Building a New Delhi Consensus

March 17, 2017, Original article is here

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What kind of great power will India be? Is “greatness” an index of raw power – economic, military and political — or is it variable of a country’s ability to punch above its weight? While tipping one’s hat to the already robust debate in New Delhi’s strategic community about India’s future as a “leading power”, it is also important to acknowledge the fluid environment in which such ambitions will be pursued.

What do we know for sure? There is a certain inevitability to India’s imminent arrival as a 10 trillion dollar economy. Moribund politics or risk-averse policies cannot prevent this from happening. In pure mathematical terms, our trajectory appears to be on the right path, to break out as one of the three biggest economies in the world, perhaps by 2035. What is uncertain is India’s ability to “act” like a multi-trillion dollar economy. In other words, there is no inevitability to India having the necessary administrative capability, strategic foresight or institutional arrangements that can effectively leverage its size. There is even less certainty that India will shape global affairs in consonance with its own ethics and experience.

This is due to a number of factors: nation-states today find themselves with limited resources to pursue “development”, given that wealth generation and deployment is definitively in the hands of the private sector. For instance, India spends nearly 5% of its GDP today — nearly $90 billion — on infrastructure building. Over their lifetimes, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla will give away half that amount to philanthropic causes. What does the staggering and unprecedented accumulation of wealth by the private sector mean for the state? Governance will no longer be the domain solely of the state, as businesses contribute and influence the agenda of “nation-building”. The assumption that an economically powerful India will have a unified strategic vision to execute its great power plans will, therefore, be severely tested.

Secondly, civil society actors and academics are today at the forefront of global governance, their inclusion made possible by digital technologies. If businesses and civil society actors struggled to make their voice heard at the time the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was negotiated (GATT) in the nineties, they have been instrumental in killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Policymaking on internet governance today needs the seal of approval of civil society, who make sure digital spaces respect free expression, privacy and affordable access. The Indian state, whatever its grand strategy may be, will have no option but to co-opt civil society and policy thinkers in its attempt to project power in the region and beyond.

How might a multi-faceted, multi-stakeholder discussion about India’s great power ambitions come about? Given the multiplicity of actors and interests, is it reasonable to expect India to act in a coherent, unified and most importantly, far-sighted manner so as to sustain its global clout? In other words, can a New Delhi Consensus emerge?

India has just over 15 years to discover some key aspects of its own national identity as it makes its journey to the 10 trillion GDP mark. The New Delhi Consensus can be achieved if India eschews some of its idiosyncratic postures and gives shape to a coherent Indian voice and proposition that will help guide the remaining decades of this century. The principles of the New Delhi Consensus must go beyond a common, minimum proposition and must be endorsed and advocated enthusiastically by India’s own businesses, its influential thinkers and commentators and civil society actors. While they may contest some micro propositions as all healthy democracies must, the specific positions of all stakeholders must in the same quadrant. All big powers have been able to shape such a ‘quadrant of consensus’.

Some of the defining characteristics of the “consensus” have already made themselves apparent. These features, as noted below, could form the baseline principles around which the Indian state, businesses and non-governmental organisations coalesce.

First, India is likely to pursue a developmental model that combines democracy and liberal values with high growth, setting a template for other emerging economies. As the only successful example of this variety — the “developmental states” of East Asia have all conceded to some form of authoritarian tendencies in the past century — the New Delhi Consensus must have this as the bedrock of its foreign policy. The Indian foreign secretary described it best at the recently concluded Raisina Dialogue: “Can India be different by being different?”

Second, if India is able to pursue both its economic development and liberal democratic traditions, it must offer a non-Western ethos to balance both. This is easier said than done. After all, it is commonly (but mistakenly) argued that modernity, pluralism, free societies and indeed democracy are all products of the Enlightenment era. Distinctly different from the binary Anglo-Saxon and Judaeo-Christian traditions that the United States and UK have followed, India must be less evangelical in its advocacy, and must respect and acknowledge the many forms of social contracts between the state, citizens and businesses.

Third, India must channel its leadership towards equitable global governance. Its foreign policy must be rooted in respect and shared governance of common spaces and the public goods they provide. India is the sole emerging power that does not see common spaces in acquisitive or captive terms, and its presence will temper the unbridled western urge to profit from the management of public goods. Indian contribution to the global climate change agenda in the Paris talks of 2015 as well as its developmental assistance to African countries seeking access to affordable antiretrovirals in the battle against HIV/AIDS offer examples of actions that are morally correct and economically sustainable.

Fourth, India’s global partnership and assistance programme should be recipient-led for it to be an influential shaper of the global growth and development agenda. The largest “quota” of new development finance will flow from India (among other economies) in the next two decades. What’s more, India’s journey to the $ 10 trillion mark will be replete with experiences to share, some to emulate and others to improve. Having made no attempts to pursue exceptionalism — unlike the United States and China — India’s development story will be embraced with vigour by foreign markets and governments.

And finally, India must combine its pragmatic pursuit of economic or strategic interests with idealism. For instance, New Delhi should pursue an absolute commitment to universal nuclear disarmament as a realisable goal, along with desire to be on the NSG high table as a responsible and rule-setting nuclear power. Moral leadership, dismissed all too easily in the dust and dirt of international politics, is increasingly important to global governance. The pursuit of ideals is itself a strategic imperative, as the United States and Europe have most recently demonstrated through their successful campaign for “green growth”, ensuring both a global emissions reduction pathway and the promotion of Western technologies for sustainable development.

Observers of India’s foreign policy would acknowledge that Prime Minister Modi and his team have already taken a few steps to further develop these tenets. Renewed attention towards India’s development partnership programme, its leadership role on matters of global governance (such as climate and internet regimes) and the government’s “Neighbourhood First” policy emphasise the desire to cultivate a New Delhi Consensus. This desire is also motivated by a realist assessment of current times. In a rare speech on foreign policy delivered at the Raisina Dialogue 2017, Prime Minister Modi acknowledged that “gains of globalisation” were at risk and there were new “barriers to effective multilateralism.” Implicit in his remarks was his appreciation that the world needed new leaders, such as India, who would guide many global projects over the course of this century.

