FORTALEZA (BRAZIL) It’s time for BRICS to move beyond summits and cement bonds among over three billion people living in the five emerging countries straddling the four continents. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly underlined the need for making BRICS “people-centric” and forging long-term partnership based on knowledge, skills and innovation.
In his speech at the plenary session of the sixth BRICS summit in the Brazilian port city Fortaleza, Mr Modi sought to push the envelope for the six-year old grouping of emerging economies by focusing on expanding people-to-people links encompassing civil society, youth, universities and sportspersons.
“BRICS has gained enough horizontal influence to compel the world to take notice. Our own greater good, however, lies more in deepening our bonds vertically,” he said in Fortaleza July 15.
“BRICS should, in fact, be driven by ‘People to People’ contact. Our youth, in particular, must take a lead in this,” he said while enunciating a people-driven BRICS agenda. The prime minister proposed a host of mechanisms to deepen BRICS vertically, which included setting up a BRICS Young Scientists’ Forum and BRICS language schools, offering language training in each of our languages.
Focus on education and innovation
The prime minister argued for making educational linkages the centrepiece of this people-driven BRICS partnership and proposed the setting up of a BRICS University, which would connect campuses in each of our countries, virtually, as well as through intensive student, faculty and research collaboration. He also suggested establishing Massive Open Online Courses, for making quality education accessible to all.
It’s time for BRICS to proactively move beyond being summit-centric, Modi said, as he rooted for starting sub-national level exchanges between states, cities and other local bodies. Having served as the chief minister of Gujarat for over a decade before becoming the prime minister of India this summer, Mr Modi has been an active proponent of giving states a measure of freedom in engaging foreign countries.
Underscoring the need for forging innovation-driven partnership, Mr Modi spoke about evolving mechanisms to share experiences, innovations and technology. He proposed firming up a framework for promoting tourism among BRICS countries and sharing experiences on disaster management, and collaboration and competitions in Sports
“Economic forces are becoming increasingly important in global relationships. Domains like; Trade, Tourism, Technology, Tradition and Talent; have the power, to redefine existing paradigms.”
Redefining existing paradigms – this could well be the operative mantra for the six-year-old grouping, which has just launched a path-breaking Development Bank for the global south, as it looks for fresh mortar and cement to bind this multilateral grouping straddling four continents.
For all its substantive achievements and impassioned advocacy of global governance reforms, the BRICS has yet to acquire popular resonance. The setting up of BRICS academic forum and think tanks council have been laudable steps to create a traffic of ideas, but the grouping could do much more by putting ordinary people at the centre of intra-BRICS engagement. In this context, the signing of an inter-governmental agreement on the promotion of innovation and the focus on eradicating poverty by cooperating on post-2015 Millennium Agenda are welcome steps. The New Development Bank, when it starts lending, could act as a catalyst for infrastructure development and people-centric projects.
Bridging Knowledge Deficit
Currently, there is a forbidding knowledge and information deficit among five countries of the grouping, with a glaring lack of awareness and appreciation of each other’s society, culture and value-systems. The process of addressing this critical deficit has begun in Fortaleza, but to make BRICS “a platform of impact,” as Prime Minister Modi said aptly, it’s time for the grouping to think vertically as well as horizontally. If the BRICS leaders can think and act imaginatively by linking BRICS with surging dreams and aspirations of over three billion people living in India, China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa, it could be a game-changer in elevating the profile of the grouping and buttress its credentials as the voice of the developing world.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, a portal and e-magazine-journal focused on international affairs, emerging powers and the India Story. He is in Fortaleza to report and analyse the sixth BRICS summit for India Writes Network)
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- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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