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It’s time to build BRICS better


The 13th BRICS summit is set to be held in September 2021, in digital format under India’s chairmanship. 


GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Mains Questions:

BRICS has succeeded up to a point but it now confronts multiple challenges. Discuss by throwing light on India’s role in the BRICS summit. (10 marks) 

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is BRICS?
  2. Achievements of BRICS
  3. China and the challenge posed to BRICS
  4. India’s focus of attention for the 13th BRICS summit 
  5. About BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy

What is BRICS?

  • BRICS is the international grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • This was set up as a move towards greater multi­polarity; hence the spread across three continents and both hemispheres.
  • BRICS represents 42% of the world’s population, 30% of the land area, 24% of global GDP and 16% of international trade.
  • Given its representative membership, the grouping can serve as a bridge between the Global North and the Global South.
  • In terms of GDP, China occupies the second position; India the fifth; Brazil the ninth; Russia the 11th; and South Africa the 35th.
  • In terms of growth rates, China grew at 6%; India at 4.5%, Russia 1.7%, Brazil 1.2% and South Africa 0.1%.
  • BRICS does not exist in form of organization, but it is an annual summit between the supreme leaders of five nations.
  • The Chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S.
  • The BRICS seeks to deepen, broaden and intensify cooperation within the grouping and among the individual countries for more sustainable, equitable and mutually beneficial development.
  • BRICS takes into consideration each member’s growth, development and poverty objectives to ensure relations are built on the respective country’s economic strengths and to avoid competition where possible.
  • BRICS is emerging as a new and promising political-diplomatic entity with diverse objectives, far beyond the original objective of reforming global financial institutions.

Achievements of BRICS

  • The main achievement of BRICS is the New Development Bank, with each country contributing equally to its equity. The bank has so far financed over 40 projects at a cost of $12 billion.
  • BRICS has also established the Contingency Reserve Arrangement, which is a welcome move given that along with the New Development Bank it can supplement existing institutions like the World Bank and IMF. 
  • BRICS is also on the verge of setting up a Vaccine Research and Development Virtual Center. BRICS grouping was able to coordinate and collaborate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The BRICS countries are also developing a joint payments mechanism to reduce foreign trade settlements in U.S. dollars.
  • An offshoot of the group, dealing with climate change, is BASIC (BRICS without Russia), which met at the Spain conference in December 2019 and reiterated its support to the Paris Agreement.
  • The BRICs called for the “the reform of multilateral institutions in order that they reflect the structural changes in the world economy and the increasingly central role that emerging markets now play”.
  • BRICs managed to push for institutional reform which led to International Monetary Fund (IMF) quota reform in 2010. Thus the financial crises had momentarily reduced western legitimacy and briefly let the BRICs countries become “agenda setters” in multilateral institution.

China and the challenge posed to BRICS

  • China’s economic rise has created a serious imbalance within BRICS. China’s centrality and dominance of intra-BRICS trade flows have made countries like India, Brazil and South Africa reluctant on agreeing to establish a free trade agreement in the BRICS grouping. Thus the intra-BRICS trade continues to remain low despite immense potential and opportunities.
  • While China is on track to global dominance, Brazil and South Africa continue to face serious internal challenges. The increasing difference in the economic power of the member states does not augur well for the grouping.
  • China’s aggressive policy, especially against India has put BRICS solidarity under exceptional strain. China’s support to Pakistan despite India’s reservations on Pakistan’s reliance on using terrorism as a state policy against India has only further deepened the difference between India and China.
  • The strained relations of China and Russia with the West and India’s increasing strategic alignment with countries like the U.S. and France in a bid to counter China’s increasing assertiveness have cast doubts on the future of the BRICS grouping.

India’s focus of attention for the 13th BRICS summit 

As the current chair, India has set the following four priorities for the upcoming BRICS summit:

Reform of multilateral institutions

  • The first and foremost priority for BRICS is to pursue reform of multilateral institutions like the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization.
  • It seeks to reduce the dominance of a few developed countries and make these institutions more representative and accommodative of their views and thus strengthen multilateralism.

Promoting technological solutions

  • Promoting technological and digital solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals is an important priority for the BRICS grouping.
  • Digital tools have helped a world adversely hit by the pandemic, and India has been at the forefront of using new technological tools to improve governance. Also, China and Russia being technological powerhouses, the grouping can play a lead role in the sharing of technical know-how and resources with other developing countries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expanding people-to-people cooperation

  • Despite the opportunities and great potential, intra-BRICS trade and investment flows are very low.  Employing a bottom-up approach by expanding people-to-people cooperation can help realize the potential of the BRICS partnership.
  • This could be achieved by employing measures such as having a single BRICS visa, removing visa requirements for member nations, inducing increased collaboration among researchers and orchestrating private sector collaboration.

Combating terrorism

  • Terrorism is an international phenomenon and combating it is one of the priorities being set out by India for the upcoming BRICS summit.
  • The BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan is aimed at strengthening result-oriented cooperation between BRICS countries in areas such as preventing and combating terrorism, radicalisation, financing of terrorism, misuse of the internet by terrorists, curbing travel of terrorists, border control, protection of soft targets, information sharing, capacity building, international and regional cooperation. The BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan would be a key deliverable at the forthcoming summit.

About BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy

  • In 2020, a new counter-terrorism strategy was adopted at the BRICS annual summit to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation among the member countries for effectively combating the threat.
  • The aim of the strategy is to improve the practical cooperation among security and law-enforcement authorities of the member nations to prevent and combat terrorism, including by sharing timely and accurate information.
  • The focus would be to “suppress” the facilitation of terrorist groups, entities and associated persons by not making available financial and material resources to them.
  • The BRICS also resolved to counter “extremist narratives” conducive to terrorism and vowed to take steps to ensure that the Internet and social media platforms are not used for recruitment and radicalisation by terror groups.
  • The BRICS high representatives for security shall be entrusted with leading the review of the implementation of this strategy, and the BRICS counter-terrorism working group (CTWG) shall be entrusted with its implementation.

Developments in the 2021 meeting

  • In the 6th meeting of the BRICS Counter Terrorism Working Group under the Chairship of India, finalized the BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan containing specific measures to implement the BRICS Counter Terrorism Strategy adopted by BRICS Leaders in 2020.
  • The Action Plan is aimed at further strengthening result oriented cooperation between BRICS countries in areas such as preventing and combating terrorism, radicalisation, financing of terrorism, misuse of internet by terrorists, and curbing travel of terrorists.
  • During the Working Group meeting, the BRICS countries also exchanged views on terrorism threat assessment at national, regional and global level and resolved to further enhance counter terrorism cooperation in line with the Action Plan.

-Source: The Hindu

July 2024