India’s approach to global governance would stand out from the Washington Consensus or the Beijing Consensus in that it would acknowledge the important roles of the private sector and civil society. While both the United States and China see the capturing of global markets as a way to perpetuate their influence, their world views stem from the absolute primacy of the state. The Washington Consensus, despite its professed commitment to open markets, saw the nation-state as the mediator of the terms of development.

The New Delhi consensus, in contrast, must absorb views from outside the government, co-opting businesses, rights groups, universities and research institutions as essential players in its global agenda. The history of india is a saga of the progress of society, and of social and community institutions, with or without a strong state and sometimes in spite of the state. We cannot forget that essence while crafting the New Delhi Consensus.

(Samir Saran is Vice President at the Observer Research Foundation)

 

 

 

Being Vladimir Putin: Russia’s president gets 20th century geopolitics, what he doesn’t get is 21st century geoeconomics

Times of India, March 2, 2017

Link is here

Being Vladimir Putin: Russia’s president gets 20th century geopolitics, what he doesn’t get is 21st century geoeconomics. 

In 2009 we witnessed a watershed moment for geoeconomics when the credit crisis, born in the United States, spread across the world. The integrated global economy temporarily tilted over the edge of the financial abyss before being pulled back by concerted collective action involving large economies around the world.

In 2016, we witnessed a backlash against this economic interconnectedness and the ideal of collective governance with a plethora of populist anti-globalisation movements leading to outcomes such as Brexit and the election of Trump. It is increasingly apparent that we are at the beginning of a new epoch, where global arrangements will be defined by various shades of nationalism, reassertion of state sovereignty, and multidimensional contests over territory, both real and virtual.

These developments also shaped the conversations at the recently concluded Munich Security Conference. Beyond the interest and noise around the Trump presidency, and the US approach to some of the global challenges, it was clear to most that President Putin was by far the most influential global leader on all matters security, something that three contemporary developments demonstrate emphatically.

Let’s start with West Asia. In less than 18 months, Russia has cleverly co-opted Turkey, firmly embraced Iran as a strategic partner and doubled down on its old ally Syria, bringing into its tent three diverging interests masterfully. In fact this alignment and the Russian relevance in this region stems from its understanding of how regional constellations of states and state-supported militias align. Guided by its partners, the US has faltered precisely on this aspect, erroneously programming itself into the Shia-Sunni schism, without realising that the nation-state still holds normative appeal in the region.

Second, Putin has managed to breach Fortress Nato by making Turkey pivot significantly towards Russia. Using President Erdoğan’s disillusionment with the Obama White House deftly, Putin has managed to drive a wedge between Nato and one of its oldest member states.

And finally, Putin has turned the tables on the most powerful nation in the world, by using its own modus operandi against it – that of intervening in the domestic politics of other states. Through strategic leaks, Putin deftly placed his finger on the scale of the American elections, tipping them in favour of Trump.

In this age of renewed political gamesmanship, Putin is the only player who has retained a chess set from the 20th century. While others have long forgotten the craft of geopolitics, Putin continues to move pieces like a Grandmaster. But does he have an endgame?

And herein lies the rub. This most influential global political figure, a man who has formidable military and security capacities at his disposal, is an inconsequential economic actor with insignificant economic agency. Russia, a country with a military might rivalling that of the US, has a GDP smaller than that of Australia and is ranked only ahead of South Africa among the Brics grouping that it helped create.

For all the accumulation of power and orchestration of geopolitics, Putin’s tactics are not going to fill Russia’s treasury. While 20th century realpolitik may be useful in 2017, Putin is also handicapped because he continues to view economics through a 20th century prism. Russia’s fixation with large transcontinental connectivity projects has led it to support China’s New Silk Road.

Without any significant expansion in Russia’s industrial and manufacturing economy, the country is fast being reduced to a political guarantor for Chinese economic expansion or a policeman for China’s property. And what of the future? In a world where 3D printing may become de rigueur, the transportation of millions of tonnes of manufacturing goods could be a dying reality.

Connectivity in this century is not simply about roads and railways, but also about bits and bytes and hearts and minds. It is the networks – knowledge, digital, social – that transfer and transmit value in the new world order. Economic growth in the 21st century requires digital hubs, clusters of start-ups and liberal regulatory confines where young minds working with technology can push society forward.

The reality is that 20th century economic projects that Russia is undertaking benefit China, and 21st century economic projects in Russia suffer from the absence of a requisite ecosystem. This has led to a certain fragility in the global governance architecture.

I have argued before that the asymmetry between Russia’s military potency and its economic state is dangerous. China, with its $11 trillion GDP, has significant destructive and disruptive capability as well. The stakes that it holds in the global economy, however, ensure that it will never destabilise global systems because it stands to gain from them. Russia does not have sizeable economic stakes in these systems and therefore only its political capability motivates its actions. This is being Vladimir Putin.

US efforts to “isolate” Moscow through sanctions have not only failed but also proved to be counterproductive. They have reduced Russia’s skin in the global economic game, allowing Putin to engage in exactly the same conduct that sanctions seek to deter. Washington DC must focus on cultivating a sense of ownership (and consequently, the fear of loss) in Russia towards economic and trading regimes.

But this is easier said than done and ironically it is Donald Trump, derided for his lack of diplomatic acumen, who is proving himself to be astute in this matter by reaching out to arguably the most influential man in the world – Vladimir Putin.

The writer is Vice-President Observer Research Foundation

 

The end of Davos man: West-led globalisation has reached its limits, new champions for it are needed

February 7, 2017, Times of India , Samir Saran and Ashok Malik

Original link is here

President Donald Trump’s initial policy pronouncements on migration and his increasingly evident determination for creating jobs in America itself are new markers in this post-globalisation era. They end an epoch that began 25 years ago today, when the Maastricht Treaty was signed, creating the European Union. Three years later WTO was inaugurated. By the turn of the century, Project Globalisation had gained unstoppable momentum courtesy the internet.

