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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 28 New Delhi July 2, 2016

India and Brics: The Tasks Ahead

Friday 1 July 2016

by Hasan Hamidullah

This article was sent to us for publication before PM Narendra Modi’s latest visit to the US but it could not be published earlier due to unavoidable reasons. Hence it is being belatedly published now as the relevance of most of its contents remains undiminished.

The international community of experts has noted that in the last three years the development of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) grouping has had positive dynamics. The transition to practical functioning of the joint institutions—the New Development Bank and reserve currency pool—as well as the elabo-ration of the organisation’s economic strategy have led to breakthrough results. This has brought to bear BRICS’ higher authority in the global arena. However, at present there are obstacles to maintain this tendency. First of all, there is a decrease in India’s activity in advancing the initiatives proposed in Durban, Fortaleza and UFa and approved by the Indians themselves. New Delhi too has no new proposals on the table for the implementation of projects that are of significance for the association. More-over India’s ideas on the setting up of an agricutural research centre, creation of a sports council, organisation of film festivals and a number of other initiatives are being regarded as unimportant. All these are unlikely to make a worthy contribution this year to the develop-ment of BRICS compared to previous summits and help reap substantial political dividends.

Analysts attribute the change in New Delhi’s attitude regarding its presidency of BRICS to the fact that while planning the work within the Group of Five India unerringly looks at the US approach to its moves within BRICS. Hence its relative inactivity in and apathy towards BRICS. The Indian leadership expects to get a number of deals on trade, economic and military cooperation concluded or finalised during PM Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the US.

What needs to be understood is that regardless of the outcome of the US presidential campaign, Washington’s foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region will be aimed solely at securing American dominance in the area and involving New Delhi in the implementation of the White House’s endeavours to restrain/contain China in that zone. In these efforts the US will not, as always, take into account the interests of its partners including India. After signing the Indo-US Logistical Exchange Memorandum Agreement (LEMDA)—which is essentially profitable for Washington—New Delhi expects to gain easy access to American military technologies but what is being missed is that following the conclusion of the accord the US will furnish dozens of reasons not to remove the barriers to such technologies. That is the reality based on experience gathered over the years of observing Washington’s words and deeds.

The passivity of New Delhi during its presidency of BRICS would undermine India’s authority in the eyes of the other members in the grouping. And thereby the prospects and pace of development of strategic relations with Russia, stable dialogue with Beijing, India‘s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and effective cooperation in the Russia-India-China (RIC) format would come under threat.

To reinforce its position in the international arena and elevate its authority in the eyes of its BRICS partners India should organise the BRICS summit (which it is hosting in Goa in mid-October this year) in as effective a manner as it was done in the previous three years. All efforts should be concentrated on solving economic problems and ensuring an effective functioning of the basic mechanisms of the grouping, first of the NDB and reserve currency pool, and also through an institutional streng-thening of the organisation with the creation of a virtual BRICS Secretariat. There is another practical task: to work out a clear and consoli-dated position of the Five on current international problems, notably nuclear disarmament, miitant terror, drug business, regional crises and information security.

New Delhi’s successful and effective presidency of BRICS will help it to enlist the support of the members of the association to the Indian application for a permanent seat in the reformed UN Security Council and a draft Comprehensive UN Convention on International Terrorism proposed by India.