BRICS displayed resilience and persistence since its formation in the year 2008. It also signifies the rise of a multipolar world, ready to challenge conventions and break the proverbial wheel. It points towards global systems that might eventually be more egalitarian. BRICS is necessary for the perpetuation of an alternative narrative and the existence of multiple global systems, writes Valdai Club expert Nivedita Das Kundu.
India assumed the rotating Chairship of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on January 1, 2021. India took over the chairship from Russia. Each BRICS member takes over the Chair for a year. BRICS started essentially with economic issues of mutual interest; the agenda of BRICS has considerably widened over the years to encompass topical global issues such as international terrorism, climate change, food, energy security, international economic and the financial situation, reform of the Bretton Woods Institutions, trade protections, the World Trade Organisation etc.
India previously chaired BRICS in the years 2012 and 2016. India hosted the 4th and 8th BRICS summits and will be hosting the 13th BRICS summit this year. India held the eighth BRICS Summit in 2016 under the theme “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions.” In addition, to enrich understanding and engagement with countries in the region, India brought together an outreach summit of BRICS leaders with the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
India’s agenda for its BRICS Chairship in 2021
India has chosen the theme for Chairship as ‘[email protected]: Intra-BRICS cooperation for continuity, consolidation and consensus’. Traditionally, BRICS discusses issues of common interest for all five countries. India has pitched for greater coordination among BRICS nations on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) review and giving more say to developing countries. India wants the five-nation grouping to respond to the COVID-19 crisis through policy support and enhanced international coordination. As the BRICS chair for 2021, India’s approach for the group of nations focuses on strengthening intra-BRICS cooperation.
India has proposed deliverables on issues, including a waiver proposal at World Trade Organization (WTO) for uninterrupted supply of vaccines, the framework for consumer protection in e-commerce and cooperation framework to protect traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.
In Political and Security sphere: To enhance cooperation and dialogue on global and regional security issues, developments in the global political space for peace, security, and prosperity.
India’s priorities are:
Reform of the Multilateral System
In Economic and Financial sphere: To promote economic growth and development for mutual prosperity by expanding intra-BRICS cooperation in sectors such as trade, agriculture, infrastructure, small and medium enterprises, energy, finance & banking. Recognizing the advantages of using technological and digital solutions for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals in BRICS countries with a particular focus on:
Implementation of the BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy 2020-25.
Operationalization of the BRICS Agriculture Research Platform.
Cooperation on Disaster Resilience.
Digital Health and Traditional Medicine.
In Cultural and People to People contact: To qualitatively enrich and enhance intra-BRICS people’s contacts in cultural, academic, youth, sports, business through regular exchanges. Exchanges among parliamentarians, young scientists.
In UNSC reform and to tackle terrorism: India as a non-permanent member at the UNSC would try to attain broader consensus on UNSC reform. India will continue to seek support from its BRICS colleagues to support the UNSC reform. For the first time, BRICS released a policy document on counter-terrorism under Russia’s Chairmanship in 2020. India would try to strengthen this document under its chairship in the year 2021.
Impact of India-China Relations on BRICS
Due to the recent dip in India-China relations and recent clash on border cooperation, the BRICS grouping has been hit. It is expected that the BRICS summit will be able to support building stronger Sino-Indian relations. However, not yet confirm if all the BRICS leaders will be able to participate in the forthcoming BRICS summit in India that is scheduled to be held by the end of 2021, nonetheless, virtual participation will definitely take place.
BRICS summits give both India and China an opportunity to work in close cooperation with each other. The annual BRICS summit was earlier meant for high-level delegation meeting, but for the last few years changed the format and now participants are also from the Track Two circles including think tank heads, various government officials, industrialists and experts.
India and China are cooperating to develop alternate financial structures, cohesive guidelines within Asia and the global south on many issues such as trade, investment and developing an understanding so that the dominance of the west could be reduced to a minimum in global financial architecture. Thus, the foundation of cooperation in BRICS brings potential resources and critical development requirements under one umbrella.
However, India is wary of Chinese exports gaining more market access in comparison to other countries getting access to Chinese markets. Therefore, the negotiations and the role of origin aspects would be major nagging points in years to come. Nonetheless, BRICS serves as a platform for discussion and dialogue.
Certainly, BRICS cannot be a military and security grouping given the significant differences between India and China. The success of grouping such as BRICS also depends on the bilateral ties among those within the group. India-China relations in the backdrop of the Galway conflict do not suggest that all is well on the bilateral front or even in the regional context.
BRICS counter-terror strategy adopted at the 2020 summit had put forward India’s long-standing demand to unite against the menace of terrorism. The action plan expected to be adopted in the 2021 summit will be based on the strategy formulated in the year 2020.
The BRICS member countries collectively represent about 26 percent of the world’s geographic area and are home to 3.6 billion people that is about 42 percent of the world’s population. Over the period of time, BRICS has shown keen interest in increasing financial and economic cooperation among the member countries, effective industrial interaction and practical collaboration in developing and implementing new joint energy, telecommunications and high-tech projects, among others.
BRICS displayed resilience and persistence since its formation in the year 2008. It also signifies the rise of a multipolar world, ready to challenge conventions and break the proverbial wheel. It points towards global systems that might eventually be more egalitarian. BRICS is necessary for the perpetuation of an alternative narrative and the existence of multiple global systems.