The vocabulary and ethic of globalisation was written in the liberal democracies of the West. There were some foundational assumptions: that as economies opened to trade, incomes would rise, consumer tastes would converge, and so would values and beliefs. The Davos Man (or Woman), as it were, would become the universal exemplar or at least aspiration. This made a whole generation of politicians, scholars, trade economists and stand-up commentators from the West robust evangelists for globalisation.

As is now obvious after Brexit, the revolt among European nationalities and the Trump mandate – several of those suppositions were flimsy. Additionally, the economic success of globalisation made it easy and convenient to ignore fundamental paradoxes in the international system. For instance, since the end of the Cold War it had been apparent that the multilateral order desperately needed updating. It had been crafted in the aftermath of World War I and metamorphosed into the United Nations 20 years later. Much of its institutional design was no more relevant.

Heady narratives enhanced the allure of globalisation and allowed for papering over many such discrepancies. They also obscured domestic tensions within societies and communities: between coastal and heartland America or rich northern Europe and depressed southern Europe. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the bottom has been knocked out of the West-driven globalisation model. Absent its economic deliverables, it is no longer able to stave off the challenge from societal tensions, political ghosts, institutional gaps and stakeholder inequities. This is happening both internationally and within nations. A “domestic South” is mirroring the grievances of a “global South”.

US elites, hitherto evangelists of globalisation, are numbed by the thought that the sun is setting on the “American century”. Its little people, on the other hand, are rudely rejecting the notion that globalisation benefits all. While rising inequality in emerging economies is widely commented upon, it is often ignored that the current generation in OECD countries will be the first in the modern age to have a standard of living worse than their parents. This has caused a new and sometimes irrational aggregation of grievances. It has resulted in, for instance, the paradox of down-at-heel Americans empathising with a gold-plated Trump.

Gradually, every pillar of the Atlantic System – American hegemony as a security guarantor of last resort; industrial capitalism; liberal trade and free markets; the irrevocable retreat of the state from the citizen’s economic life and well-being – is crumbling. Yet, the West is not alone. The industrial order of the past 150 years, with its stress on big manufacturing and relentless export, is being overtaken by the digital age. This has placed a question mark on the Chinese model, as currently practised. Services and innovation are the rising currency, not shop floors and industrial production. It is these factors that will drive growth in India and Africa.

Having said that, India’s economic transformation, China’s merger with the global political mainstream and Africa’s promise as the final frontier all require the liberal trading order to retain its essential vibrancy and osmosis. This is not necessarily due to any ideological belief in the inevitable universalisation of liberal values, but simply because of utilitarian benefits: market access, capital and technology needs. As such, the Indian state and Indian enterprise can live with, indeed embrace, the pressing reality of transactional capitalism. They are not dogmatically opposed to it, unlike free-trade ayatollahs who never face voters or meet real people.

In its own way, the past 20-25 years have written internationalism into India’s political DNA. In theory, it offers a halfway house and a proposition to moderate both the isolationist impulses of Middle America as well as the overreach of Brussels and the Eurocrats. In attempting this, India is only doing itself a favour. For its economic growth and well-being it needs partner countries, from the European nations to Japan to of course the US, to retain a certain buy-in to the open trading system.

The quest to reimagine the ethic and vocabulary of globalisation is not India’s alone. In January, President Xi Jinping donned the mantle of benefactor of the World Economic Forum in Davos and made a case for free trade (and China’s unfettered access to Western markets). On the same day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi by stating baldly: “Globally connected societies, digital opportunities, technology shifts, knowledge boom and innovation are leading the march of humanity … But walls within nations, a sentiment against trade and migration, and rising parochial and protectionist attitudes across the globe are also in stark evidence. The result: globalisation gains are at risk and economic gains are no longer easy to come by.”

The globalisation narrative is being reimagined by the leaders of both China and India. This has economic implications, but comes with political baggage too – for only one of these narratives is rooted in liberal democratic values. It is for India to promote its narrative, as much as for the West – even the transactional West – to make its choices.

Samir Saran is vice-president and Ashok Malik is distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation

Moving towards a secure digital economy

The velocity of digitisation and technology adoption must necessitate a response different from what was the norm in the ‘public sector era’

by Samir Saran and Vivan Sharan, Live Mint, Jan 26, 2017

Original link is here

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A wider adoption of digital payments will invariably change the dimensions of risks, crime and security as well. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint


Even as incessant political bickering is polarizing opinion on demonetisation, India is making a significant transition to a digital payments ecosystem. This project endeavours to breach the urban-rural divide, geographical exclusions of the real world, and income criteria that privileged only a few with access to certain private and public services. This new digital payments ecosystem is brutal in its attempt to alter the way India transacts, trades and is taxed.

A wider adoption of digital payments will invariably change the dimensions of risks, crime and security as well. If pickpockets were a common menace some decades ago, cybercriminals may dominate conversations in the days ahead as they eye digital and online transactions. While the “pickpocket” had to select a relatively “fat target” to make the effort and risk worthwhile, the cyber thief will have a low-risk environment (lack of forensic capabilities, human capacities and attribution challenges) and an expansive reach of technology that will make even “petty pickings” attractive. And although cybercrime will affect us all, it will harm the poor disproportionately. It could ravage the small savings of many, deprive them of their meagre means and, most importantly, result in erosion of trust in the financial ecosystem currently being built. It is, therefore, important that the government pay heed to small fraud.

An early warning of this was provided by the frisson of panic that followed the cautionary message from the newly launched Bharat Interface for Money application (BHIM app) on 4 January 2017: “Users please beware: Decline all unknown payment requests you may get! We will work on an update, which will allow you to report spam.” This response is inefficient and leaves the ecosystem vulnerable to malicious intent.

Governments around the world and here in India must respond to this new dimension, where “petty cash is big money” and digital pickpockets pose a range of threats to individuals, institutions and economic stability itself. Most governments have left themselves with little time to create the requisite mitigation capabilities. The velocity of digitization and technology adoption must necessitate a response from policymakers different from what was the norm in the “public sector era”, where Centrally controlled banks and enterprises offered a modicum of stability, privacy, and security (with less efficiency). To achieve this, a comprehensive approach for securing the digital ecosystem must be devised and some actions must be taken immediately.

