Monday, December 6, 2021

BRICS Virtual Summit

Next year BRICS will complete 15 years of its institutional journey. Its path and trajectories have not been exactly paved with gold; though it has kept the expectations high. That India will take over BRICS helmsman ship in 2021 for the third time is no less significant. India’s membership of international organisations, movements and cooperation mechanisms has given respectability to them as India has impeccable credentials as far global initiatives and their visualisation are concerned. Even before her independence, India became a member of the UN and several global institutions. The fact that next year India joins the UN Security Council for the eighth time is not a mere coincidence; it is a vindication of India’s sterling role in global affairs.

The theme of the 12th BRICS Summit virtually hosted by Russia, ‘Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth’ is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi called “both relevant and visionary”. He explained how the geo-strategic changes under way will impact stability, security and growth. Without mincing words, Prime Minister Modi said how the credibility and effectiveness of global governance institutions have come under a cloud. Not just the UN but institutions like the WTO, IMF and WHO need meaningful reform. The Indian Prime Minister expects BRICS members to back these reforms.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that “multilateralism is under attack from many different directions precisely when we need it most.” It is being undermined by unilateral withdrawals, non-payment of dues, virtual vetoes and threats of worse. Bilateral and pluri-lateral trade and other agreements too are undermining crucial features of the post-Second World War order.

Prime Minister Modi also drew the attention of the global community towards the growing menace of terrorism and emphasised the need to bring both the perpetrators of such ghastly acts but also their sponsors. He expressed satisfaction over BRICS counter-terrorism strategy been finalised and promised to take it forward under India’s presidentship of BRICS.

Highlighting the scope for intra-BRICS trade, Prime Minster said that BRICS Inter-Bank cooperation mechanism has a major role in global economic recovery. Talking of India’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, he said that a self-reliant and resilient India could be a force multiplier.

BRICS’ journey has been far from smooth, the architecture of global governance is being significantly altered by the aggressive designs of certain powers. The global economy ispassing through a critical moment. There has been a proliferation of competing frameworks of cooperation.

When the rising powers of the Global South created BRICS, it aroused great excitement and optimism; given the potential of this promising grouping, BRICS also provoked bewilderment, jealousy, bouts of paranoia and muddled thinking in certain Western quarters. BRICS created expectations that member-states would pursue common objectives and broadly convergent positions on global issues. Of late there is a perception that BRICS’ framework of cooperation has begun to lose its sharp edge thanks to power politics and aggressive agendas of a particular member country. That explains why BRICS seems to be losing some of its common negotiating clout. If one member seeks to dominate, the group will be rendered irrelevant. Haven’t the UN and many of global governance institutions suffered erosion as a result of the veto system?

Concurrent with the shift in power among nation-states, the relative power of various non-state actors and players is also increasing.  The players are changing, but so too are the scope and breadth of transnational issues important for continued global prosperity. 

BRICS would need to reinvent itself. It will stop growing if it allows itself to be dominated by one member or the other. It is equally important to find ways to address the cynicism in certain quarters that this forum may not, after all, have added much value to all member nations. Intra-trade and economic ties have, no doubt, increased but it has disproportionately benefited China. BRICS needs to innovate. As Einstein reminded us, “you can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created, you have to rise above it to the next level.”

Script: Dr. Ash Narain Roy, Director, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

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