Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Modi At BRICS

Updated: August 9, 2014 10:20 am

BRICS Summit in Brazil announced Modi’s arrival on the world stage; just as it announced the birth of a new Global financial institution. Which of the two will be longer lasting and greater in impact on the world remains to be seen. But if early signs are any indication, Modi is clearly ahead. The first exposure of Narendra Modi, just after his being India’s Prime Minister for about 50 days, to a meeting of multi-nation leaders at the BRICS Summit in Brazil’s north-eastern city of Fortaleza and the capital Brasilia inevitably evoked a blend of curiosity and concern. His opponents, and there are plenty of them among pseudo-intellectuals, Left leaning Liberals and the media, who had hoped that a greenhorn like Modi would trip in this international forum. They had expected that he would fail to make any impact at the Summit.

Their hopes have all been belied. It is only natural that they should be sorely disappointed. Even Modi’s bitterest critics have given his performance at BRICS the thumbs up. Only one or two incorrigibles tried some nit-picking. But one saw how fear and hatred combine to eclipse one’s better judgment.

Modi has however never condescended to respond to worst of abuses. He knew the importance of the BRICS Summit, it being the first world event where he would be appraised and rated. Either he made his mark or would be relegated to one of the many run of the mill heads of states.

The important world leaders like the Chinese President XI and Russian President Vladimir Putin would, he must have known, use the meet to decide the level at which they would place him.

Anyone in Modi’s place would have been awed by the gravity of the occasion and importance of BRICS. But there was no attack of nerves or panic. He conducted himself as if he was used to such Summits.

BRICS importance is not lost on anyone. It comprises 40 per cent of the world population and it is one of the few groups that are trans-continental–spread across four continents. Two of its members are in the Security Council and three are candidates for its membership. Between 20 to 25 percent trade in the world is conducted through these BRICS member countries. As for India the other thing of importance is that it isolates Pakistan.

The Summit was of importance for India as well especially because a final decision on BRICS Development Bank was on the agenda, among some other policy decisions which would impact on India as well.

Secondly, Modi had to be careful not to be caught with his foot in some bloc connected with BRICS. Its rather early days for him as Prime Minister! He has to connect with the West for development in India. But “many in the Western world, especially America and Britain, view emergence of BRICS as more of an anti-Western rhetoric than some clearly defined coordinated action against forming a formidable economic as well as military clout.”

Here there was a paradox. One of Modi’s objectives was to use the Summit to boost India’s influence internationally (which dwindled to an alarming low during the UPA regime) and create confidence to be able to once again attract businesses and investments.

Did he achieve some success?

A smartly dressed and confident Narendra Modi, prime minister for just 50 days, made a statement of style and substance at the Summit, said former Ambassador Rajiv Dogra. And such an appraisal by a senior diplomat who has been at several Summits and Conferences, is a noteworthy commendation, unbiased at that.

A succinct conclusion by another Old Guard was, ‘India achieved (retrieved) its position and China and Russia achieved their objectives’. Retrieving the position which India held before the mishmash by Dr Manmohan Singh’s UPA 2 was by itself an admirable feat.

China and Russia were decidedly the major players but Modi emerged as a leader who could neither be taken for granted nor simply ignored. This was not easy because the President of the host Brazil is a very dominant and strong leader who knows how to secure whatever is of importance for her country.

China wanted to expand its economic presence in South America. It succeeded. Russia wanted to use the group to thwart the US Sanctions.

India made an intensive effort for locating BRICS Development Bank either in Delhi or Mumbai and this became a matter of dispute between India and China.

In the first place, the backroom manoeuvres made by the Indian side should have been avoided. In the previous Summit when the proposal was made, of which Dr Manmohan Singh was a part, it was almost agreed that the Bank would be located in Shanghai. This was justified by the fact that China has the more biggest economy and its share in trade is also much higher.

There was a small consolation achievement for India. Modi made other members agree that the contribution by all members would be equal. This means no country can influence decisions by the Bank more than the others. One has seen this kind of snags. When India wanted funds from Asian development Bank for Arunachal, China did not let the funds flow.

