This gave New Delhi an apt platform to explain and engage China which is not only the closest friend of Pakistan but also seen as the world’s second most important power.
Incidentally, this meeting also came close to the signing of the UN Security Council’s February 21 statement. The Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir.” It was this bombing that triggered India’s air raids.
In the backdrop of escalated tensions between India and Pakistan, the RIC meeting provided India an opportunity to specifically and publicly respond to China’s call to both South Asian countries to “exercise restraint” with a caveat that India’s pursuit of countering terrorism needs necessary international cooperation.
In her opening remarks at the RIC meeting, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said India “does not wish to see further escalation of the situation,” promising that “India will continue to act with responsibility and restrain” while hoping “all the countries to show zero tolerance to terrorism and take decisive action against it.”
She clarified how this surgical strike was not aimed at hitting any military or civilian targets inside Pakistan though it has triggered escalation with more shelling and action in the air from both sides.
The RIC meeting also saw Swaraj holding meetings with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov providing further details as the meeting was not focused primarily on India-Pakistan tensions and had several other regional and global issues on the agenda.
In conversation with Wang, Swaraj is believed to have reiterated how China’s support was critical for ensuring restraint from Pakistan as also in listing Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar under UN Security Council Resolution 1267. But India has also been appreciative of the gradual uptick in China’s support for India’s counterterrorism pursuits.
The joint statement issued after the 16th RIC meeting in Wuzhen was clearly overshadowed by Pulwama terrorist attacks. The ministers strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
They also stressed that terrorist groups cannot be supported and used in political and geopolitical goals.
This may not be a big victory. Yet the overall positive outcome at her stop in Wuzhen was certainly a boost for Swaraj’s next outreach at Abu Dhabi where India’s foreign minister, for the first time, has been invited to address the plenary session of the world’s largest group of Muslim nations, the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.