BRICS NSAs thrash out security agenda for Durban Summit

The BRICS as a platform has grown both in significance and in the nature of the dialogue and the work that the five nations do together.

NSAs of BRIC held their own first-ever stand-alone summit in New Delhi on January 10. Source: PTI Photo/Kamal Singh

The National Security Advisors (NSAs) of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held their own first-ever stand-alone summit in New Delhi on January 10. It was a significant event underlining the fact that the BRICS synergy is now zeroing down to the core area of security.

The New Delhi summit demonstrates that a body like BRICS that has 43 percent of the world’s population and accounts for almost one quarter of the world’s GDP is now putting its act together in collaborating in the vital area of security and counter-terrorism.

This was not the first time when the BRICS NSA’s met among themselves. They have actually been meeting since 2009. They first met as a group to prepare the Yekaterinburg summit of BRICS leaders which was the first summit of BRICS leaders. What set the January 10, 2013 meeting in New Delhi from its predecessors was the fact this was the first time when they held a stand-alone meeting of the BRICS NSAs. India would not be unjustified in taking the credit for the event which promises to be a pioneering effort for an annual institutionalised mechanism.

The BRICS Platform

Over the years the BRICS itself as a platform has grown both in significance and in the nature of the dialogue and the work that the five nations do together. It started of primarily looking at economic issues but quickly it has grown considerably at those consultations and the work that BRICS does. It was only a matter of time that is natural given the kind of similar interests that BRICS has as emerging economies that national security issues should also come on to the agenda and become an important element. So it has happened.

There would be few international organisations in the world that can boast of having transformed its agenda to core issues like BRICS, particularly when BRICS started off as primarily a politico-economic body. The development indicates that BRICS members are branching off to the vital areas of security and that too in the time span of just four summits the grouping had had so far.

Indian NSA Sivshankar Menon briefed the media immediately after the meeting of the BRICS High Representatives or NSAs was concluded. This is what he said on record: “What we really used the meeting for was to consult, to coordinate, and to see where we can cooperate on some of these issues. We discussed how the BRICS can work together for global peace, for stability, for development, and how BRICS could be a factor of stability and growth. I think it is clear that when you look at the world economy and the condition it is in, much of the growth in the economy is actually coming from emerging economies, from what are called developing countries.”

The Agenda

The BRICS NSAs’s discussions concentrated on the important regional and global developments. West Asia and North Africa was a very large part of what they discussed and in this the high points were Syria, Libya, Mali, the latest flashpoints in international politics.

The top security officers of BRICS also discussed ways to enhance their cooperation and coordination in issues like cyber security, terrorism, piracy and other such threats to international security. They looked at ways to increase coordination and cooperation among us as BRICS on these issues and how BRICS as a grouping could do something about these issues.

The meeting was successful because each of the five BRICS members enjoys strong and healthy relationships with each of the other BRICS countries. “There was a high level of congruence in our discussion of these issues. We found it very useful, in fact useful enough that at the end everyone said we must do this again. That gives you an idea of how successful the participants thought it was,” Menon said.

The Durban BRICS Summit

The January 10 meeting also prioritised the security agenda for the 5th BRICS summit to be held in Durban (South Africa) in March 2013.

Menon said: “We also had some discussion of what we expect from the Durban Summit. The South African side briefed us about their preparations for it which are well on track and going very well. Much of what we discussed we will report back to our own leaders and then we hope it feeds into what they do at Durban.”

In many ways, the January 10 meeting of the BRICS NSAs in New Delhi made the job of their top leadership all the more easy as now the leaders would know what exactly lies in their plate as far as the security issues are concerned.

Significantly, the meeting discussed the idea of a BRICS bank for infrastructure development which now seems almost ripe and which will be taken up in a big way at the Durban summi.

Syria

Among the issues discussed by the BRICS NSAs were terrorism, piracy, cyber security, and the ongoing turmoil in West Asia and in North Africa.

The BRICS NSAs spent a great deal of time and effort on the current situation in Syria. They unanimously concluded that it is for the Syrian people to choose their future and that the international community can only be a facilitator. They also determined that that the deterioration in the situation and the increasing violence was something of great concern to them all and the rise in extremist and terrorist forces in the region and in Syria itself were matters of concern. They also agreed that all Syrians must be roped in to determine the future destiny of their country and there were no military solutions to this kind of a problem.

The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and a strategic analyst. 

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