Tuesday, April 19, 2011
More Economic BRICS in the Development Wall
Here's the link to a news story by Ranjit Devraj of the IPS on the recent BRICS Summit, quoting me.
As BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) leaders prepare for Thursday’s summit in the resort town of Sanya in China’s southern Hainan province, experts here say there are limits to how ‘political’ the grouping can get.
For the full story, continue reading.
Leading China analyst Prof.Sujit Dutta told IPS that while it is true that BRICS countries are no longer "marginal players" in international politics, they are rooted in their own economic and geographical realities.
"While South Africa, the latest entrant into the BRICS grouping, did vote with the West on military intervention in Libya, it could not easily ignore the fact that it was also an Africa issue," said Dutta, who currently teaches at the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi.
"And if the other BRICS countries abstained from voting at the U.N. Security Council on Libya, that must have been the result of their own assessments," Dutta said. "When it comes to taking political positions, everybody is cautious, and that will be the trend in the foreseeable future."
Dutta said while BRICS is bound to increase its clout, its power as a grouping will depend on its ability to shape constructive change by bringing to the table modes of thought that lie outside the traditional East-West pattern.
"In a sense Libya was a test case for BRICS and threw up many disturbing questions," Dutta said. "The Libyan regime may have been authoritarian, but was it genocidal? Did it pose a threat to international security? Aren’t authoritarian Arab regimes being propped up by the West?"
Ultimately, Dutta said, BRICS will increase in value simply because of the fact that the world is rapidly becoming more diversified and also more integrated, throwing up new issues. "For example, how will the world deal with China’s aggressive state capitalism and the complex issues that will get thrown up because of it?"
Speaking to journalists before his departure for Sanya on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dwelt on the "huge potential" of BRICS, provided they improve coordination on major issues of common concern to the five-member grouping.
But Singh was careful to say that such coordination should focus on the world economy, a democratic and equitable world order, and global governance reform.
Singh noted the fact that all BRICS countries are currently in the U.N. Security Council.
"If we can coordinate our positions on some key area such as sustainable development, balanced growth, energy and food security, reform of international financial institutions and balanced trade, that will be to our advantage," he said.
The Hindu newspaper’s foreign affairs correspondent Sandeep Dikshit wrote in a lead story datelined Sanya that (Indian) officials had "cautioned against reading too much into the accent on political discussions at the BRICS summit because this is more of a negotiating group with other world powers, than a coordinating one."
In his statement Singh said he looked forward to Wednesday’s bilateral meeting, including the one with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The India-China relationship is a critical one, and has now acquired global significance."
Rajeswari Rajagopalan, senior fellow at the independent and influential Organiser Research Foundation (ORF) based in New Delhi said India’s thorny relationship with China represented the sort of difficulties that BRICS will have to overcome or steer around to become truly effective as group.
"There is a trust deficit when it comes to Beijing’s relations with New Delhi, or even its relations with Moscow, that cannot be easily swept under the carpet," Rajagopalan told IPS.
"On the other hand," she said, "China needs India’s large markets and, during his visit to India in December, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao generously said that the long-standing border dispute between them could be left to future generations to resolve."
Currently, India has reason to worry about a military and infrastructural buildup along the ‘Line of Actual Control’ that serves as part of the border and about China’s nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.
Such niggling issues have, however, not stood in the way of bilateral trade between Asia’s two major Asian economies growing from 2 billion dollars in 1999 to nearly 60 billion dollars in 2010.
Rajagopalan said that the balance of trade was hugely in favour of China, and that Indian enterprise was being kept out of certain areas of the Chinese market. This includes possible ventures in information technology, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, where India has acknowledged strengths.
"These are issues that the Indian side can be expected to bring up in any bilateral with China," Rajagopalan said.
BRICS, said Rajagopalan, has by and large remained a forum that has debated or taken positions on "soft issues" such as climate change and trade, and has glaringly lacked strategic content to be able to effect significant changes in global politics.
Although three of the BRICS countries are active and credible nuclear and space powers, the group has not managed to initiate a dialogue on non- proliferation or outer space issues, Rajgopal pointed out.
The Sanya summit, she said, can be expected not to stray too far beyond the theme of "Broad Vision and Shared Prosperity" for the five BRICS countries, which account for nearly 30 percent of the world’s land area, 42 percent of the global population, and make up 18 percent of the world GDP.
China’s ambassador to India, Zhan Yan, in an article published on the editorial page of the Hindu on Wednesday emphasised that BRICS cooperation has provided "a valuable platform for the five countries to share development experiences and work together on development problems.
"BRICS countries are amongst the fastest growing economies in the world with tremendous potential. The cooperation among BRICS members reflects the development of international situation as well as the desire and choice of emerging economies," the ambassador writes.
"The issues discussed by BRICS members mainly focus on the economic, financial and development issues. In a sense, BRICS countries act as advocates and practitioners in forging a global partnership for development."