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BRICS Diplomacy (10 September 2020)

BRICS Diplomacy (10 September 2020)

Why in News:

The foreign ministers of BRICS countries emphasised last week that any challenges to international peace and security and violent conflict in various parts of the world should be resolved through political and diplomatic engagement.

Context:

The meeting of the five emerging powers, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), was held through video conference. With Russia as the BRICS chair, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov led the participants, which included Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi.

Background:

BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

The chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S.

At the Fortaleza Summit (2014), in Brazil, important institutions were created: the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). So far, the NDB has approved more than 8 billion-dollars in infrastructure and renewable energy financing projects in the BRICS countries. The CRA is operational and is an important financial stability mechanism for countries affected by crises in their balance of payments.

In addition to presidential meetings (summit and the informal meeting in the margins of the G20), BRICS organizes, through its rotating chairship, nearly 100 annual meetings, including about 15 ministerial meetings and dozens of gatherings with official seniors, technical events, as well as meetings on culture, education and sport areas.

Summary of the Debate

Important Takeaways:

  • Celebrating 75 years of United Nations.
  • Resolute of the BRICS Countries on counter-terrorism.
  • In the meeting, discussion held on the impact of the epidemiological situation on the cultural sphere in the BRICS countries and review of the possible implementation of joint cultural online-projects within BRICS.
  • Suggestions Given by India:
    • Digital Online Exhibition: To explore possibilities of hosting a Digital Online Exhibition on a Shared theme towards end of 2021 under the auspices of BRICS Alliance of Museums. Extending full cooperation and content sharing for website envisaged under the BRICS Alliance.
    • BRICS Corner: Proposal of opening of BRICS Corner under the auspices of BRICS Alliance of Libraries and to be inaugurated during the India’s BRICS Presidency in 2021.It will disseminate information related to the history and culture of BRICS countries.
    • BRICS Joint Exhibition: The National Gallery of Modern Arts, New Delhi will host the BRICS Joint Exhibition titled ‘Bonding Regions & Imagining Cultural Synergies’ under the auspices of the BRICS Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries. The exhibition is proposed to be organized in 2021 coinciding with the BRICS event that India would be hosting in 2021. The exhibition aims to present around 100 works of art from the five prestigious institutions under the BRICS Alliance.

BRICS

  • BRICS is the group composed by the five major emerging countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -, which together represent about 42% of the population, 23% of GDP, 30% of the territory and 18% of the global trade.
  • The acronym BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs in 2001 to indicate the emerging powers that would be, alongside the United States, the five largest economies of the world in the 21st century.
  • In 2006, BRIC countries started their dialogue, which since 2009 takes place at annual meetings of heads of state and government.
  • In 2011, with South Africa joining the group, the BRICS reached its final composition, incorporating a country from the African continent.

          BRICS Summits – Civilsdaily

BRICS and UNSC Reforms:

  • As far as UNSC reforms are concerned, few years ago, suddenly a draft text was able to get pass the general assembly and then it stalled again.
  • One of the reasons for UNSC reform was that Europe was overrepresented, because France and Britain were both on the UNSC and there was a talk that may be a single European seatwould be possible. But now Britain has left European Union, so Britain is no longer prepared to surrender its seat to a larger European position.
  • Russia is now is not so eager to see a dilution of its own position because it has economically declined over the past decade.
  • China has steadfastly said that Japan, one of the members of G4 group that India is part of, would be allowed into the security council over its dead body because of their long historical problems with each other.
  • Brazil has problems because half of Latin America opposes it including Mexico, the second most powerful Latin American country.
  • The biggest regional problems remain in Africa because while South Africa is there, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal and so many other African countries have opposed them. There is no unity among Africans about what would be an African chair.
  • The fact that there is even a draft text that has not been accepted by the General Assembly, it was a major step forward and there was a fair amount of resistance from China and few other countries.

Way Forward:

  • India has to become a player not only in its region but India need to be a voice which is heard in the world. The BRICS are an important stepping stone for India.
  • India should not underestimate the importance of the issues relate to Climate, no matter that the global lockdown has for a moment resulted in GHG emission coming down. But this will be defining features and India need to position itself.
  • Global system is changing, new issues are arising, new coalitions are being tested and formed and it’s important that not only that India be a member of as many of these coalitions as possible, but set rules or be part of the debate internally.
  • It also requires that India domestically have to be very clear about and define what its interests are, so that it can align its multilateral policies.
  • India is particular in a position to shape the global agenda at a time when there is a leadership vacuum around the world.