First, there are a multiplicity of stakeholders operating networks and tools that pose varying degrees of risk. This, in turn, demands differentiated security responses. These include the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)-run National Electronic Funds Transfer (Neft) and Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), the National Payment Corporation of India’s (NPCI’s) Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) on which the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) currently operates, traditional card networks, mobile payments solutions, various banking apps. In a report released in December 2016, the Union ministry of finance’s committee on digital payments suggested a hierarchical approach based on the level of “systemic risk” posed by different tools and networks. This must form the design basis going forward.

Second, while industry is consulted by expert committees such as the one referenced above, an inclusive multi-stakeholder consultative process must become the norm for policymaking itself, to avoid arbitrariness. This can be done by instituting multi-stakeholder consultations that are transparent and inclusive. This is the model India has agreed is best suited to govern the Internet internationally, and it’s time to adopt consonant processes at home.

Third, while the “mobile” is being hailed as a replacement for physical wallets as well as a proof of identity through its widespread use in second-factor authentication of digital payments, government and users should be circumspect about the risks involved. For instance, there is evidence to suggest that distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks—in which a multitude of compromised systems attack a single target, causing denial of service for users of the targeted system—are increasingly targeting the applications layer rather than the network layer of the Internet. In layman terms this means a sophisticated mode of cybercrime is being unleashed on unsuspecting users of mobile applications and popular software.

Mature hardware-based solutions, such as tamper-proof Universal Integrated Circuit Cards and Embedded Secure Elements, are being tested against the latest forms of cyberattack. Software-based solutions such as Host Card Emulation are also relatively secure but require upgrades through the cloud, placing large data demands on the user and testing the service capabilities of the issuer.

Globally payment solutions that have been able to integrate hardware- and software-based security exist, but domestic mobile payments providers are relying largely on software-based security solutions. And while the Indian government’s Computer Emergency Response Team, RBI and NPCI are undertaking security audits of payment solutions, it is important that users be given standardized information to make informed choices, particularly when the digital adoption drive is at its height.

Lastly, it may be useful for the government to think of the digital payments ecosystem, now anchored by the NPCI, as analogous to the Internet. And much like the Internet, the National Financial Switch (the infrastructure backbone of all Indian ATMs, operated by the NPCI) must acquire robust redundancies offered by private-sector partnerships in order not to be a vulnerable single point of failure—which can potentially be compromised by self-styled “legions” of hackers. The NPCI should be managed through multi-stakeholder groups that can help with standard-setting, and can ensure that the payments ecosystem serves the common citizen, making even a small transaction online.

Samir Saran and Vivan Sharan are, respectively, vice-president at the Observer Research Foundation and founding partner at the Koan Advisory Group.

 

 

 

 

Rethinking the Future of Asia: Moving Beyond U.S. Dominance

Asia needs to discover a bridge between multipolarity and multilateralism. India could play an important role as a “bridge power.”

By and , December 11, 2016
Original link is here

Asia will shape the 21st century as much as the Atlantic consensus shaped the 20th century, or Europe the 19th. But to get there, Asia has to pursue a new project, one that begins to create a political Asia.

Like the Atlantic order flourished on the basis of the Bretton Woods and UN systems, Asia needs a reordering of the global landscape. We need a new management, a new board of directors and a new security architecture.

Any usable platforms?

At the very least, this emerging Asian system needs to bring three resident actors (China, Japan and India) and two regional stakeholders (the United States and Russia) to the same table. Other sub-regional influencers should be drawn in as well.

Could the East Asia Summit, of which all these countries are members, serve as a possible platform for such an architecture? Not quite. The East Asia Summit cannot really address the concerns of Central and West Asia.

Alternatively, Ii an expanded mandate for the G20 (seven Asian countries, two more if one were to include Turkey and Russia) the answer? Or do we need to think about a greenfield institution?

Three possibilities

Three possibilities — distinct, but not mutually exclusive — emerge. At the commencement of the 21st century, Asia’s politics resembles the fraught, rudderless multipolarity of the beginning of the 20th.

It took 50 years and two world wars for that reckless order to settle into a multilateral equilibrium.

Asia has to do it better, faster and without the external “stimulus” of a “Great War.” As the dowager power, the United States can incubate new institutional arrangements in Asia, playing Greece to emergent Asia’s Rome, to borrow from Harold Macmillan’s description of the post-war relationship between Britain and the U.S.

Option 1: India as the bridge power

Should the United States choose to bequeath the liberal international order to Asian powers, India will be the heir-apparent.

However, India would not play the role of a great power, but simply that of a “bridge power.” Asia is too fractious and politically vibrant to be managed by one entity.

India is in a unique and catalytic position, with its ability to singularly span the geographic and ideological length of the continent.

But for that to become a distinct possibility, two variables will need to be determined:

1. Can the US find it within itself to incubate an order in Asia that may in the future not afford it the pride of place like the trans-Atlantic system?

2. Can India get its act together and utilize the opportunity that it has right before it to become the inheritor of a liberal Asia?

Option 2: An Asian “Concert of Nations

The second possibility for a future Asian order is that it resembles the 19th century Concert of Europe. That would mean opting for an unstable but necessary political coalition of major powers on the continent.

The practical result would be that the “Big Eight” in Asia (China, India Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, Russia and the United States of America) would all be locked in a marriage of convenience (one hopes).

To be sure, aligning their disparate interests for the greater cause of shared governance, in one way or another, is a desirable outcome.

Difficult as it would be to predict the contours of this system, it would likely be focused on preventing shocks to “core” governance functions in Asia.

These include the preservation of the financial system, territorial and political sovereignties and inter-dependent security arrangements.

Given that each major player in this system would likely see this merely as an ad hoc mechanism, there is a potential major downside: Its chances of devolving into a debilitating bilateral or multi-front conflict for superiority would be high — very much like the (European) Concert of Nations eventually that gave way to the First World War.

Option 3: Sidelining the U.S.?

A third possibility could see the emergence of an Asian political architecture that does not involve the United States. This system — or more precisely, a universe of subsystems — would see the regional economic and security alliances take a prominent role in managing their areas of interest.

