BRICS building !

Coming against the backdrop of shifting geopolitical configurations, the Brics summit in Goa was always going to be a stock-taking affair to gauge each member nation’s position in the new reality. For India, hosting the summit on the heels of the Uri terror attack which forced it to undertake surgical strikes against terrorists based in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, the platform presented the perfect opportunity to put forth its new assertive approach towards terrorism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi defined terrorism as the most serious threat to the group’s economic prosperity.

But the parleys over two days saw India’s interactions with Russia and China – Brics members other than India that have considerable stakes in South Asia – go in different directions. On the Russian front, New Delhi and Moscow reiterated their old friendship and put to rest growing speculations of a drift in ties. The Russian side strongly condemned the Uri terror attack and backed India’s actions to fight cross-border terrorism. Smoothening ruffled feathers caused by Russia’s recent joint anti-terror exercise with Pakistan, the two sides inked 16 agreements including defence deals worth $10.5 billion that would see India acquire the S-400 Triumf air defence system, stealth frigates and jointly produce light-utility helicopters.

The Chinese wall proved tougher to get around. Modi’s interactions with Chinese President Xi Jinping did not produce any signs that the latter had accepted India’s position on sanctioning Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed chief Masood Azhar. Or that China would revise its close ties with Pakistan in light of terrorism. The Chinese though noted that they were against all forms of terror, agreed to hold the second round of dialogue on India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership, and accepted that greater Chinese investments in India were needed to balance the yawning trade deficit.

Taken together, the Brics deliberations highlighted both challenges and opportunities. In an increasingly complex world where interests and perceptions thereof are constantly evolving, expecting all Brics members to practise geopolitical untouchability towards Pakistan to suit Indian interests is illogical. At the same time there’s great scope for economic synergies and also cooperation on realities like transnational terrorism, as exemplified by the establishment of the Brics joint working group on counterterrorism. Brics aims at a multipolar world with enlarged space for emerging economies. That dream got good polishing at the Goa summit.

The Article First Appeared in THE TIMES OF INDIA

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