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  • BRICS The Goa Summit:

    Towards A ‘New’ Phase of Collective Action and Multilateralism
    There is a significant change in the global political order resulting in a fundamental restructuring of international relations. The US hegemony is under constant challenge; European countries are struggling to stay united as a block; terrorism is threatening to jeopardize peace and order in the world and emerging powers like China and India are challenging the ‘Western predominance’ in trade and environment related issues.  These factors, among other things, have led to realignment of power relations both at the regional and global level.  Also, multilateralism, of late, has emerged as the most important aspect of international relations. There are efforts to build up multilateral networks and infrastructure to expedite the processes of resource generation, mobilization and economic modernization. Multilateral institutions have become important vehicles of evolving power relations across the world.  States are trying to establish greater connectivity with each other, within a regional and multilateral framework, to maximize their economic interests and ensure better security.
    In the post-Cold War period, India made significant changes both in its domestic and foreign policy to adapt itself to the changing world order and keep pace with changing times.  The disintegration of USSR, collapse of the bipolar world order, intensification of globalization and mounting economic crisis on the domestic front pushed India to reorient its foreign policy and adjust its foreign relations with different countries and regions.  There have been new (foreign) policy formulations and recalibration of old policies in order to adjust effectively to the ever-changing power relations and the emerging world order.  The emerging patterns of India’s external engagement strategy under Modi government signify three broad goals – strengthening its regional position in Asia by enhancing engagements with countries in immediate and ‘extended neighbourhood’, playing a proactive role in world affairs by becoming an part of the global political and economic architecture and finally intensifying the process of economic modernization in the country through vital support from different countries. All these three objectives are inter-connected and contribute to the larger vision of India aspiring to achieve greater global strategic influence. In this context, India’s efforts to revitalize its political and economic relations both across and beyond Asia, through institutions like BRICS, assume significance.
    BRICS: A New Phase in Multipolar World Order
         The acronym, BRIC, was coined by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs way back in 2001. He predicted that by year 2050, Brazil, Russia, India and China would become bigger than the six most industrialized nations in dollar terms and would completely change the power dynamics of the last 300 years2. The first Summit of BRIC was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2009, in the midst of the profound global crisis3. The Summit was intended to present an alternative forum while the G8 was losing both its influence and dominant institutional status. In 2010, South Africa became a member nation after being formally invited by the BRIC countries to join the group. The group was renamed BRICS – with the "S" standing for South Africa – to reflect the group's expanded membership. In April 2011, the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, attended the 2011 BRICS summit in Sanya, China, as a full member.
    The five BRICS countries- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa- represent over 3.6 billion people, or half of the world population; all five members are in the top 25 of the world by population, and four are in the top 10. The five nations have a combined nominal GDP of US$16.6 trillion, equivalent to approximately 22% of the gross world product, combined GDP (PPP) of around US$ 37 trillion and an estimated US$ 4 trillion in combined foreign reserves.  Bilateral relations among BRICS nations have mainly been conducted on the basis of non-interference, equality, and mutual benefit.   The BRICS Forum, an independent international organisation encouraging commercial, political and cultural cooperation between the BRICS nations, was formed in 2011.[30] In June 2012, the BRICS nations pledged $75 billion to boost the lending power of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  In late March 2013, during the fifth BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa, the member countries agreed to create a global financial institution which they intended to rival the western-dominated IMF and World Bank.[32] After the summit, the BRICS stated that they planned to finalise the arrangements for this New Development Bank by 2014. On 15 July 2014, the first day of the BRICS 6th summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, the group of emerging economies signed the long-anticipated document to create the US$100 billion New Development Bank (formerly known as the "BRICS Development Bank") and a reserve currency pool worth over another US$100 billion. Documents on cooperation between BRICS export credit agencies and an agreement of cooperation on innovation were also inked. Currently, there are two components that make up the financial architecture of BRICS, namely, the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Fund (CRF). Both of these components were signed into treaty in 2014 and became active in 2015. The New Development Bank (NDB), formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, is a multilateral development bank operated by the BRICS states. The bank’s primary focus of lending will be infrastructure projects with authorized lending of up to $34 billion annually.  South Africa will be the African Headquarters of the Bank named the "New Development Bank Africa Regional Centre". The bank will have starting capital of $50 billion, with capital increased to $100 billion over time.  
    Despite differences among member countries on several issues, BRICS has managed to maintain its position as one of the most important multilateral political groupings focussing upon strategic cooperation and collaboration. BRICS was a collective and determined step towards multipolarity, a concept that emerged in the wake of US unilateralism, its regime change policies, and its use of democracy and human rights as a weapon of intervention in other countries in disregard of their sovereignty.  Though BRICS has not openly challenged the supremacy of the US in world affairs, it has successfully presented an alternative politico-economic order calling for the active participation of emerging market economies and developing countries in decision-making process of the financial institutions, in line with their relative weight in the world economy. The BRICS countries proclaim their adherence to the traditional principles for conducting international relations such as non-interference in the internal affairs of countries and respect for national sovereignty, besides according primacy to multilateralism as enshrined in the United Nations. BRICS has academic, business, parliamentary and financial forums and its national security advisers meet regularly. BRICS, in recent years, has made significant progress like the establishing the New Development Bank (NDB), the Multilateral Contingent Reserve Arrangement, along with the Asia Infrastructure Investment Fund to expedite resource mobilization and economic modernization and also free themselves from the impositions of World Bank, IMF and other Western-dominated financial institutions.   The NDB and CRF of $100 billion are specifically meant to help the five members and other developing countries encounter foreign exchange stress.
    The sixth BRICS Summit at Brazil in 2014 was significant as it outlined the future roadmap for the institution in the form of the Fortaleza Declaration consisting over 72 paragraphs and an action plan. It sought a new international trading system that is “open, inclusive, non-discriminatory, transparent and rule-based”. The declaration highlighted that existing structures dealing with international finance lack legitimacy and criticised resort to ad hoc arrangements.   Significantly, on the eve of eighth Summit, Russian President Putin  described BRICS as one of the key elements of the emerging multipolar world and said,

