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16 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 15 June, 2019 11:11:48 PM
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Narendra Modi’s first overseas visit

Ironically, when Imran Khan's flight landed at Bishkek, PM Modi was holding talks about terror emanating from Pakistan with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Kumkum Chadha
Narendra Modi’s first overseas visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first overseas visit has emanated two conflicting signals: one of outreach and the other with a strong message of this far and no further. Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a two-day visit to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. This is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first International convention after his re-election to office.

The two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit that began earlier this week in  Bishkek focusses   on global issues, issues dominating a changing and unstable world order and SCO's role for regional and global stability.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organiwation (SCO) is also known as Shanghai Pact. It is a Eurasian political, economic and security alliance. It was created on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China. In the year 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and hereafter security and economic architecture in the Eurasian region dissolved. This resulted in the inception of the new framework and so the SCO came into existence.

The original Shanghai Five were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. In 2017  it extended  to include India and Pakistan.

SCO is a plausible platform to advance India’s Connect Central Asia policy.

Prime Minister  Modi  combined a bilateral visit to Kyrgyzstan along with the SCO summit apart from meeting other Central Asian leaders on the side-lines of the summit. He held bilateral meetings with Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping.  

  Prime Minister Modi who had a packed  schedule also had a meeting with  Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as also a pull aside meeting with President of  Belarus Alexander Lukashenko  and President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of Mongolia. If on the one hand Modi made it a point to reach out, both to giants like Russia and China and smaller countries like Belarus, sometimes with a bear hug and at others with a warm shake hand, he also cold shouldered India’s immediate neighbour Pakistan.

 Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who also attended the summit was completely ignored by Modi. This was the first time that the  two came  face to face after months of tensions between the two countries, which began with February 14 Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy in which at least 40 jawans were killed. The more recent  attack in Anantnag that claimed the lives of five CRPF jawans and injured three, has only worsened matters.

India’s first snub was when the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had made it clear with their official statement that there was no chance of either a formal or informal bilateral meeting between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan in Bishkek. Even as Pakistan was trying to soften the blow, Modi not only held talks with China but reiterated India’s stated position that Islamabad has so far failed to create an atmosphere conducive for dialogue because no concrete steps have been taken towards turning off the terror tap:

Modi reportedly told Chinese  President that Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere free of terrorism for the resumption of a dialogue.  

 Against the backdrop of  ignoring Pakistan’s  pleas for “talks”, India not only pushed Pakistan into a corner but also made it a point to make known its stance publicly. On his part, Modi avoided a  handshake or exchange of pleasantries making it clear that India has had enough of Pakistan’s double speak.

Even  at the dinner where both the leaders were present in the Kyrgyz capital, they were sitting a few seats apart but Modi clearly ignored Khan. It was only on the last day that the there was a semblance of pleasantries when the two leaders came face to face with each other after Modi avoiding Khan for over half  a dozen times during the summit.

Further Modi’s decision not to use Pakistan’s airspace to reach Bishkek and take a  longer route and fly over Oman, Iran and Central Asian countries was seen another snub that Pakistan is finding  difficult to recover from.

Pakistan had closed its airspace for all flights from India after the IAF carried out strikes in Balakot inside Pakistan on February 26. It had, however agreed  to grant over-flight facility to the VVIP aircraft: a courtesy it had extended to previous External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who attended a ministerial meeting of the SCO on May 22. Pakistan had said that it will “specially” open its airspace for the flight of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bishkek  as a “goodwill gesture”.

 India spurning the offer following Modi’s decision  to not avail the special concession given by Pakistan  was  welcomed by majority of Indians.

Ironically, when Imran Khan's flight landed at Bishkek, PM Modi was holding talks about terror emanating from Pakistan with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  China, it is well  known, is Pakistan's 'all weather friend' in the international community.

An interesting aside is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was  one of the two leaders of the SCO member-states (the other being Russia) who did not stay at the state guest house Ala Archa where all others are being hosted by the President of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Even though the reasons cited are “logistics” it is quite clear that this is because it would be easier for the Indian side to avoid the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan by not staying in the same premises.

Addressing world leaders, including Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, at the Plenary session of the SCO Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that state sponsored terrorism must come to an end and those nations backing terrorists must be called out.He stressed  on the importance of people-to-people connect and cooperation between SCO member nations in the fight against terrorism.

But more than what Modi said and did it was the underlying message that the world could not miss. It was a message for concrete action and more importantly one which said that the time has come for Pakistan to walk the talk. It was also one which made it clear that the chill is unlikely to thaw and that in his second term Modi the original “toughie” has become tougher.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com

 

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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