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Multilateralism: A big plus for BRICS
October 16, 2016, 11:17 am

After getting off to a good start in Goa, India, the 8th BRICS Summit in its final meetings today is rewriting global political and economic narratives. The gathering of five (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) of the world’s big movers and shakers of the global political economy promises to reshape the structure of international relations. It is addressing hot but also exciting items on the agenda amidst international worries about economic stability risks and weak Eurozone and global growth.

This summit comes after the Brexit vote in Britain, a year of deadly terrorist attacks, including in India, and massive migration flow made up of waves of refugees from conflict zones especially in the Middle East. More importantly, Michel Temer of Brazil was sworn in as new president back in August, and this bodes well for the stability of his country and BRICS more generally.

However, what distinguishes the current summit from its predecessors, including the previous one in Ufa, Russia, last year, is the existing strong foundation upon which to sharpen BRICS’s global role as a serious driver of growth and contributor to multilateralism, institution-building and international peace.

BRICS leaders at the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa, India on 16 October 2016 [Image: BRICS2016]

BRICS leaders at the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa, India on 16 October 2016 [Image: BRICS2016]

This is in addition to the higher growth rates in BRICS economies such as China (even though lower than previous years), and most notably India. Brazil has shown positive signs, namely, receding inflation to the lowest level in two decades, and dropping food prices over the past a few months.

Multilateralism is high on BRICS’s agenda and its most ‘tasteful’ flavour has been in the inclusion of non-BRICS members, especially, from within the host’s Asian neighbourhood. This is another opportunity for India’s Narendra Modi to show leadership and help reshape BRICS into a global actor with not just stocks of good will, but also with pragmatic skill and panache.

Nowhere is this more demonstrable than in the goodwill gesture by India to extend an invitation to leaders from the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectorial Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). BIMSTEC clubs Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.

Multilateralism has emerged as a key value in the on-going BRICS summit. At least, in terms of diplomatic rhetoric various statements, including by Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, BRICS seems to be one antidote in international politics to unilateral approaches, whether intended for stimulating global growth or conflict resolution. On par with this the general gist of BRICS is directed at stressing the centrality of the UN as a governing body and of international law as a frame of reference for all in the global arena. Where BRICS leaders are concerned, their club is aimed at deepening consensus-building and a multi-polar world. Plus, BRICS is additionally emerging as a forum for communicating with the G 20 club.

Likewise, institution-building and networking is transpiring as a powerful message and undertaking by the current BRICS summit. This goes in tandem with the specific and short-term objectives around which the five emerging economies’ developmental agenda is constructed. This is part and parcel of methodical reticulation and practicality desired by the five nations. This goes hand in hand with BRICS’s overall goal of deepening their strategic partnerships among in a plethora of developmental areas. Already there are numerous mechanisms in place facilitated by inter-agency work such as in security and law enforcement areas, humanitarian and economic fields. Integral to this strategy is the focus on the New Development Bank (NDB) and an contingent reserve arrangement together adding up to $ 200 billion. The NDB as an institutional building-block is thus envisioned to help direct the course of quasi economic integration.

The NDB has already started funding projects in BRICS member countries, with renewable energy being a prime area earmarked for development. Russia will be playing a major role as a source of small hydropower plants such as in India.

Similarly, through the BRICS club India is seeking endorsement by China and Russia for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which groups together more than 40 countries which are leaders in civil nuclear technology.

Finally, BRICS harbours a peace-making agenda, with the fight against terrorism topping the hot items of interest to countries such as India and Russia. Both along with the other member states have been canvassing ways of how to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism. This peace-making agenda extends to policing especially in areas related to curbing drug-trafficking, human trafficking and drugs. For BRICS this constitutes an agenda that is harmonious with the international collective effort at realising security for all.

What is certain is that the Goa BRICS summit has gone a long way in implementing an ambitious agenda that has been eight years in the offing. The timing could not have been better given the sluggish economic environment globally and many other uncertainties such as in the Eurozone region, especially after the Brexit vote.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.

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