As a consequence, institutions like ASEAN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the AIIB, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation would become the “hubs” of governance.

The United States, for its part, would remain only distantly engaged with these sub-systems. It would be neither invested in their continuity nor be part of its membership.

Which outcome?

Rather than crystal gazing these three possibilities, our objective is to gauge the political underpinnings behind an emerging Asian architecture. Very simply, the question is: Will it be defined by contestation or cooperation?

Quite a bit will depend on the stance of the United States. Can the U.S. incubate a political order that is largely similar to existing multilateral systems? Or will the cost of creating disruptive institutions keep Asian countries from buying into them?

Beyond the U.S. dimension, can any credible pan-Asian governance institution successfully absorb — or at the very least acknowledge — the cultural, economic and social differences that characterize the continent?

Conclusion

The quest for the Asian century is not about finding the Holy Grail of shared governance, but diagnosing the right means to reach a sustainable and inclusive platform.

Rethinking the Future of Asia: Moving Beyond U.S. Dominance – The Globalist

About Ashok Malik

Ashok Malik is a Distinguished Fellow, and Head of ORF’s Neighbourhood Regional Studies Initiative.

About Samir Saran

Samir Saran is Vice President of the Observer Research Foundation.

Democracy, Diversity, Development: 2016 was dominated by their dark sides, can we channel the Force this year?

Times of India, Blog page, 10 January, 2017

Original link is here

2016 was witness to dramatic political changes. Everything that seemed improbable, even unthinkable somehow found new ways of manifesting itself, and that too repeatedly.

The impregnable walls of the European Union (EU) were breached when its largest security provider, Britain, decided to break free from the European project. A celebrity of a reality TV show was able to capture the imagination of a frustrated American public and walked away with a near impossible victory in presidential elections.

Liberal actors and voices were constantly defeated in many arenas by populist movements. The new energy of right-wing forces in several geographies competed with the new fanaticism among Islamic radicals. The defeat of liberalism defined the mood and events of 2016.

More than any year in the recent past, 2016 signified a metamorphosis of the global order itself. 2017 therefore becomes a very significant year as it brings together two unknowns for all of us to grapple with.

First is the future of global economics and financial systems, which are yet to be adequately restructured following the crises of 2008. Second are the political questions raised by the happenings of the year gone by. Both of these will have to be addressed discretely and jointly, if gains of the post-war order are to be maintained and strengthened.

Three, words must receive significant attention this year as we respond to the economic and political challenges that lie ahead: democracy, diversity and development. All three are today under threat, and all three by themselves are a threat to global stability.

In sheer numbers, more countries have adopted democracy as their principal political system than ever before. But there is also little doubt that there has been petty and political capture of democratic systems within these countries.

Democracy as a social ethic is under threat. It is assuming shades of majoritarianism in some instances – becoming a tool for convenient choices by the majority section of society. Democracy has also become a means for political leaders to absolve themselves from taking hard decisions. The moral fibre of democracy is being undermined by its numerical logic.

It can be argued that democracy is becoming a weapon to weaken pluralism. The ability of multitudes to take part in democratic debates through mass media, social media and other emerging platforms has certainly included new stakeholders. Yet the principles of the ensuing debates are no longer decided by what is right or wrong, but on the basis of right and left; ideologies multiplied by numbers are determining outcomes.

Democracy has also been hijacked as a legitimising tool by undemocratic forces. Be it Islamist parties in Turkey and the Middle East, or fundamentalist groups in Asia, the US and Europe, all of them have used democratic means to fulfil undemocratic objectives. In many societies, the word “democracy” needs to be re-thought, re-imagined, re-served, and made compatible with pluralistic principles.

Diversity is at one level being threatened by majoritarianism – by brute force that seeks to reduce those who are different, and marginalise those who belong to minority communities. On the other hand, diversity itself is now being used as the basis to recruit and create small communities, sub-national identities and radical movements that are fuelled by the difference that defines diversity – with violent consequences.

An extreme fringe of the Muslim community in Europe, the Buddhists in Myanmar, and Shia-Sunni postures in the Middle East: all of these are using this difference to either inflict violence on the ‘other’ or to motivate violence against those seen as irreconcilable enemies.

Technology and diversity together have created a new dynamic. Assimilation of outsiders in new communities has today become improbable as, instead of communicating with their physical neighbours, people remain locked in with those miles away.

This creates a basis of new exclusions, divisions and differences between those who may otherwise be in physical proximity. It makes the evolution of assimilative cultures and societies more difficult. In fact, it threatens to undermine syncretic civilisations that have existed over millennia. Diversity is both under threat, and is a threat in itself.

Development today is being threatened by a reluctance of large and important players to remain invested in liberal trading systems; to commit to the ideals of globalisation; to promote cross-border flows of finance, technology and people; and to achieve a convergence of lifestyles across continents.

Democratic forces, and fissures of diverse interests, vantage points and identities, make convergence on development goals near impossible. Institutionalised greed and the lack of enlightened action, masking itself as capitalist principle, will challenge both the global objective of responding to climate change as well as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But development is also a threat. Large actors, with large pools of funds, have begun to steer the processes of development to their own advantage. They seek to make life choices for all: to define healthcare for each citizen on Earth, write trade narratives for each society, define what constitutes the well-being and happiness of this planet, and adjudicate the boundaries to right to life itself. Development finance, aid, loans and know-how, under the garb of development partnerships, are seeking to create a landscape of economic growth, trade and transaction that will benefit a few.

The dark sides of democracy, diversity and development have defined global and local politics lately. Can 2017 be the year when the tide begins to turn and when a new light illuminates the essential and positive ethic associated with each of these three words?

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

 

The finance sector must sign the Paris pact

live mint, Dec 28, 2016

Original link is here

Without increased climate funding to the global South, the poor will end up underwriting a green future for a privileged few

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The infrastructure gap, global financial sustainability, and a green future are recognized to be common global problems. Photo: Bloomberg


The Paris Agreement on climate action has an Achilles heel: the lack of a buy-in from the financial community. This absent and crucial signatory will need to play a significant role if any ambitious response to climate change has to be achieved.

