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What to expect from BRICS Summit


SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | New Delhi, March 28, 2012 12:16
Tags : brics summit | sri lankan war crimes resolution | brics bank | sino-indian trade |

brics summitLong before BRICS became talk of the world, or at least we thought it became, there was something called RIC. A decade and half ago, when India and China started to make a mark at the international forums, Russia decided to carry them along. Those were tough days for Russia as Boris Yeltsin was in the helm of affairs and it desperately wanted some sort of regional cooperation to counter balance the western influence at financial institutions. The motive was purely economic in nature and thus this grouping never went beyond achieving a few tactical goals.

BRICS is different. Unlike RIC, it does not operate on Foreign Ministers level. The sheer fact that it is being operated on Head of the State level, gives it a different aura. But it is interesting to see whether it has the capability to go beyond the game of aura and work for some long strategic goals.

To start with, this is certainly not the grouping of equals. Notionally, it might appear that its member nations have similar economic standings and thus they have equal influence in the grouping. It is not. A close look at the bilateral and multilateral trade shows some glaring divergences.

For example, while the volume of Sino-Russia and Sino-India trade is comparable, there is absolute no match when it comes to Russia-China and Russia-India trade. Similarly, the trade between India and Brazil or between India and South Africa stands nowhere in comparison to their trade with China. Under the circumstances, how much effective mulch-lateral engagement will be is for anybody to guess.

There are deep political fissures between the member nations as well; but thankfully less on bilateral front and more on global issues. Take for example India and China. US wants India to be part of its Asia Pacific strategy to "contain" China. The eagerness India has shown is quite surprising considering the pace with which things move here. PM Manmohan Singh on his part conceded that a country like China can't be contained, but that's for the media.

Russia has been rather notorious for its double cross when it comes to self interest. Take for example the issue of the expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). For decades, Russia had blocked the entry of Pakistan on the grounds that India to should be its part. However, last year, when it realized that it needs to accommodate Pakistan in Afghanistan matrix following the troops withdrawal in 2014, it quietly lifted that condition. On the other hand, it also needs India to balance out Sino-Pak increasing influence in the Central Asian region that Russia considers its sphere of influence.

On the global forum too, India stands oddly out. Just recently, while China and Russia vetoed the west backed resolution for intervention in Syria, India came out as someone who is too eager to break the ranks with its NAM and BRICS partners to keep west and Israel in good humour. What happened on Sri Lankan resolution was even worse. It now emerges that the whole drama of “voting under the pressure of DMK or AIADMK” was merely for appearance and that it was the pressure from US that made India vote for the resolution. Similarly, on Iran too, India likes to play clock and dagger not trying to annoy Israel at any cost. Even on the climate change issue, after the tacit defection of South Africa, China and India are finding it hard to cope with the western pressure.

It is surprising, under these circumstances, how media expects a magic at the New Delhi summit. A look at the agenda is enough to melt most of this optimism. The lion-share of the time will be spent in sorting out differences at the political front. Apart from a great photo-op don't expect much at that end. Broader contentions will remain as it is. Though, a thing or two will move on the economic front.
The most talked about issue concerning this summit is the possible establishment of a BRICS Bank, so to say. Now that is quite encouraging. Quite encouraging till the time you get to the fact that apart from China, other member nations have dithered from trading in their own currency. Iran, years ago, proposed to Russia that they should start a non-dollar bourse for Oil & Gas. In spite of all the bravado Russia shows otherwise, it failed to act forcefully. India too only came around when because of the latest rounds of unilateral sanctions by the US on Iran oil sale, there was no option but to trade partly in INR. China has shown guts to shift a considerable portion of its bilateral trade with its regional partners in Renminbi. Under the circumstances, some agreement can be reached on making it a currency for trade in BRICS. But will India come around to that? Let's see.

There is a level of political understanding that needs to be reached before BRICS really emerges as a challenge to the established financial order. And there will be no better way to start it by agreeing to a joint candidate both for the IMF and World Bank top job. I can understand that Russia, China and India will have too much ego to shed space for each other. But who has stopped them from declaring a candidate from say South Africa or Brazil? Can we see a convergence of ideas here? Watch this space.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017