New Delhi BRICS summit focused on partnership, stability, security and prosperity

The Summit demonstrated how geographically distant countries with different social and economic challenges can generate a convergence that changes the axis of international politics.

New Delhi hosted the fourth BRICS summit on March 29, 2012. People of the Capital of India warmly welcomed the leaders and other delegates from Brazil, Russia, China & South Africa. The meeting of the leaders of the top five emerging economies discussed collective measures to boost cooperation among them and take steps to jointly respond to common challenges. BRICS is considered as a serious transnational group that can play a key role in reforming the world management system and can contribute towards maintaining economic growth, peace and security. The five leaders of the top emerging economies of BRICS including Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Hu Jintao of China, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Jacob Zuma of South Africa came to New Delhi to attend the Summit.

 This Summit meeting demonstrated how geographically distant countries with different social and economic challenges can become partners and generate a convergence that changes the axis of international politics. BRICS aimed to take this cooperation forward on the basis of openness, solidarity, mutual understanding and trust and for promoting peace, security and development in a multi-polar, inter-dependent and increasingly complex, globalizing world. The deliberations during the Summit reflected the consensus to remain engaged with the world community as the issues addressed the challenges for people’s well-being and bring stability in a responsible and constructive manner.

Though Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit triggered a wave of protests by Tibetans all across the Capital of India even after elaborate security arrangements were made to thwart any such attempt. However, Chinese government expressed regret over troubles created by the pro-Tibetan elements for India and regretted on the loss of Tibetan lives. At the same time, Chinese government also appreciated India's measures in quelling the demonstrations and ensuring safe and smooth holding of the BRICS summit in New Delhi.

The BRICS countries is a grouping acronym that refers to the countries of Brazil, Russia, India China & South Africa, where all seemed to be at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development. BRICS contain roughly a third of the world’s population and a fifth of its GDP. Today, trade among BRICS rose from $27 billion in 2002 to $ 212 billion in 2010. This year it is expected to reach $250 billion. BRICS will be responsible for 56% of world’s growth in 2012. The World needs better economic structures and BRICS has come into widespread use as a symbol of the shift in global economic power away from the developed economies toward the developing world. It is expected that the economic potential of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is such that they could become among the five most dominant economies by the year 2050. Today BRICS is one of the biggest economic weights. They are the largest economies outside the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,). Though, BRICS is still at the conceptual stage, however, it is the size, power and the growing global influence of its members that have made it more attractive. Coordinating policy at the level of BRICS will not be easy, given that the political interests of BRICS members clash at various levels. Still, this group could be a channel for resolving many pressing global politico-economic concerns. The New Delhi summit was certainly an important summit in this context.

New Delhi Summit boosted the momentum as it takes the BRICS agenda forward. This Summit dealt upon the issues identified at previous Summits, while focusing largely on traditional BRICS issues. The major themes were of better governance of the global economy and sustainable development or green economy issues. Concerns were reflected over the current global economic situation and on the slow pace of quota and governance reforms in the IMF (International Monetary Fund). One of the significant discussions was on renovating IMF. Concerns were also shown on selection of the Heads of IMF & World Bank. According to BRICS there is a need to transform the Bank into a multilateral institution that will truly reflect the vision of all its members. Moreover, the nature of the Bank should be such, which would promote equal partnership with all countries as a way to deal with development issues and to overcome a donor- recipient dichotomy.

 

While the BRICS recovered relatively fast from the global economic crisis, even then they feel that economic stability should be ensured among all these five nations. Attention was given to focus on creation of the first BRICS Institutions which would help cement five countries together a so-called formation of a “BRICS Bank," that would have the possibility to fund development projects and infrastructure in developing nations. Though still now it remains in the planning stages, the leaders are expected to signal their commitment for setting it up as potential counterweight to other multilateral lenders such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The proposal is to make it as a powerful financial tool to improve trade opportunities. The outcomes of the second meeting of BRICS Trade Ministers held one day before the Summit was also a successful one. It is expected that the Agreement on ‘Extending Credit Facility in Local Currency’, under BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism and the Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement between the EXIM/Development Banks, will serve as useful agreements for enhancing intra-BRICS trade in the coming years.

The back-to-back bilateral meetings also took place during the Summit. While the plenary session focused on common grounds, bilateral meetings touched-upon more sensitive issues. India and China emphasised more on improving political and economic relations. This was Chinese President Hu Jintao’s last Summit as President of China. The two leaders declared 2012 as the year of India-China friendship and unveiled initiatives to bolster cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also invited Chinese investments in manufacturing sectors in India. Mr. Sing and President Hu also announced expanded foreign office Consultations and launched three new dialogues with each other on West Asia, Central Asia and Africa. It was evident that both the nations are now determined to improve their bilateral relationship despite differences and difficulties over certain significant political issues.

Brazil, Russia, India and China congratulated South Africa on successfully hosting the 17th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 7th Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP17/CMP7) in December 2011. BRICS fully agreed to play active part in the global fight against climate change and decided to contribute to the global effort in dealing with climate change issues through sustainable and inclusive growth and not by capping development.

BRICS acknowledge the relevance and focus of the main themes for the Conference namely, Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication (GESDPE) as well as Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD). BRICS also pledged that Energy based on fossil fuels would continue to dominate the energy mix for the foreseeable future. BRICS will expand sourcing of clean and renewable energy and use of energy efficient and alternative technologies. China, Russia, India and South Africa look forward to working with Brazil as the host of this important issue during the Conference in June this year and will help Brazil for a successful and practical outcome. Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa also pledged their support for working with India as it hosts the 11th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2012 and look forward to a positive outcome of that conference too. BRICS retreated that they will continue the efforts for the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols, with special attention to the Nagoya Protocol on accessing the Genetic Resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization, Biodiversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and the Resource Mobilization Strategy.