This is easier said than done. “Sustainability” in financial market jargon has a very different meaning to when it is used in development-speak. In the market, this term largely disregards issues pertaining to employment generation, poverty eradication, inclusive growth and environmental considerations. Instead, it is monomaniacal in enhancing the “basis points” of the returns it generates for the community it serves—with only perfunctory interest in the “ppm (parts per million)” of carbon (mitigated or released) associated with the deployment of finance, or the human development index (HDI) effects of investments.

The regulatory responsibilities and the fiduciary duties that drive the functioning of this community are focused mostly on protecting the interests of investors and consumers (of financial instruments and banking services) by de-risking the financial ecosystem. Together, these present two specific hurdles, both of which make it difficult for the world of money to serve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The first hurdle pertains to geography, more specifically political geography. And the second pertains to democracy, more specifically the politics of decision making within institutions that shape and drive global financial flows.

Together, they have deleterious consequences. For instance, the major chunk of climate finance labelled as such finds it tedious to flow across borders. Thus, it is mostly deployed in the locality of its origin. This tendency is even starker for financial flows from the developed world to the developing and emerging world. An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—Climate Policy Initiative (OECD—CPI) study found that “public and private climate finance mobilized by developed countries for developing countries reached $62 billion in 2014”. A separate study by CPI estimated that global flow of climate finance crossed $391 billion in the same year—implying that only about 16% of all flows moved from developed to developing countries.

This represents the most significant “collective action problem” that confronts the global community on the issue of climate change. While there is a near universal recognition that a) climate change is a global commons problem, b) the least developed countries are likely to be most affected, and c) significant infrastructure will need to be developed in emerging and developing countries to improve their low standard of living, the flow of money is (not surprisingly) blind to each of these. It recognizes political boundaries, responds to ascribed (and frequently arbitrary) ecosystem risks within these boundaries and flows to destinations and projects that enhance returns—as it was meant to.

The travails of this constrained flow of capital do not end here. In a discussion paper published by the climate change finance unit within the department of economic affairs at the Union ministry of finance, it has been highlighted that even this modest cross-border flow, which also accounts for pledges and promises made, does not adhere to the “new and additional” criteria. Flows of conventional development finance and infrastructure finance are on occasion reclassified as climate finance. And on other occasions these conventional flows are cannibalized to generate climate finance. The size of the pie remains the same.

Unless we are able to increase the total amount of resources available to cater to both the development priorities and climate-friendly growth needs of emerging and developing economies, we may only be able to build a future that is both green and grim. Everywhere, low-income populations will underwrite a green future for a privileged few.

Additional finance for meaningful climate action may be generated by simultaneously working on three fronts as we move to 2020. Successful climate action will first and foremost be predicated on the domestic regulatory framework within each country. Currently, a slew of regulations, from the flow of international finance into the domestic economy to those related to debt and equity markets, disincentivize capital from investing in climate action. It is imperative for policymakers to get their own house in order and create financial market depth and instruments that allow savings to become investible capital even as they continue to demand a more climate-friendly international financial regime.

Second, there currently exists a vast pool of long-term savings—which can be labelled “lazy money”. According to a recent International Monetary Fund report, much of this lies with pension, insurance and other funds, which have accumulated savings of approximately $100 trillion. Due to lack of political will and appropriate mechanisms, this money is neither invested in the climate agreement objectives nor in the sustainable development goals agreed to at the UN last year. This helps nobody. As a result of its inability to flow across borders, developed-world savers earn sub-par returns. And due to this source of finance remaining outside the climate purview, the investment gap in infrastructure, particularly in developing countries, has continued to increase. It now stands between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion each year. Making this “lazy money” count will be extremely important.

And finally, it is time to bring the big boys controlling banking standards into the tent. The Basel III Accords, designed to create a more resilient international banking system through a suite of capital adequacy, leverage, and liquidity requirements, contribute little to global climate resilience. Given the dependency of emerging economies like India on commercial finance for capital-intensive projects, the Basel Accords need urgent review.

The infrastructure gap, global financial sustainability, and a green future are recognized to be common global problems. But the world cannot continue to solve them on three different tracks. If so, each of them will fail. Only once they are seen as inter-connected can they be addressed effectively.

Samir Saran is vice-president at the Observer Research Foundation.

India’s perspective on post-Paris climate negotiations

ORF, Expert Speak, Nov 8, 2016

Original link is here

Fletcher Forum: How do you propose an amenable bridge between global responsibilities of combatting the legacy of historic emissions from OECD countries versus controlling increases in current (and future) emissions of BRICS nations?

Samir Saran: The pre-Paris paradigm of “strict” differentiation with regards to mitigation responsibilities has now evolved into that of “universal action.”

However, the induction of the term “climate justice” still attempts to ensure the existence of a bridge between global historical responsibilities and the future emissions of developing and emerging economies. Climate justice, defined as the recognition of equitable rights to use the atmospheric global commons, is weighed in terms of mitigation and adaptation costs. Any effort to redistribute the emissions between the OECD and the global south will need to account for the cost of differential impacts caused by reduction or avoidance of emissions. In many ways, climate justice takes forward the moral arguments of the CBDR (Common But Differentiated Responsibility) and Equity debate while discarding the rigid politics that have evolved around these concepts and made agreements impossible.

That being said, there are four distinct yet overlapping future potentials of “just” climate action:

One, developed countries will have to achieve their self-designed pledges on climate finance and support for technology transfer. Greater political leadership and action from the global north will encourage developing countries to walk an extra mile in meeting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). For instance, Indian and Brazilian NDCs have mentioned additional commitment to climate action provisional to availability of finance and technologies from the industrialised economies.

Second, a global set of rules could be developed to tax or regulate the higher emissions by corporations, institutions, and other parties across the globe, irrespective of their country’s development status. This type of normative framework must be universally agreed upon. All corporations above a certain size in certain sectors and irrespective of their geographical location must adhere to a framework of efficiency and climate awareness.

