Building BRICS of economic engagements

The Goa Summit will provide a framework to understand India’s strengths

Published: 05th October 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th October 2016 12:14 AM   |  A+A-



As  a run up to next weekend’s (15-16 Oct) BRICS political summit in Goa, different cities across india including Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Goa and New Delhi have been hosting a series of events during these last four weeks.

This includes New Delhi hosting (12-14 Oct) the First BRICS Trade Fair as also meetings of BRICS Business Forum and the BRICS Business Council. It is equally interesting to note that in addition to about 1,000 plus business leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa negotiating and show-casing their products, the business heads from the seven-member BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) nations will also be participating in these events.

All this together underlines India’s increasing regionalisation of its foreign policy which provides an innovative new framework to both understand and address India’s strengths and its future challenges.

The fact that BIMSTEC leaders from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand are participating at all levels of BRICS meetings, including the Goa summit,  can also be seen in terms of further isolating Pakistan. Only last week, Pakistan had to cancel the summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation following India’s refusal to attend, leading to most other member states also withdrawing from it.Kickstarting these BRICS events, the sixth meeting of national security advisors of BRICS on September 15 had underlined their pledge to work together to deny terrorists access to finance and weapons as also to launch joint efforts in countering terrorism.

They agreed to initiate efforts at de-radicalisation of their youth in face of growing threats from the Daesh and Af-Pak based support and sanctuaries for outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Though India’s NSA, Ajit Doval, made a strong bid for setting up joint anti-terror mechanisms, BRICS NSAs agreed only to its first step of sharing real-time information, expertise and data on terror activities. This is so because not all BRICS members share the same perspectives on terrorism.

China, India and Russia in the BRICS have all been victims of terrorism emanating from Af-Pak region. But while India and Russia have had common position in this regard, the Chinese leadership still continues to protect its all weather friend Pakistan, despite the fact that violence in China’s Xinjiang has often created visible tensions in Beijing-Islamabad interactions.

China still continues to obstruct India’s efforts to enlist Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar in the United National list of proscribed terrorists. This is where increasing vigour of BRICS economic engagement promises to wean China away from its obscurantist demeanour on such matters and help marginalise Pakistan as a failed terrorist state, thus forcing China to also ensure safe distance.

But BRICS also has a much larger transformative agenda of recasting global governance,  and must not be understood in the limited bandwidth of marginalising Pakistan,  howsoever urgent may it seem in face of its repeated misadventures. Pakistan is also perhaps far too much in focus in view of the recent tensions in India-Pakistan border and India being the chair and host of BRICS summit involving world leaders from 11 nations,  including those from BIMTEC nations. In longer term perspectives, it is the rapidly expanding intra-BRICS trade and commerce, as also major new initiatives like the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement that define BRICS’ essential transformative role and reconfirm its system shaping capabilities which has  far reaching implications for the new world order.

At least in matters of global financial governance this potential has already been clearly recognised by Bretton Woods institutions, which made minimal changes in expanding BRICS weightage in their decision making processes.

The presence of BRICS at G20, Climate Change and other UN forums is also marking it as a game changer. The primary aim of the Goa summit therefore will be to tap this enormous economic potential,  starting with intra-BRICS trade and investments which make this inaugural Trade Fair and meeting of business leaders this a week perfect barometer of the major announcements to be made by the political summit during the next weekend.

Focusing on youth in sports, science and entrepreneurship, India has already hosted the first BRICS Young Scientists Forum which it seeks to link with major industrial sectors. 

In addition to the established companies, the Trade Fair will see start-ups and innovators showcasing their solutions for dealing with challenges in healthcare, energy, education, urbanisation and waste management. Besides, corporate bigwigs from BRICS will be exhibiting their advances made in sectors like aerospace, agro-processing, auto and auto components, chemicals, green energy and renewables, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, railways, textiles and apparel, infrastructure, information technology, engineering goods, tourism, gems and jewellery and skill development.

No doubt, barring India, economies of other four BRICS have experienced negative trends and critics also draw attention to their different political structures, varied economic trajectories and inter-rivalries such India and China, make it difficult to accept that BRICS can have a cohesive position on anything.

They also allude to urgent need for addressing non-tariff barriers in their intra-BRICS trade and attend to their relatively low trade in services. All this calls for concerted engagement with structural adjustments to provide a further boost to the already expanding intra-BRICS trade as also their expanding share in international trade and commerce. But there is no denying that BRICS today presents an attractive alternative compared to the fatigued 20th century governance architecture.

Swaran Singh

Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi



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