BRICS Summits demonstrate how geographically distant countries with different social and economic challenges can become partners and generate a convergence that changes the axis of international politics and financial structures. BRICS aims to move forward based on openness, solidarity, mutual understanding and trust, writes Valdai Club expert Nivedita Das Kundu.
“BRICS is based on the spirit of equality, mutual understanding, trust and respect. It offers inclusive and innovative solutions to many longstanding challenges”
S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister, Government of India
“Parallel activities at a people-to-people level and in domains ranging from culture to science, technology and innovation have also gathered momentum. In the last decade and a half, BRICS has made its presence felt in the important debates of our times”
S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister, Government of India
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is a grouping of fast-emerging economies with huge market potential. BRICS has been a beacon of multilateralism based on equality, mutual respect and trust. Since the first meeting between the BRIC Foreign Ministers on the UN (United Nations) General Assembly’s sidelines in New York in 2006 the BRICS had come far. India will be hosting the 13th BRICS summit in 2021. The 13th BRICS Summit is going to be held under India’s Chairship. It will be the third time that India will be hosting the BRICS Summit after 2012 and 2016. India kicked off its BRICS Chairship with the inaugural three-day-long Sherpas’ meeting from 24-26 February 2021. India presented its priorities for its Chairship in 2021 under the theme – “BRICS@15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus”. The 13th BRICS summit will review the achievements and contributions of BRICS for the global agenda and assess each BRICS nation’s growth stories to celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2021. The theme reflects the approach to strengthen the founding principles of BRICS cooperation based on continuity, consolidation and consensus.
Over the last one year, the world has drastically changed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Also, the worsening of India-China ties and escalation of tensions between the two most influential member states of BRICS, namely, China and India, caused anxiety over the last year and created some destruction and differences within the grouping. The 12th BRICS Summit was held virtually amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, hosted by Russia on November 17, 2020, on the theme of global stability, shared security and innovative growth. Economic and counter-terrorism were the two key themes at the summit, and two declarations were adopted; these are (1) BRICS economic partnership strategy 2025 and (2) the BRICS counter-terrorism strategy. The economic partnership focuses on trade, investment, finance, digital economy and sustainable development, while the counter-terrorism strategy condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. It calls upon the BRICS nations to strengthen cooperation to fight terrorism through groupings like the UN, G20 (Group of 20) and FATF (The Financial Action Task Force).
Two significant areas would continue to be high on India’s priority during the 13th BRICS summit (i) the United Nations Security Council reform and (ii) the fight against terrorism. Amidst differences over the policies on terrorism, it has to be seen how BRICS nations cooperate to counter this critical problem that affects humanity across the world. In 2012, as the chair of BRICS, India introduced “security” in the BRICS agenda as the New Delhi Summit’s theme was ’BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Security and Prosperity. The BRICS countries have taken confident strides in economic cooperation, evidenced by the New Development Bank’s (NDB) creation in 2014.
The first meeting of the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance (WBA) under India’s Chairship was held on March 7, 2021, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. It was attended by the Chairs of all other national chapters of BRICS, WBA. In addition to this, BRICS joint working groups will also be constituted this year on the identified sectors like (a) Innovative Development, (b) Healthcare, (c) Food Security, (d) Environmental Safety, (e) Creative Industries, (f) Tourism, and (g) Inclusive Economy. The representatives from all other national chapters of the alliance welcomed India’s proposal and offered full support. They also shared details about their respective women-centric plans for the year. The sustainable development goals demonstrate adopting the gender lens properly and creating a culture to provide more opportunities to women that requires collaborative and concerted actions.
In current trying times, there is a need to transform challenges into opportunities and accelerate the shift towards greater inclusion of women in the workforce and women-led entrepreneurship. This forms the basis of BRICS WBA’s plan for the year 2021 under India’s Chairship. The overall goal for BRICS Women’s Business Alliance for 2021 will promote women’s economic participation and empowerment across BRICS countries.
India does not have significant trade ties with BRICS nations except with China. As the present trend suggests, India would be making efforts to decouple its economy from China in the coming years. Chinese investments in India would be subjected to increased scrutiny as well. This does not go well for BRICS, a grouping striving to find a common identity. So far, there was an understanding among the BRICS members that bilateral issues would not impact their thinking on global and regional issues, but this is likely to change as China’s aggressive posturing along Indian borders has fundamentally altered the nature of India-China engagement not only at the bilateral but also at the multilateral level. However, the BRICS members would continue to search for cooperation, and India’s new thinking on BRICS would be reflected as it takes up the chair for 2021. As Chair, India will work on specific deliverables across three pillars of intra-BRICS cooperation in 2021.
· On the issues of political and security concerns, that is, to enhance cooperation and dialogue on issues of global and regional security. Ensure developments in the global political sphere for peace, security and prosperity. India is working to ensure reform of the multilateral system and engage in counter-terrorism cooperation.
· On the economic and financial issues, to promote economic growth and development for mutual prosperity through intra-BRICS collaboration in sectors such as trade, agriculture, infrastructure, small and medium enterprises, energy, finance and banking. Recognizing the advantages of using technological and digital solutions to achieve sustainable development goals in BRICS countries, focusing on the implementation of the BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy 2020-25. India would encourage the BRICS Agriculture Research Platform’s operationalization, cooperation on disaster resilience, promote collaboration in innovation sectors and digital health, and in the traditional medicine sector.
· Encourage to conduct cultural activities and increase people-to-people contact. India believes in qualitatively enriching and enhancing intra-BRICS people-to-people communications in cultural, academic, sports, business sectors through regular exchanges.
The BRICS partners appreciates India’s theme and priorities for its Chairship during 2021 and considers the theme timely and relevant and expressed support for India’s new initiatives. BRICS Sherpas suggested opening up of BRICS bank’s regional offices in Russia and India and on NDB membership expansion. BRICS Sherpas agreed to meet regularly to review the progress made on the discussions and plans.
BRICS Summits demonstrate how geographically distant countries with different social and economic challenges can become partners and generate a convergence that changes the axis of international politics and financial structures. BRICS aims to move forward based on openness, solidarity, mutual understanding and trust. BRICS aims to promote peace, security, and development in a multi-polar, inter-dependent and increasingly complex, globalizing world. The deliberations during the Summits reflect the consensus to remain engaged with the world community. The issues address the challenges for people’s well-being and bring stability responsibly and constructively. BRICS Summits boost the momentum as it takes the BRICS agendas forward. Every BRICS Summits deals upon the issues and concerns identified at previous Summits agendas while focusing mainly on traditional BRICS issues.