Thirdly, technology transfer from the west won’t be enough to strengthen climate action to the level that is required to limit global temperatures at two degrees or below two degrees Celsius. Indigenisation of technology innovation — both products and processes — will be critical to resolving the climate-development nexus. A more transparent knowledge sharing approach along with technology transfer will have to be put in place to support long-term climate resilience.

Fourth, “loss and damage” in the longer term must be operationalised. The Paris Agreement’s weak language regarding loss and damage, mainly the exclusion of a non-liability clause, was perhaps part of an effort to generate consensus on minimum level of commitment. Going forward, we can’t escape from setting an institutional apparatus to compensate for climate related losses that especially affect Small Island States, Least Developed Nations, and developing countries.

Global per capita emissions are negligible for India, but 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India. What is your take on the environmental policies undertaken by some of the state governments? Do you feel there is sufficient political intent to address environmental concerns at the central level, particularly on issues like forest cover?

SS: Environmental policies alone cannot resolve India’s urbanisation challenge. There is an underlying structural and political issue, which gets veiled under the supposed “techno-managerial” clarification. A case in reference is the odd-even license plate scheme in Delhi aimed to decongest traffic and reduce air pollution. In the absence of robust infrastructure and comprehensive regulatory measures, the odd-even scheme hit a dead end. Lack of an efficient public transport system, misdirected notions of how the mega-city’s transport system should work, and the conception of the scheme itself, wherein the focus was on the number of vehicles on the road rather than the time they spent, are a few shortfalls that failed the broader intended impact of the odd-even scheme. But as I have written elsewhere, this scheme needs to be re-introduced accompanied by a slew of other measures including ‘congestion charge’, ban on diesel vehicles, rationing of vehicles per household and relooking at the notion of ‘home office’ which becomes increasingly an attractive option with communication technology and digital connectivity.

Such structural problems are mirrored by the water and waste management sector. Yamuna Action Plan I, II, and III, and the latest “Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation” Project 2017 have endeavoured to clean one of India’s most polluted rivers. None so far have produced the desired results. This is a result of infrastructural shortcomings for waste disposal, derisory and fraudulent penalties and punishment for polluting, and growing waste generation. So we now have a situation where judicial and socio-environmental activism has maintained the pitch of the debate, but political deafness to the challenge is palpable.

How would you suggest enacting reforms in India’s overburdened and inefficient utilities or the coal sector?

SS: The Indian coal power sector is growing. In 2015–2016, coal production rose to 638 million tons (from 70 million tons in 1970s), and imports dropped by 43 percent from the previous year. The current government’s thrust on modern technologies combined with reforms in coal imports, auction, mining, extraction, and evacuation have started showing signs of sectoral improvement. However, an ambition to double coal production to 100 crores tons by 2020 will require massive improvement in the efficiency of both the product and process. Investments in research and development for clean coal technologies, improvements in boiler efficiency, and super critical technology are the lowest hanging fruits. Two aspects are critical in this sector from a climate perspective.

First, since OECD countries are neither investing in nor are mandated to develop coal technologies, the emerging economies will have to pick up the baton on research on mining technologies and boiler efficiencies. Second, every percentage gain in coal energy across the mine to power plant value chain will reduce Indian annual emissions equivalent to the entire annual emissions of some countries in Europe and elsewhere. This is a low hanging fruit that is not being bagged due to the evangelical anti-coal sentiment that is blind to its inevitable use in OECD countries and developing world.

There is much enthusiasm surrounding India’s focus on renewable energy — what lessons can India provide to other countries to develop their renewable energy sector?

SS: India’s renewable energy development trajectory presents a unique case. The country is endowed with an estimated 896 GW of renewable energy potential in the form of biomass, solar, wind, small hydro, and tidal. Besides this, the energy deficit in rural areas, increasing energy demands, and climate concerns have been the key drivers of renewable energy development in India.

To exploit this potential, India created a separate Ministry of New and Renewable Development, set national goals for biomass and solar generation, and made ambitious targets to increase the share of renewables in the total energy mix from 32 GW (2014) to 175 GW by 2022.

To provide further thrust to the sector, Prime Minister Modi along with France launched the International Solar Alliance in Paris in 2015. This group of 121 countries aim to mobilise one trillion dollars for solar investments by 2030 and improve access to solar technologies.

While it too early to present India as a successful case to learn lessons from, its vision to balance green growth along with the sovereign obligation to meet at least the lifeline energy needs of its population is an endeavour with no precedence. In a country of 400 million energy poor people, renewables offer only a fraction of a solution for energy security and economic growth. Yet, an impressive 175 GW target from renewables demonstrates the new ambition of India’s political leadership and the sense of responsibility towards global climate action. To put this ambition in perspective, India is seeking to install more renewable capacity in the next decade than the total capacity installed in Germany over multiple decades of industrialisation.

If India can pull this off, its model will be unique. India would be the first country in the world to move from a low-income society to a middle-income economy, driven significantly by renewable energy and climate conscious infrastructure. It would also be a model that is exportable to other countries similarly placed on growth ambitions and development priorities.

This interview originally appeared in The Fletcher Forum of International Affairs.

Economic diplomacy and development partnerships: Rethinking India’s role and relevance

Samir Saran  and Urvashi Aneja, ORF Website, Oct 28, 2016

Original link is here

There are two prisms through which India’s role as a provider of global public goods and as a contributor to the evolving global growth and development agenda can be assessed. The first is a continuum starting from the independence of the erstwhile colonies, the Bandung conference and the Non Aligned Movement, to a more recent focus on south–south cooperation. This continuum is located within the narrative of solidarity, justice, economic reparations, development rights, and more recently, around the texture of assistance forthcoming from the emerging economies willing to share their growing available surpluses with their G–77 compatriots. India and its development sector analysts have, for the most part, framed its development partnerships through this prism. The recent BIMSTEC–BRICS meet in Goa, followed this course.

