The foreign ministers of BRICS countries emphasised last week that any challenges to international peace and security and violent conflict in various parts of the world should be resolved through political and diplomatic engagement.
The meeting of the five emerging powers, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), was held through video conference.
With Russia as the BRICS chair, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov led the participants, which included Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi.
Topic relevance from RSTV Debate on ‘BRICS Diplomacy’ for UPSC: Direct questions can be asked on:
Genesis and structure of BRICS
Objective and area of cooperation
Increasing economic capacity of BRICS as a global player
Differences of BRICS in international politics
Potential enlargement of BRICS
EDITED EXCERPTS FROM THE DEBATE
History of BRICS
BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
In 2001, the British Economist Jim O’Neill coined the term BRIC to describe the four emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
The grouping was formalised during the first meeting of BRIC Foreign Ministers in 2006.
South Africa was invited to join BRIC in December 2010, after which the group adopted the acronym BRICS.
It comprises 42% of the world's population, has 23% of the global GDP and around 17% of the world trade.
The chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S. Brazil is the current chair of the grouping.
The BRICS Leaders’ Summit is convened annually.
During the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (2014) the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB). They also signed the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement.
Impact of pandemic on BRICS
Pandemic is not only posing a great risk to the health and well being of humanity but is also severely impacting global economy and output by disruption of global trade and supply chains.
Economic activity across sectors has been negatively impacted leading to loss of jobs and livelihoods.
There is a need to provide support to businesses, especially MSMEs, to tide over the crisis and ensure livelihoods are not lost.
Efficacy of traditional medicine systems to strengthen immunity should be recognized and that BRICS should support these efforts.
Role of India among BRICS nations towards pandemic
India has reinforced its credentials as a rapidly emerging pharmacy of the world as the world’s largest producer of hydroxychloroquine.
India has recently exported the drug not only to SAARC countries and to its “extended neighbourhood” in the Gulf, but also to Russia, Brazil, Israel and the U.S.
This has set the stage for India to forge an inclusive BRICS-driven pharma alliance, which could also actively explore the production of vaccines.
Role of BRICS nations towards pandemic
Despite allegations that it had delayed sounding the alarm about COVID-19 infections that had broken out in Wuhan, China has, subsequently, responded strongly in containing the pandemic, leveraging its position as the workshop of the world.
Notwithstanding teething problems and quality concerns, China has steeled the transcontinental response to the disease by providing the “hardware” — masks, gloves, coveralls, shoe covers and testing kits — to hotspots across the globe.
Under its Health Silk Road doctrine, the Chinese reached out to two of the worst global hotspots, Italy and Iran.
A Chinese shipment of 31 tonnes, which included essential supplies and equipment, including respirators, protective suits, masks and medications, arrived in Rome.
Soon China was running a medical air bridge bound for Europe.
Despite fighting the virus at home, Russia too sent its doctors and virologists overseas, including the launch of the famous ‘From Russia with love’ air mission to Italy.
At the request of U.S. President Donald Trump, a Russian Antonov-124, packed with medical supplies and experts, landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Since Soviet times, Russia has top-of-the-line emergency services, which are equipped to handle any kind of emergency including biological attacks, nuclear radiation, and chemical weapon attacks.
On the African continent, South Africa, the current rotating head of the African Union, is engaged in framing a pan-African response to COVID-19.
Among the BRICS nations, only Brazil’s response may need a course correction, as its resistance to breaking the infection chains through travel bans, lockdowns, isolation and testing appears to have led to an infection surge.
Major challenges faced by the group
The marked dominance of big three Russia-China-India is challenge for the BRICS as it moves ahead. To become a true representative of large emerging markets across the world, BRICS must become pan-continental. Its membership must include more countries from other regions and continents.
The BRICS will need to expand its agenda for increasing its relevance in the global order. As of now, climate change and development finance, aimed at building infrastructure dominate agenda.
As BRICS moves forward foundational principles of BRICS i.e. respect for sovereign equality and pluralism in global governance are liable to be tested as the five member countries pursue their own national agendas.
The military standoff between India and China on the Doklam plateau, which has effectively brought to an end the naive noon that a comfortable political relationship is always possible amongst the BRICS members.
China’s efforts to co-opt nation states, which are integral to its Belt and Road Initiative, into a broader political arrangement has potential to cause conflict among BRICS members especially China and India.
BRICS did well in its first decade to identify issues of common interests and to create platforms to address these issues.
For BRICS to remain relevant over the next decade, each of its members must make a realistic assessment of the initiative's opportunities and inherent limitations.
BRICS nations need to recalibrate their approach and to recommit to their founding ethos. BRICS must reaffirm their commitment to a multi-polar world that allows for sovereign equality and democratic decision making by doing so can they address the asymmetry of power within the group and in global governance generally.
They must build on the success of the NDB and invest in additional BRICS institutions. It will be useful for BRICS to develop an institutional research wing, along the lines of the OECD, offering solutions which are beer suited to the developing world.
BRICS should consider a BRICS-led effort to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change and the UN's sustainable development goals. This could include e.g. setting up a BRICS energy alliance and an energy policy institution.
NDB in partnership with other development finance institutions could be a potent vehicle to finance progress towards the sustainable development goals amongst the BRICS members.
Idea of setting up a BRICS Credit Rang Agency (BCRA) as proposed by India, opposed to Western agencies like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s etc can be on BRICS future agenda.