New Delhi: Days after India ruled out a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit this week, China has tried to play facilitator and suggested that India should reciprocate Khan’s peace missive and enter into a dialogue suspended since January 2016.
In an indirect reference to the SCO Summit, which will be attended by the prime ministers of both India and Pakistan, China’s state-run English daily Global Times has suggested that India’s cooperation with Islamabad is “indispensable to fight against terrorism if New Delhi wants to promote a global convention”.
While applauding Modi’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy in the context of his visits to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Global Times suggested that this policy should include Pakistan and if “India-Pakistan ties improve and stabilise, India will gain more esteem in the region”.
Last week, a ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson announced that no meeting was planned between Modi and Khan in Bishkek on the sidelines of the SCO Summit. The Pakistani PM, however, appealed for talks to his Indian counterpart a day after the MEA announcement.
“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose the Maldives for his first foreign visit after his re-election. There Modi delivered a speech during which he called for a global conference on anti-terrorism, which shows that he attaches great importance to anti-terrorism and to increasing India’s influence in the Indian Ocean,” Global Times said in an article titled ‘Modi should improve Pakistan ties to realise regional goals’.
Modi is reinforcing his ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, which places India’s relations with neighbouring countries as his government’s top most priority. This indicates that New Delhi’s strategic focus ought to be on its ties with Islamabad, claimed Global Times, which is often described as one of Beijing’s outreach tools for global audience.
“There is nothing wrong if India reinforces its neighbourhood first approach that aims to enhance its influence in the Indian Ocean. Its ties with the Maldives and Sri Lanka are important for regional stability and anti-terrorism cooperation.
“Modi said in the Maldives that India wants to plug ‘the loopholes that terrorists and their supporters exploit’… The two sides must strengthen mutual trust and diminish the tensions before they can root out and dismantle terrorism. Their contradictions have become the main problem for joint development in South Asia.”
In his address to the Maldives parliament on Saturday night, Modi in a veiled attack on Pakistan-sponsored terror emphasised that state sponsorship of terrorism is the biggest threat the humanity is facing as he urged the world leaders to unite to combat the menace.
“The world community has organised conventions and meetings on global challenges like the climate change, now it should also come together on the issue of terrorism. It is time for a global conference on terrorism,” Modi suggested. “It is very unfortunate that people are still making the mistake of distinguishing between good terrorists and bad terrorists. State sponsorship of terrorism is the biggest threat the world is facing today.”
But making a case for Indo-Pak dialogue, Global Times, however, suggested that “Modi’s second term is a good chance for India. If he can grasp the chance and restrain nationalist sentiment to improve ties with Pakistan, it would be significant progress for the two countries and for the stability and development of the region and Asia”.
“Pakistan’s active attitude underlines its vision to strive for peace and prosperity in South Asia to lay the groundwork for the two countries to figure a benign way out. If India wants to show its intent to combat terrorism and promote its rise in the Indian Ocean, Modi should not merely express his gratitude for Khan’s good wishes, but take pragmatic actions to recover the bilateral dialogue process, which has been suspended since January 2016, promote better relations with Pakistan and work to establish peace in the region.”
People familiar with Indo-Pak ties and Sino-Pak partnership told ET that Pakistan, isolated in many quarters and facing an economic downturn, is using its good offices with China to nudge India to come to the talking table beginning with the SCO Summit. (ET)