    “The five (member) countries have consistently reaffirmed their commitment to the fundamental principles of international law and promote the central role of the UN.” He expressed hope that like the earlier summits, the Goa Summit would reaffirm “the shared commitment to the fundamental principles of inter-state communication, particularly, to the observance of international law with the central coordinating role of the UN” and reject the
    “attempts of some Western countries to promote their unilateral approaches.”
    The Goa Summit: A New Beginning
        India hosted the BRICS Summit for the second time this year. The 4th BRICS Summit was held in New Delhi, in March, 2012. The BRICS Summit in Goa took place in the backdrop of important regional and global developments, financial issues, deteriorating India-Pakistan relations, economic problems affecting the European Union after Brexit, and the US presidential election, among others.
        At the Summit, India strongly pitched for isolating Pakistan as the “prime perpetrator of terrorism in the region” — an assessment shared by most countries in the region. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Uri army base in Jammu and Kashmir, and ‘surgical strikes’ by the Indian army on Pakistan’s terrorist ‘launch pads,’ India vociferously raised the issue of terrorism and emphasized the need for collective efforts to combat all forms of terrorism in a concerted manner. Prime Minister Modi passionately called for isolating Pakistan, the ‘mother -ship of terrorism’. He stated-
    Geographical barriers and borders pose no limitations on those who wish to harm our societies. In South Asia and BIMSTEC, all nation states barring one, are motivated to pursue a path of peace for its people. Unfortunately, this country in India's neighbourhood embraces and radiates the darkness of terrorism. Terrorism has become its favourite child, and the child in turn has come to define the essential character and nature of its parent. The time to condemn state-sponsored terrorism is long gone, it's time to stand up and act, and act boldly. Those who nurture the philosophy of terror must be sent a clear message to mend their ways or be isolated in the civilised world. Together we represent almost two thirds of humanity. We are united by similar challenges and concerns. There are many economic opportunities. We have shared aspirations for growth, development, commerce and technology. Technology can bridge gaps and connect communities. It can also deliver services that make a difference in our daily lives. Environment and disaster management are areas where we can work together.

    The BRICS Summit adopted the Goa Declaration which unanimously hit out at the growing threat of terrorism, among other issues. “We have adopted the Goa Declaration that lays down a comprehensive vision for our cooperation. Combating terrorism, including cross border terrorism, and its supporters will be a BRICS priority,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. “We agreed that those who nurture, shelter, support and sponsor forces of violence and terror are as much a threat to us as terrorists themselves. We were unanimous in recognising the threat that terrorism, extremism and radicalisation presents,” he added. Significantly, the Declaration unambiguously condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and ruled out any justification for such acts. It stated:
    We call upon all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, which should include countering violent extremism as and when conducive to terrorism, radicalisation, recruitment, movement of terrorists including Foreign Terrorist Fighters, blocking sources of financing terrorism, including through organised crime by means of money-laundering, drug trafficking, criminal activities, dismantling terrorist bases, and countering misuse of the Internet including social media by terror entities through misuse of the latest Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).Successfully combating terrorism requires a holistic approach. All counter-terrorism measures should uphold international law and respect human rights.
    It lauded the work of the BRICS Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, which met in New Delhi in September, and said it would go a long way to combating the spectre of such violent acts.
    At the plenary summit, leaders of the member states adopted the declaration, which, among other issues, spoke of the need to strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection. On the New Development Bank, which completed a year, Modi said BRICS nations agreed that it should continue to focus on infrastructure, technology and renewable energy sectors, adding that “in order to further bridge the gap in the global financial architecture, we agreed to fast track the setting up of a BRICS Rating Agency”. The BRICS nations pledged their commitment to further enhancing their collective efforts to strengthen their solidarity and cooperation founded on common interests and intensify their economic engagement. The Goa Declaration noted:
    We note with satisfaction the operationalisation of the New Development Bank (NDB) and of the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), which contributes greatly to the global economy and the strengthening of the international financial architecture. We welcome the report presented by NDB President on the work of the Bank during the first year of its operations. We are pleased to note the progress in operationalising the Africa Regional Centre (ARC) of the NDB and pledge our full support in this regard. We look forward to developing new BRICS initiatives in a wider range of areas in the years to come.
    At the BRICS business council meeting that took place on the sidelines of the Summit, Prime Minister Modi said “India has transformed into one of the most open economies of the world”.  
    Under the BRICS outreach programme, India had invited BIMSTEC (for Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries- Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand to create a grand collaborative framework of understanding both regionally and globally. The outreach to BIMSTEC that does not include Pakistan can be seen as part of India’s efforts to further isolate Pakistan and gradually replace SAARC (South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation) with it. India’s efforts to revive BIMSTEC assumes significance with the collapse of recent SAARC Summit after four member-countries, in addition to India, pulled out of the meet to be hosted in November by Pakistan over the issue of cross-border terrorism.  Apart from adopting a strong stand on terrorism, the Goa summit laid solid foundation to shape BRICS’s global role as a serious driver of growth and contributor to multilateralism, institution-building and international peace. In many ways, the Summit can be considered a new beginning for collective action and multilateralism by five major powers that may redefine global political and economic  

    (Dr. Netaajee Abhinandan/October/NAM Today/2016)

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