In a deft exercise in diplomatic multi-alignment, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will host the BRICS meeting of foreign ministers, shortly after returning from the US where he explored ways of bolstering the Quad and Indo-Pacific with western democracies.
The meeting of foreign ministers of BRICS countries on June 1 is expected to discuss a wide gamut of issues that India, the chair of the BRICS, has prioritized to nurture the ‘development paradigm in the global policy discourse.
The key priorities for India’s Chairship of the BRICS include reform of the multilateral system, counter-terrorism cooperation, digital and technological tools for the attainment of SDGs and enhancing people-to-people Exchanges, official sources familiar with the evolving agenda. These overarching themes will configure discussions between the five foreign ministers – India’s S. Jaishankar Brazil’s Carlos Alberto Franco França, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, China’s Wang Yi, and South Africa’s Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor. The discussions will culminate in a joint statement that will outline the agenda for the BRICS summit India will host later this year. India’s chairship in 2021 has coincided with the 15th anniversary of BRICS, a milestone in the evolution of the five-nation grouping which accounts for 41% of the global population, 24% of the global GDP and 16% of global trade.
Building BRICS Against Pandemic
With the three major vaccine producing countries in the BRICS, the grouping of emerging powers will focus on setting up an innovative consortium to address post-Covid challenges and tackling non-communicable diseases. In a sign of continuing momentum in the BRICS despite gloomy prognostications about its relevance, BRICS countries have come out with ingenious ideas to address challenges arising out of the once-a-century pandemic. Russia has proposed Sustainable Agro-biotechnology for Healthy Food and Nutrition and advanced Virtual Reality assisted technology for neurorehabilitation. China has proposed flagship on Cancer research as flagship programme.
The BRICS’ response to the joint challenge of the pandemic could define the future of the grouping as the efficacy of BRICS is likely to come for comparison with the Quad, which has stolen the march by taking the initiative to set up a working group on manufacturing vaccines by positing India as a global hub for producing 2 billion doses of anti-corona vaccine. Critics contend that compared to the Quad which has dominated headlines since the first Quad summit on March 12, the BRICS’ visibility is diminishing, with focus on the border stalemate between India and China, and competitive vaccine diplomacy by three of its members.
India’s Chairship: 4Cs
India has, however, sought to dispel such misgivings and has underlined its commitment to strengthening the sinews of the five-member grouping. Ahead of the foreign ministers’ meeting, official sources said that India sees BRICS as an important platform to prioritize the ‘development paradigm in the global policy discourse.
Alluding to the devastating impact of the pandemic on poverty and disrupting the progress made on the SDG-2030 agenda, India has stressed that it will use its chairship this year to come up with practical measures with its BRICS partners on harnessing digital and technological tools and solutions to meet SDG goals- be it on health, poverty, hunger, education or infrastructure.
As India gets ready to host the BRICS summit with the guiding 4C mantra – Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus – New Delhi has a lot to feel good about as it was the prime driver behind the idea of the BRICS New Development Bank, which has been “a resounding success in providing a development oriented bank catering to the Global South.” New Development Bank (NDB), the flagship outcome of BRICS continues to fund projects in infrastructure and sustainable development. Till date, 76 projects worth over USD 28 billion have been approved by NDB in BRICS countries.
- 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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