Prime Minister Narendra Modi used two global summits on Thursday to excoriate India’s neighbourhood rivals, first targeting Beijing’s muscle-flexing in the South China Sea and then seeking “strongest action” against state-sponsors of terrorism to hit out at Islamabad.
Modi named neither country in his speeches, but his twin attacks before top Asian leaders as well as US President Barack Obama were seen as a strategic move to send out a strong message against New Delhi’s nuclear-armed foes.
In recent weeks, India has ratcheted up criticism of Pakistan, accusing it of inciting protests in Kashmir, while ties with China have been fraught over Beijing’s blocking of New Delhi’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China is also wary of India’s growing presence in the South China Sea.
At Thursday’s East Asia Summit in Laos, Modi stepped up his attack on Pakistan, speaking of a country “whose competitive advantage rests solely in producing and exporting terrorism”.
“The time has come for us to stop this global exporter of terror,” he told the summit, also attended by Chinese premier Li Keqiang.
“We need to target not only the terrorists but also their entire supporting ecosystem. And our strongest action should be reserved for those state actors who employ terrorism as an instrument of state policy.”
The fresh jibe came three days after Modi launched a sharp attack on Pakistan, telling G20 leaders that “one single nation” in South Asia was spreading “agents of terror”.
Earlier in the day, Modi launched a veiled criticism of China’s belligerent stand on the South China Sea, saying India believed “the threat or use of force to resolve disputes would complicate matters affecting peace and stability”.
“…India urges all parties to show utmost respect for the Unclos,” he told the India-Asean Summit, referring to a UN convention on laws governing the seas.
China is involved in disputes with littoral countries of the region over the South China Sea. In July, an international tribunal ruled in favour of the Philippines in its dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.
But China reacted angrily, saying it neither accepts nor recognises the ruling. In recent months, Beijing has scrambled fighter jets and boats to the region citing threats to Chinese sovereignty.
India has oil assets off the coast of Vietnam, another party to the dispute over the South China Sea.