India’s BRICS mission
An astute and highly ambitious Modi is very well aware that he needs to surpass all his limitations to preserve India’s core interest in BRICS given the fact that the forum will be inevitably used by a very assertive Chinese President Xi Jinping to advance his country’s global agenda.
Beijing is reportedly keen on taking over the leadership role of BRICS to convert the association into a formidable platform for challenging western domination of the global economic order. China under its dynamic president has shown no hesitation in flexing diplomatic muscles as and when required to preserve the country’s core strategic interests.
Beijing has already advocated setting up of a grand Asian security alliance and is pushing for the establishment of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to counter Japan’s overwhelming influence in Asian Development Bank.
Surely, creation of such a credit-cum-financial institution under the aegis of BRICS will supplement the existing efforts of international financial bodies to enhance equitable growth and development globally. Some believe that it will also help rationalize the arbitrary loan terms imposed by the West dominated multilateral lending institutions on borrowing countries.
That is why both China and India are competing with each other to acquire the right of hosting the proposed BRICS Bank. In fact, the very launch of such an institution will be interpreted as a symbolic challenge to the existing global monetary system set up under the Bretton Woods Agreement. While China is eager to ensure that the newly unveiled financial institution, with an initial corpus of $50 billion, is headquartered in Shanghai, India on the other hand is pitching for the organization to be based out of either New Delhi or Mumbai. Besides the Modi government is pushing for an Indian citizen to be named the BRICS Bank’s first president. Except for Brazil, all other member countries are eager to have the Bank headquartered in their sovereign territory and also achieve initial presidency with a fixed tenure of five years. Even though each member state is supposed to have equal stakes, China’s unquestionable economic heft may provide an edge to the country for obtaining a leading role in the newly established financial institution.
Modi, therefore, has a task cut out. He will be required to do a fine balancing act. While politely yet firmly staking India’s claim, Modi should ensure that the endeavor of emerging economies to institute their own version of International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank is not derailed in any way. Though New Delhi might be justifiably averse to be publicly seen as a pathological America-hater unlike Russia and China, Modi nevertheless must do everything in his command to preserve the sanctity of BRICS notwithstanding its anti-West credential.
Let us not forget that unlike the European Union or Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) or even South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) closer home, BRICS helps to unify diverse cultures as its jurisdiction extends across continents.
Moreover, BRICS members have commonalities on some fundamental issues, which have consolidated the alliance further.
All of them are united on asking for a comprehensive reform of the international monetary and financial system developed during the post World War days. They are also striving to modernize the respective economies in order to address festering social problems.
Indeed, BRICS countries have consistently called for the strengthening of international law and restoring the primacy of the United Nations (UN) in tune with changing times. In a rapidly evolving world, where conflicts are taking an excessive social toll, India must play the lead role in deepening integration between different BRICS member states by institutionalizing cooperation.
Furthermore, the Modi government, in collaboration with other member countries, must take all possible steps in eliminating the chances of BRICS losing its economic competence and ending up as a mere debating society. The easiest way to do so is by facilitating the creation of a dedicated joint-venture management structure to coordinate policies and procedures more effectively.
New Delhi should, therefore, strive for the joint development of human capital in BRICS countries so as to ensure that collaborative projects can be implemented on a hitherto unseen scale.
There is an urgent need for BRICS to foster a multi-stage format of participation within the organization, which will facilitate the involvement of non-member countries as observers or partners in development work. Also, tactfully handling the diverse energy interests of BRICS member states is critical to the association’s stability and shoring up of its political foundation.
Besides, the issue of expanding the group will be on the agenda of discussion at the upcoming BRICS summit.
Though, there is no unanimity on the question of new enrolment, BRICS is not reluctant to spread its wings and make inroads into new areas like peace making and crisis management.
The joint statement on Crimea issued by BRICS members at The Hague summit last March was the first concrete step in establishing a coherent BRICS foreign policy. The association needs to expand its role in other conflict zones too. Finally, Modi must offer some out-of-the-box solutions to confront the myriad challenges of 21st Century head-on and simultaneously resuscitate the declining BRICS economy with a sizeable consumer base of approximately 3 billion people.
Seema Sengupta is a Kolkata-based journalist and columnist.
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