The second view of India’s role could be understood through the phenomenon of ’emergence’, one that breaks away from the above continuum and instead positions India (and some other nations) at a juncture where, beyond solidarity and rights, it is the responsibility of being a global power (and attendant benefits that flow from being one) that compels a certain development partnership agenda. In this view, India has new opportunities that necessitate new responsibilities driven by its expanding global interests, both of which shape the country’s development partnership initiatives. This assessment replaces romanticism with realism and is less frequently voiced for this very reason. India must be careful that this hesitation does not reduce the scope and ambition of its development partnership agenda to one limited to the vocabulary of south–south cooperation.

India has new opportunities that necessitate new responsibilities driven by its expanding global interests, both of which shape the country’s development partnership initiatives. This assessment replaces romanticism with realism and is less frequently voiced for this very reason.

This is not to suggest that south–south cooperation is not important and has not influenced contemporary conversations on development and growth. It certainly has redefined ‘aid’ by introducing new financial and technical ethics and cemented the concepts of ‘partnership’ and ‘national ownership’ as normative benchmarks. Even more importantly, new southern partnerships for development finance and international economic support have shaken up the institutions of the OECD from their ambivalent slumber characterised by a prescriptive development policy agenda and conditional financing. It has made the traditional donors more reflective and considerate in their economic engagements.

But, taken too far, the south–south cooperation framework can reduce the role and ambition of a country like India in global development to a mere extension or function of southern solidarity, one proscribed by the limits to south–south cooperation reflected in its description; one by the ‘south’ for the ‘south’. The global south must be the core constituency and ethical mooring of India’s development partnerships but not its ambition or the philosophical anchor of its economic diplomacy responsibility.

Taken too far, the south–south cooperation framework can reduce the role and ambition of a country like India in global development to a mere extension or function of southern solidarity.

It is too limited a world view for a country of 1.3 billion people that has set itself a goal of becoming a USD 8 trillion dollar economy in the next decade and half. It is inevitably poised to become a net provider of global public goods. It is perhaps destined to inherit the task of managing global institutions that exist and building new institutions that this century will demand. These likely eventualities must steer policy formulation and implementation of India’s economic diplomacy objectives, even as it indulges in the grammar of historic solidarity.

India’s role for itself must be redefined through the prism of its ’emergence’, as an actor with agency already far above its economic weight, and likely to increase significantly over time. This is due to a number of factors. First, the largest incremental capital for global development and infrastructure beyond what exists today will be contributed by India, its institutions and corporations in the next fifteen years or so. Even if this incremental capital only comprises a modest proportion of the total development finance pie, the fact that India will make the largest new contribution will augment its global agenda–setting power in the age of climate change and renewed commitment to sustainable development. In absolute terms as well, back–of–the–envelope calculations suggest that the current $2.35 billion earmarked for overseas grants, concessional loans, and technical training will rise to approximately $10 billion by 2030 if deployment follows GDP growth. To put this in perspective, the UK Department for International Development’s (DfID) annual budget for 2015–16 is $12 billion, a figure likely to come under stress in the days ahead. Other agencies like the German GIZ will also at best be able to maintain their level of contributions.

normative benchmarks, development finance, policy agenda, conditional financing, solidarity, responsibility, emergence, finance pie, climate change, sustainable development, DfID, budget, development narrative, low-income, mid-income, fossil fuel, policy assumptions, human rights

Second, beyond the numbers, India may also have a new path to offer, a new development narrative to share. In all likelihood it will be the first country to move from low–income existence to a mid–income economy in a fossil fuel constrained and climate aware world. It will have to make this transition discarding the key economic choices and policy assumptions that aided Europe and America, Japan and China. Cheap labour, bulk manufacturing, cheap energy, exploitative economic policies with scant regards for human rights and even perhaps the liberal and open trade regimes that have defined the past decades of growth. The India story, if and when mature, will resemble none; it could be a unique and contemporary blueprint for other developing countries attempting similar transitions. While it is impossible to predict the details of India’s transition, some aspects can be anticipated. The economic change will ride on frugal innovation helping a frugal service economy. It will be buttressed by the capacity to at the same time offer high–quality low–cost services to domestic and global markets. It would have also created a new framework to provide skilling, education, employment and security to not only the half a billion population added in the past three decades, but also to the burgeoning senior citizenry growing each year.

The India story, if and when mature, will resemble none; it could be a unique and contemporary blueprint for other developing countries attempting similar transitions.

And finally, India may also lead the way in crafting a new trade architecture in South Asia and with partners in the developing and emerging world. The current global trade regime is under strain as restrictive agreements amongst the OECD countries and some others are undermining the WTO, and the benefits to developing countries are dwindling. The current trading system is also based on an incomplete globalisation. It is biased towards the movement of capital and goods, but much less towards the movement of services and peoples. For developing countries compelled to respond to 21st century challenges through the acceleration of a service economy, this partial globalisation poses clear challenges. For India, its South Asian neighbours, Africa and some others herein lies an opportunity to re–craft their trading arrangements to support their 21st century development trajectories.

Looking through an emergence prism, India’s development partnerships and economic diplomacy must be built around three concentric circles of interest and influence. The first must encompass India’s immediate neighbourhood and the big powers; the second, would cover its extended neighbourhood extending across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral with some localities important for what they offer; and the third may include some distant geographies, all global commons and vital global issues and institutions to manage them. Development partnerships and economic diplomacy in each should be driven by a specific set of interests, capabilities and priorities.

Development partnerships built around these three concentric circles will allow India to build direction, specificity, and flexibility into its initiatives; to create a differentiated approach across various geographies; to build alliances and institutions that cut across the north and south; to find a balance between its immediate economic and strategic interests and its global responsibilities; and to manage and respond to the complex and multifarious requirements of a global development provider.

To be clear though, to argue for an emergence prism over a south–south narrative does not imply that India’s economic diplomacy should reject the importance of communities and collective norms for a singularly realpolitik logic; on the contrary, sustaining the role of a leading development provider will require India to be a normative power more than ever before and build communities, create opportunities and discover growth across the binary North–South and East–West divides. As a leading power it must cross this bridge first.

 

BRICS remains on course for bigger, more effective projects in the years to come

Updated: Oct 17, 2016 21:23 IST, Hindustan Times

Original link is here

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(From Left) