform “that will allow us to leverage our specific strengths for mutual benefit are tangible goals that we believe can take the group forward”.