BRICS: Begin intensive collaboration
At the Ninth summit, Modi must draw a road map for broader partnerships.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is participating at the Ninth Summit of the BRICS nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - at Xiamen city in China from September 3 to 5 this year. Modi is departing for China following the easing of tensions at the Doklam area of the India-Bhutan-China border and this gives the Indian Prime Minister a good opportunity to have effective bilateral discussions with his host and Chinese President Xi Jinping. During the recent G-20 summit, the atmosphere at the border at Doklam was surcharged and there was no initiative on the part of anyone to have a bilateral meeting to discuss the border issue. But on the eve of the BRICS summit, the standoff is over and officials have indicated how important it is for them to widen economic relations with China.
It is to be acknowledged that the sudden softening of the Chinese position had to do with the coming BRICS meeting to be hosted by China and the growing business opportunities for the Chinese companies in India. China could not afford to keep the logjam for long in the interests of further expansion of their investments and trade in India. That is a positive development for India also since, despite demands from some quarters, the Modi government did not put any restrictions on Chinese business activities during the period of the Doklam standoff. Indian policy makers knew that the tensions will be contained by China and despite provocative statements in their media the Chinese government will not opt for the path of confrontation.
The Indian Prime Minister is, therefore, in an advantageous position politically at the BRICS summit. India has shown restraint and China has retraced its steps. The ground is fertile to take this understanding forward by expanding areas of cooperation in the interests of both the countries as also with other members of the BRICS. Among the member nations, the Indian PM is better placed to play a pro active role at the summit to impart a big push to the cooperation. Brazil President Temer is under the cloud and he is facing corruption charges in his country's Parliament.
South African President Zuma has just scraped through a no confidence vote in the SA Parliament but his credibility is low. Both Brazil and South Africa are faced with a serious economic crisis. Chinese President Xi Jinping is facing his Communist Party Congress later this year and he has to make a success of the BRICS summit to vindicate his leadership capabilities before the delegates at the Congress. Russian President Putin is still isolated in Europe on the Ukraine issue and his equation with US President Donald Trump has not yet clicked.
That way, most of the BRICS nations are not in the best of times. The Indian PM can, therefore, play a vital role in leading the BRICS summit to evolve some strategy which will provide a big push to the economies of the member countries.
China, as a host has set the theme of the Ninth Summit as "BRICS: Stronger Partnership for Bigger Future." China expects that the Xiamen summit will promote members strengthening their solidarity and collaboration as also improving global governance. The Chinese President wants that the BRICS cooperation will progress to a new level after this summit and BRICS will emerge as a very influential platform for South-South cooperation. A cooperation among the emerging market bloc will push forward the establishment of a more fair and rational international order.
India fully subscribes to this view and at the last Goa summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned that the process of institution building in BRICS must continue to remain a focus area and the institutions must support the development of the BRICS members. Modi also mentioned of emphasis on digital technology, smart cities, urbanisation and collaboration between BRICS cities. He said that the next billion internet users will come from the emerging markets.
The Goa declaration at the Eighth BRICS summit called for a number of actions by the BRICS members in 2017 and India has been consistently urging the members to follow up on those as a part of their joint efforts to foster cooperation among the members. The most important is the proposal to set up a BRICS credit rating agency.
Presently the US rating agencies, Moody's Investor Services and Standard & Poor, dominate the rating market and they have in many cases, taken a partisan view in rating the economies of the developing countries. Like the setting up of New Development Bank under BRICS, an independent rating agency will be of big use to the BRICS members and the agency can be of help to the other developing countries outside the BRICS.
India wants that work on the setting up of the BRICS Credit Rating Agency should be speeded up and like the New Development Bank, it should start playing a crucial role in helping the economies of the developing countries. Further, India also emphasises the need for building BRICS Agriculture Research centre, BRICS Railway Research centre and BRICS Sports Council. Apart from that, the Indian position is that there is a clear need to build norms, create structure and pool capacities to stop tax evasion and fight against black money and corruption.
India favours the doubling of intra BRICS trade from US $250 billion in 2015 to US $500 billion in 2020. This requires businesses of five member nations to step up their engagement in a big way.
The geopolitical reality is that the US foreign policy is unpredictable and whatever sweet words US President Donald Trump says about India and Modi, in reality, nobody knows what exactly Trump will do. India should maintain its strategic relations with Russia and try to further improve its relations with China. The Indian PM should try to remove misgivings among the Chinese about India's closeness to the USA. An understanding between India, Russia and China on key political and economic issues, will act as a game changer. India can do it keeping its national interests intact. PM Modi can make use of the Xiamen summit to achieve both economic and political objectives. IPA
(The author is Editor-in-Chief, IPA. The views expressed are strictly personal.)