Important points made by the Guests

Manjeev Singh Puri, Former Ambassador 

  • This BRICS summit is supposed to take place this year in Russia, but has postponed as a result of the pandemic. Usually the Foreign Ministers would have met on the sidelines of the United Nation General Assembly (UNGA), even that does not appear possible at all this year.
  • The media statements mention about BRICS efforts on developing vaccines. The Russian vaccines is already out there, Chinese are also working on it. In India there are several trials which are going forward.
  • For India, coming together with these other large countries are really important because it allows us to expand the space possible for countries which are developing countries and countries which are pushing forward on the way world is currently structured and for finding a place for ourselves.
  • This is particularly important that we have Brazil and South Africa with us who are also our partners in IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa). But in this forum along with two permanent members of security council it’s particularly important, it allow us to say our words and put our perspective forward.
  • India will be hosting the next BRICS Summit. Therefore, keeping this going is extremely important for India.
  • The countries that constitute the BRICS are countries that are going to be important in the coming years too. Their coming together makes them a sort tour de force in terms of global multipolarity.
  • The BRICS came about as a result of Goldman Sachs study on BRIC. Then we added South Africa because politically that was essential to do. These countries are not the only big players in the world, but G20 which symbolizes multi-polarity in the best possible manner and essentially the G7.The BRICS countries with some other large countries being brought in there. Therefore, importance of these countries will continue to remain.
  • This Multi-polarity merges with multilateralism, that’s the crux of the way the UN system has worked.

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Foreign Affairs Editor, Hindustan Times

  • India have carefully tied up with almost every major vaccine program in the world, partly because India is the world’s biggest manufacturers of vaccines.
  • Almost 60-70 percent of those vaccines are today produced by Indian companies. So, India actually has the mass capacity to produce doses at very low prices. Serum Institute alone can produce 1.5 billion doses at the price of USA 50 cents each and no other country in the world has that capacity. Even a lot of the factories in Europe which produces vaccines are actually owned by Indian companies.
  • So, BRICS is one set of countries, both as users of the vaccine because South Africa, Brazil and India to some extent Russia are all being badly affected by the covid-19. South Africa represents 50 percent of all the cases in Africa and Brazil is close to about being the samein Latin America.
  • Economically, BRICS is less capable of contributing partly because we are not that integrated as an economic block, all of us trade very massively with China but we don’t trade all that much with each other.
  • There is a fair amount of uncertainty in the International system right now whether it’s American isolationism, Chinese assertiveness and a steady bit of chaos in Europe as well.
  • There are other multilateral organizations that India is more concerned about like the WTO. India is not a necessarily very active WTO member, but it has definitely invested in the WTO structure.
  • There are a lot of other multilateral rules and bodies which are now under threat or under state of decay and that is something India need to be looking at. Even as a group of new multilateral organizations are coming up and those built around climate change for example are particularly important. India has already helped in creating one of those organizations and now looking at producing possibly two more.
  • There is a bunch of geopolitical organization in the Indo-Pacific, the Quad have just announced India, Australia, Japan supply chain resilience organization.

Harsh V. Pant, Head, Strategic Studies, ORF

  • So far, it seems that India has taken a cautious and pragmatic approach to the whole India-China border issue and not allowing this particular friction to override or overshadow its engagement with China in multilateral platform.
  • The statement which came out of BRICS also talked about strengthening multilateralism. One important aspect is how does India represent itself in a world which is facing severe problems on multilateral front and therefore can India work with other countries, even with a country like china with whom India have multiple problems but the idea that multilateral reforms are important and multilateral reforms can only proceed if countries like China are on board.
  • India has to use BRICS as a platform where India’s ideas, views and interests are also represented. In the past India has been able to put certain issues which matter to India and that is very important in terms of how India has been dealing with a country like China.
  • India has a China problem where issues which are very important to India for example like terrorism, sometimes get marginalized with China because China takes a different rout on that question bilaterally.

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