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Rejuvenating BRICS in Goa: What’s on the agenda?

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brics-1GOA:Amid the festering recession in wide swathes of the world and a conflicted geopolitical landscape, India is poised to host the 8th BRICS summit in the picturesque resort city of Goa, which is expected to unveil a raft of new ideas and initiatives,designed to provide an added strategic traction to this influential grouping of emerging powers.

India has declared I4C or IIIIC as the framing mantra for the 8th BRICS summit, which includes Institution Building, Implementation, Integration, Innovation, and Continuity with Consolidation.In a deft word game, the BRICS acronym has been reinvented, with the overarching objective of “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions” to pressing global challenges.

New Ideas & Initiatives brics2

The summit takes place at a time when BRICS sorely needs a grand strategy and vision matched by concrete steps to revive the eight-year-old grouping. India’s presidency of BRICS is being watched closely by the western world, which has tended to scoff at the BRICS as an upstart in the scrambled alphabet soup of geopolitical groupings, as India has a record of germinating new ideas that have pushed the envelope for this club of emerging powers. The seeds for the New Development Bank and Contingency Reserve Arrangement were sown at the 2012 New Delhi summit, which have flowered forth into quintessential institutions of the South. The NDB, with an India banker heading it, has started lending, with India being one of the first recipients of its $300 million loan for green-field projects.

NDB think tank brics3

Four years later, India is also taking the lead to provide more heft to NDB by proposing a think tank or dedicated research outfit that will provide policy inputs for the successful and effective functioning of the Bank. The meeting of the Sherpas in Goa is understood to have endorsed the idea of for setting up an advisory think tank for making the NDB an effective multilateral lending agency within the compass of the South-South cooperation. Initially, it was proposed to be called the NDB Institute, but reliable sources said that there is a rethink and it could be possibly christened as BRICS Economic Research Council. India is keen to host this new BRICS institution thatthat will factor into account interests, priorities and sensitivities of emerging economies and developing countries. This institute is also expected to provide intellectual leadership to the BRICS on interlinked areas such as promoting green growth and sustainable development in emerging and developing countries.

BRICS credit rating agency

Another proposal that is expected to see a tangible movement is the plan to set upa BRICS credit rating agency, which seeks to provide an alternative to the hegemony of West-dominated agencies, including that of IMF sovereign credit ratings system. The credit rating agency for emerging economies is set to be an important marker in the BRICS’ quest to reinforce the BRICS’ counter-narrative on international economic and governance system. Currently, the ratings business is dominated by Western agencies like Fitch, Moody’s and Standard and Poor, which follow ideological criteria and have enormous power to influence the flow of global investment.

Raising the Bar: Innovation & Wellness

The Goa summit will also see some doable initiatives in rejuvenating and upscaling intra-BRICS economic relationship. The BRICS economies, despite the slowing growth rates of all countries barring India, is a still a formidable economic hub accounting for combined GDP of over $16 trillion,   and has the potential to emerge as a key driver of global economic growth. The summit is expected to focus on implementation of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership and BRICS Roadmap for Trade, Economic and Investment Cooperation until 2020, which was firmed up during the previous summit in Ufa, Russia. Enhancing cooperation in areas of digital economy, innovation, tourism, wellness and cultureis expected to provide a ballast to intra-BRICS economic cooperation.

Promoting digital economy and start-up culture will be an important priority of India at the BRICS summit, which could culminate in the setting up of BRICS Innovation Fund.  Given slowing economic growth rate in most BRICS countries, innovations and start-ups could serve as focal points for leveraging investment and entrepreneurial energies in emerging economies. There is a compelling case for boosting collaboration in culture and creative industries which will additionally bring people of the five countries closer. The easing of business and tourist visa regime is also expected to energise intra-BRICS trade and investment.

Takeaways

The agenda for the Goa summit reflects dynamic and creative thinking to create new BRICS-focused paradigms of cooperation across a spectrum of areas. Besides NDB think tank and credit agency, these include plans to set up BRICS Energy Agency, BRICS Wellness Index, BRICS Agriculture Research Institute/Network and BRICS Railway Research Network.  Initiatives like these will signal that the BRICS is moving towards concrete tangible cooperative mechanisms that impact the lives of people visibly, said officials.

Shaping Syria

These deliverables are set to provide a new infusion of energy into the grouping, but at the end of the day the BRICS’ raison d’etre lies in its ongoing drive to reconfigure the global order and craft an alternative counterpoint on pressing global issues. In this context, the BRICS initiative on Syria will be watched closely, especially at a time of the US-Russia divide on the issue, with the five emerging powers looking to announce some sort of reconstruction and stabilisation fund for the violence-beset West Asian state. If all goes well, each BRICS country could announce a contribution of $5 million for reconstruction of Russia, said sources.

Rewriting world order

Amid the shifting plates of geopolitics, India’s chairmanship of BRICS in 2016 is expected to be a game-changer in providing new cadences to the emerging alphabet and vocabulary of emerging powers. The 8th summit will be remembered for pitching people at the centre of intra-BRICS engagement and a renewed effort by the emerging powers to rewrite the rules of the global order. One can only hope that the fabled sea and sands of Goa can inspire the leaders of the five emerging countries to inscribe a new narrative of emerging powers engagement and remoulding then world closer to the power shifts in the 21st century.

(Manish Chand is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, an e-magazine and journal focused on international affairs, emerging powers and the India Story)

 


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Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, a portal and e-magazine focused on international affairs, emerging powers and the India Story.

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