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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 42 New Delhi October 8, 2016

On Brics Summit

Sunday 9 October 2016, by Eduardo Faleiro

The Eighth Summit meeting of BRICS will be held in Goa on October 15 and 16. The heads of state and government of the five member-countries will participate in the meeting. India has also invited the heads of state and government of BIMSTEC for an outreach meeting during the Summit. BIMSTEC is a regional group that brings together Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand as well as Nepal and Bhutan with the objective of technological and economic cooperation among South Asian and South-East Asian countries. The BRICS Summit should be warmly welcomed in Goa. Conferences, political or academic, and cultural events ought to be the mainstay of tourism in this State.

BRICS musters five major emerging economies, comprising more than 43 per cent of the world population and about 37 per cent of the world GDP. The first BRICS Summit was held in Russia in 2009. All five countries have already hosted the annual BRICS Summits. Two were held in Brazil and two in Russia. China hosted the Third Summit in 2011, India the Fourth in 2012 and South Africa the Fifth in 2013.

The New Development Bank is so far the major achievement of BRICS. It should lead to a bigger say of the member-countries in the international financial order. The present international financial order was set up by the Western powers after the Second World War and is centered on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The World Bank and IMF are controlled by the USA and its Western allies. The New Development Bank is a possible alternative to the IMF-World Bank system.

The New Development Bank (NDB) is based in Shanghai, China. It will have a fund of 100 billion US dollars as well as a 100 billion currency reserve to help the member-countries meet their short-term liquidity requirements. The Bank has begun with a subscribed capital of 50 billion US dollars contributed equally by the five founding members. Within a year this capital will be increased to 100 billion. The first presidency of the NDB for a six-year term is held by India and the first Chief Executive of the Bank is an Indian, K.V. Kamath. India’s presidency will be followed by that of Brazil and then Russia. The NDB is open to membership of other countries. However, the share capital of the founding members will not be reduced below 55 per cent.

The NDB intends to assist the developing countries in solving problems faced by them to obtain finance for their development in areas such as agriculture, health, technology, oil and gas exploration and infrastructure development. Investment in infrastructure—such as roads, railways, transport, water supply and sani-tation—is necessary for improving the economic condition in developing countries. The NDB has already started lending.

BRICS started as an economic concept but it is increasingly taking the form of a political entity. It seeks a greater voice and participation in international institutions. It will address two paramount needs, faster and more balanced economic progress in the developing countries and a more equitable world order.

The United Nations was devised to represent equally all countries of the world, but after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, a unipolar world has emerged. The BRICS countries are expected to cooperate closely at the United Nations towards a more equitable world order. We speak of Islamic terrorism. Islamic terrorism is a reaction to the wars unleashed on Arab countries for control of their resources parti-cularly oil. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was a good administrator, absolutely secular and his government provided equal opportunity to all citizens, irrespective of religion or race. Health and education, including studies abroad, were free for all citizens during Saddam Hussein’s rule. He was the only major Arab leader who supported India on the question of Kashmir. He made it clear that a country cannot be defined on the basis of religion. He considered that Kashmir under Indian rule should continue as well as Kashmir under Pakistani rule with easy movement of people from one part of Kashmir to another.

I visited Iraq twice during the rule of President Saddam Hussein. I travelled into towns and villages. Minorities enjoyed all the rights and privileges of their Muslim counter-parts. Leaders of the minority communities, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs told me that they were well off and this was because of the protection given to them by Saddam Hussein. They told me that if a war broke out and Saddam Hussein was removed, then the fundamentalists would take over and the minorities would be in great difficulty. This is what actually happened.

Saddam Hussein wanted his country to be truly independent and to decide independently on its natural resources including oil. This did not suit the USA which controlled the oil resources in the Arab world. Hence the war. The US Government claimed that Saddam Hussein had accumulated nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This was proved to be false. The International Atomic Energy Commission submitted a report which cate-gorically denied that Iraq had any nuclear weapons programme. The war unleashed on Iraq was opposed all across the world, including in the United States itself. More than three lakh people gathered in New York in a demonstration against the war.

In Libya, President Gaddafi and his two sons were murdered in 2011 along with hundreds of their supporters to take over the oil resources and reassert control over Africa and the Arab countries. Similar is the policy followed presently in Syria, Yemen and other Arab countries.

The theme of India’s chairmanship of BRICS, which started after the Seventh Summit last year and goes up to December 31, 2016, is “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions”. Apart from the New Development Bank some of the subjects discussed by BRICS during India’s chairmanship are a BRICS Agricultural Research Centre, a BRICS Railways Research Centre and a BRICS Sports Council.

In preparation for the Summit several meetings have been held in India during this year. Among them are the Inter Bank Cooperation meeting in Udaipur, a meeting of the Expert Group to establish a Railways Research Centre in Lucknow, Energy Cooperation and Joint Research and Technology Project in Visakhapatnam and the BRICS Youth Summit in Guwahati.

BRICS countries are rich in natural resources and have a rather youthful population. India is the most youthful country in the world today: 800 million Indian citizens are under the age of 35. Amidst the slowdown of the developed economies, the growth of Brazil, Russia, India and China over the last 10 years has been significant. Forecasts suggest that they will continue to be the main countries in global growth throughout the coming decades.

The author is a former Union Minister.