Usually it is said that one should not take politicians seriously. Especially at the time of elections when they are speaking at an election rally. But Narendra Modi has been an exception, like in most of the things associated with politics. He has been largely truthful to the words he has spoken.
So one should at least analyse when he says (42 mins onwards) “Ye to bas shuruat hai. Aage aage dekhiye hota kya hai (This is just the beginning. Wait for future to see what else happens)” while speaking on Masood Azhar, JeM chief, being designated as World Terrorist by UNSC today.
I also would not have given it much of a thought if not for some of the big developments that have taken place in last few days.
In the last few days, there was a big terrorist attack in Sri Lanka causing over 300 deaths for which ISIS has taken responsibility, China has removed Bangladesh-Myanmar-India-China Economic corridor (BMICER) from the umbrella of its ambitious Belt-Road-Initiative (BRI), and now China has removed its technical hold in UNSC over Masood Azhar. All these are big developments specially when seen in the context of the larger world politics of the time points towards the winds of the change.
It is known for sometime how China is facing ethnic conflict in its Xinjiang province and how it is handling them. But whatever be the criticism of the ways in which China is handling the issue, one thing is clear – the ISIS ideology and Islamist terror have reached to the doorstep of China and is making it very nervous. Doing a lip-service with the other world leaders at world forums and having to deal with the problem in its own backyard are two different things altogether and is bound to change the way you look at certain things.
Earlier, China used to see the terrorist attacks happening in India from the prism of conflict between India and Pakistan. Attacks in the western world were too far to matter to them. And Middle East and Africa were conflict regions where everyday violence is the new normal. But the recent attacks in Myanmar, Bangladesh and now in Sri Lanka are enough to send stress signals to someone as transactional as China in its approach towards other nations.
What is even more alarming is the fact that the recent attacks occurred in Sri Lanka where there is not much hatred or grievances against the Muslim minority. On top of that, the ISIS claimed responsibility by saying that this is the answer to Christchurch Killings.
Just understand the gravity of the situation here. A single attacker who may or may not have been motivated by any specific ideology, definitely not a part of any big organization such as ISIS or Al Qaeda or Taliban or many others, goes out and kills innocent Muslims in an otherwise peaceful country of New Zealand. All world leaders condemned the attacks and the citizens all over the world expressed their solidarity with the victims. But ISIS plans and executes a dastardly attack on innocent Christians in a part of the world which is far away from the original place of shootings. This deadly force which is threatening the world order transcends the national boundaries and this time the fire was too close to China for it to ignore.
BRI would not mean anything if this force operates with impunity in the very neighborhood from where the highways would pass keeping the entire trade route as hostage. China has invested way too much money in this for it to let it go to waste. It has lost many of its citizens as well while working in this hostile region. China finally seems to be coming to terms with these realities with its wisdom accentuated by the battle in its own backyard.
Also the news of how the polls are faring in India must have reached to China where it is looking more and more likely that Narendra Modi would return to power with even a bigger majority than before. That means China would have to work with him for at least another five years, long enough to make or break its plans on BRI.
India and China have exponentially increased their collaboration and talks since last year after the mammoth one-on-one talks between the two heads of the states. This was after the beginning of the trade war between China and USA which seems to be cooling down in last few months. I would not be surprised if India had a role to play to get the two parties on the table for talks and suspending this bitter war which was not helping anyone. If that is the case, the trust between China and India must be at an all time high, which is becoming evident because of these recent developments.
Excluding the BMICER from BRI umbrella is a big signal from China to India and the world. China seems to be signalling the acceptance of India as the leader of South East Asia through this move. This is a massive change in China’s foreign policy which usually does not change easily for anyone. Removing the technical hold on Masood Azhar signals that China has lost the confidence in a turbulent Pakistan and is no longer ready to place all its bets on a failed state.
So given this current state of world politics, what did Narendra Modi meant when he said “Ye to bas shuruat hai (This is just the beginning)”? Who knows! But something certainly seems to be brewing in the high corridors of the most powerful. Can Pakistan army and ISI finally fall in line when chided by their Chinese masters? Is there a plan to address Indian concerns related to territorial integrity on BRI with the road passing from POK? Is there a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem on the horizon? Can Pakistan, which sponsors bulk of the terror around the world, be cut to its size?
Again, Who knows. Only one thing is for sure, if Narendra Modi gets a clear majority again in 2019, the world will not be the same in 2024.