There was a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Medvedev too on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit. The two leaders reviewed developments since they met in Moscow and exchanged views on bilateral, regional and international issues of common concern. Bilateral agreements were not being signed during this visit. Nonetheless, talks were highlighted on how to mark the sixty-five years of India-Russia diplomatic ties. India is planning to host a “Festival of Russia in India” as well as “Days of Moscow in Delhi” during this year. The two leaders also discussed on the issues & concerns related to Kudankulan Nuclear power plant and on the tele-company Sistema. During this visit President Medvedev was also conferred honorary doctorate degree by Jawaharlal Nehru University of New Delhi. Leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa expressed their happiness and eagerness to see Russian Presidency of G20 in 2013 and mentioned that BRICS will be looking forward to extend the cooperation. All the leaders also congratulated Russian President Mr, Medvedev on Russia’s accession to WTO’s (World Trade Organisation’s) membership. Whereas, Russian President from his side mentioned that Russia intends to participate in an active and constructive manner for a balanced outcome of the Doha Round, which will strengthen and develop the multilateral trade system. As BRICS co-operates intensively on a bilateral basis too, there have been joint military exercises between Russia and China, Russia and India, and China and India in recent years.

A benchmark equity index derivative shared by the stock exchanges of the five BRICS nations was also launched during the Summit. They would be cross-listed, so can be bought in local currencies too. The leaders are also expected to sign agreements allowing their individual development banks to extend credit to other members in local currency, a step towards replacing the dollar as the main unit of trade between them.

Middle East and energy security issues were also there on the agenda of the Summit, including Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. BRICS expressed deep concern at the current situation in Syria and called for an immediate end to all violence and violations of human rights in that country. On Syria they supported the Arab League and special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan. On the situation concerning Iran, BRICS feels the situation out here cannot be allowed to escalate into a conflict, as the disastrous consequences in this country will be in no one's interest. BRICS showed concern about the situation that is emerging around Iran's nuclear issue. BRICS recognizes Iran's right for the peaceful use of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations and supports resolution of the issues through political and diplomatic means and dialogue between the parties concerned, including between the IAEA and Iran and in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. On Afghanistan, BRICS supports the global community's commitment to Afghanistan, enunciated at the Bonn International Conference on December 2011, to remain engaged over the transformation from 2015-2024. BRICS affirms the commitment to support Afghanistan's emergence as a peaceful, stable and democratic state, free of terrorism and extremism, and underscore the need for more effective regional and international cooperation for stabilization including curbing terrorism. BRICS also extended support for combating illicit drug trafficking originating from Afghanistan within the framework of the Paris Pact.

 

Among BRICS there are nuclear powers as well as UN Security Council’s permanent seat holders. BRICS initiated the talk on strengthening the effort to cooperate and assist for reduction of natural disasters, for cooperation in the environmental protection sectors, cooperation in the business and commercial sectors, cooperation in the energy sector & cooperation in curbing terrorism. BRICS would like to strengthen friendship and partnership and work closely to ensure regional peace and stability and create a favourable condition for regional development. India would like to promote the cooperation among BRICS and bring more benefits to the people of BRICS.

One of the biggest obstacles that are expected to come on the way of BRICS development and growth is the environmental degradation causes. Another significant cause of concern for BRICS is that substantial numbers of poor people living in these countries, so along with the economic growth, anti-poverty programmes are also high up in their list of concerns which is coming on their way as an obstacle for the rapid growth.

India expects that the recent Summit will help in creating a better world by promoting positive trends for balancing the international power, by initiating deeper reform of the global economic governance system and greater cooperation to pursue a win-win situation for all BRICS nations. India also expects that these trends will be beneficial for developing more just and reasonable development of the international power politics and address security concerns.

BRICS showed the new ways of international cooperation. BRICS does not include any Western countries, so under the BRICS framework the discussion on the problems & prospects took place without West’s influence or interference. The views expressed during the Summit were more of non-west than anti-west. BRICS determined the areas of the future cooperation and tried to develop joint position on the political and economic issues and concerns to suit their interests and coordinate accordingly their positions in order to prepare in a better manner for further discussions. In the action plan, BRICS leaders agreed to meet before UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) every year. They also proposed to have regular meeting of their Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors, Trade Ministers and National Security Advisers. There is a huge prospect for the BRICS to cooperate on various different fields mainly in education sectors, in natural resources, in technological sectors, in agricultural sector and can draw up plans for working together in many different spheres.

On the economic front, it is expected that there would be a tussle between India and China, while Russia is pushing the political agenda particularly on Iran and Syria, where BRICS supports Russia’s viewpoint. At the same time, India and Brazil pushed through their joint pitch for reform of the UN Security Council, which China has not been enthusiastic about but Russia in general supports it. At the end of the Summit Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa extended their warm appreciation and sincere gratitude to the Government and the people of India for hosting the fourth BRICS Summit in New Delhi. At the same time, Brazil, Russia, India and China thanked South Africa for its offer to host the fifth BRICS Summit in 2013 and pledged their full support.

Dr. Nivedita Das Kundu, Foreign Policy Analysts and Assistant Director (Research) with the Indian Council for Social Science Research, New Delhi, India

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