Two other Banks, one with the Chinese backing was setup for the Cenral Asian countries and another for Latin American countries, but they could not last long. Politics is the biggest killer. But somehow it seems BRICS may just be the exception to the rule. “The initiative of the BRICS countries to establish a BRICS Development Bank (BDB) and put in place a contingency reserve arrangement (CRA) is significant. It aims to provide a fair system of global financial governance, said Muchkund Dubey, former Foreign Secretary.

He further noted that the global financial architecture underpinned by the IMF and the World Bank has, for several decades, been in need of radical reform to remove its inherent deficiencies—for instance, its democratic deficit, exclusive reliance on the US dollar etc..

Having lost the tussle to have the Bank located in India—it was an attempt that should not have been made—a small consolation prize was securing the post of President of the Bank. An Indian would be the first President with a term of five years.

Modi had one-to-one meetings on the sidelines of the Summit with all the three Presidents of Brazil, China and Russia and these interactions were well covered. President Xi’s off the cuff remark when China and India meet the world watches is politically very significant.

All the three meetings, with the Chinese President it extended from scheduled 40 minutes to 80 minutes, are symbolic of the acceptance of Modi as an important leader on the world stage.

The Summit was of importance for India as well, especially because a final decision on BRICS Development Bank was on the agenda, among some other policy decisions which would impact on India as well.

Many in the Western world, especially America and Britain, view the emergence of BRICS as more of an anti-Western rhetoric than some clearly defined coordinated action against forming a formidable economic as well as military clout. But its fear that nags them. And its brilliant of Modi that he has read the direction of the wind. Astute that he is, he plans to use BRICS to expand, India’s influence.

The Balance of Power is noticeably shifting (drifting) with China already an economic powerhouse. And India also is in the process of becoming one.

Strange enough there has not been a single mention-worthy TV debate on the Summit. In fact, some of the left-libs are thrilled at the fact that the name BRIC was derived from as mundane a thing as a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. report on the group of fast emerging economies, coined by the economist Jim O’Neill.

They also sniggered at the coming together of the SAARC heads when Narendra Modi took oath as the Prime Minister, whereas that was a significant indication of how seriously Modi takes India’s position vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

Even as the Gujarat Chief Minister, he visited countries like China and Japan to strengthen ties with these countries and also to attract investments in Gujarat.

Ever since the first Summit at Yekaterinburg in Russia in 2009 with a line-up of high profile participants including the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, suspicions have been raised regarding the logic of forming a new association of countries having extremely diverse geographic and economic interests. They also point out that all the BRICS members are already G-20 members.

All such arguments signify how upset the Western world is over the fact that BRICS is a powerful group which will not be directly or indirectly under the US or UK control like the NATO, the Security Council and the WTO.

For instance, America was not able to isolate Russia during the recent Ukraine crisis. India and China were the main countries that played the spoilsports. Now the two countries, along with Russia and even American neighbours have bonded together under BRICS.

With such a backdrop, the initiative of the BRICS countries to establish a BRICS Development Bank (BDB) and put in place a contingency reserve arrangement (CRA) is significant. At their last summit in Durban, they agreed in principle to establish this institution. Now, an agreement has been reached on the objectives, functions, size of capital subscription, distribution among member countries, governance structure and operational mechanisms. It waqs formally launched at the summit in Brazil.

Modi whether his critics like or hate it, has been accepted by other leaders as part of BRICS. This would have another strategic advantage.

His being now an important cog in the working of BRICS, would give India advantage, albeit a little later vis-a-vis Pakistan.

“America and Britain have so far been treating Pakistan with kid gloves. All its indiscretions are overlooked because of its strategic advantage which in reality, is a Cold War hangover. Maybe they want to keep the South Asia simmering due to whatever political (diabolical?”) reason”.

But having its own bloc, BRICS as a founding member will give India an important platform not just to voice its concern but also exert enough pressure to make a difference in such matters. India’s importance in the geopolitics of the region will brake both the US and the UK from bending too much to please Islamabad at the cost of New Delhi.

Modi is no magician. He achieved no miracles. But he is adept in political wizardry and did enough to somewhat repair lost stature of India and lay foundation for a strong leadership in South Asia.

By Vijay Dutt

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