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India's anti-Pak diplomacy "goes awry": Modi's half-baked "push" for anti-terror drill down others' throat

By Our Representative
Even as what is being termed as “historic” joint military anti-terrorism field training exercise begins at the foreign training node at Aundh in Pune on the backdrop of the recent 4th Bimstec (which stands for Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperations) ummit in Kathmandu, which insisted that fighting terrorism is one of its major goals, a top Russian media house has called it a failed initiative.
Sputnik International, which is the successor of the powerful state-run Russian propaganda state-run news agency RIA Novosti and the Voice of Russia radio service, has said that the Bimstec exercise has suggested “India’s anti-Pakistan diplomacy” has gone “awry”, noting how Nepal and Thailand skipped the military drill.
In an unsigned commentary, Sputnik International says, “Nepal’s decision to skip the Bimstec military drill has posed a big question mark over the Indian government’s diplomatic adventurism pushing for the revival of the seven-member Bimstec in place of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) in a bid to marginalize Pakistan in the region.”
The commentary comes even as a former Indian diplomat, Bhadrakumar Melkulangara, who has served in Russia, Pakistan and several other countries, has said, “India's Bimstec project splutters. It was a deeply flawed project because regional cooperation cannot be fostered on a platform of negativism -- in this case, geared to 'isolate' Pakistan in its region.”
He insists, “At any rate, Bimstec should have gained traction and acquired a habitation and name before loading it with a military drill. And it now transpires that Modi tried to shove the half-baked idea of military drill down the throat of others at the recent Bimstec summit in Kathmandu even after it became apparent that there was no enthusiasm for it in the region.”
Bhadrakumar adds, “We are living in a fool's paradise to think that the region will side with India to undermine SAARC. The right thing to do is to allow the SAARC summit to be held in Islamabad.”  
Bhadrakumar
The top Russian media outfit notes, “Nepal and Thailand are participating only as observers in the Milex-2018 anti-terror military drill which began in Pune, India on Monday. While Nepal pulled back from the drill following strong protests from political parties in the country, including that of ruling Communist Party of Nepal; Thailand cited ‘prior commitments’ as the reason for not attending.”
It added, “The drill is an initiative proposed by India to strengthen the joint anti-terror mechanism of the seven-member Bimstec that includes India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. However, many see it as India's effort to further dilute the relevance of SAARC in order to isolate Pakistan.”
The commentary says, “The Nepali Army earlier confirmed that it would participate in the drill. However, only three days prior to the commencement of the drill, Prime Minister KP Oli conveyed to the army that Nepal's participation was being canceled. Oli's decision is understood to have been prompted by strong opposition from political parties including his own Nepal Communist Party (NCP), widely considered pro-China.”
“After pulling out of the drill, the Nepali government clarified that it had been proposed by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi but was not unanimously endorsed by all members during the Bimstec summit”, the commentary says, quoting Nepal's Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali as saying that "India was free to float the agenda, but we did not endorse it", insisting, Bimstec is “purely a developmental forum.”
The commentary goes to say, “Analysts say that geostrategic imperatives, security dialogues, or counterterrorism cooperation initiatives are no substitute for Bimstec's primary mandate to increase regional connectivity.”
It cites Constantino Xavier, fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at Brookings India, New Delhi, as saying, "(There are) many reasons behind Nepal's decision to pull out of the BIMSTEC military exercise, most of which (are) without merit. But this should also serve as a lesson for India about the limits of security cooperation, bound to weaken the organization."
“Meanwhile”, says the commentary, “Former Nepali Prime Minister Push Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) has made his country's priorities more clear by asserting during his just-concluded Delhi trip that Nepal wants to ‘revive’ SAARC and underlined to New Delhi that Bimstec cannot replace SAARC for regional prosperity.”
It quotes Prachanda as saying, while delivering a keynote address at the Indian Council of World Affairs in Sapru House, New Delhi, "As the current Chair of another important regional process, namely SAARC, Nepal's desire is to revive it and see an environment conducive for the early convening of the stalled summit. We believe that SAARC and Bimstec do not substitute but complement each other." 

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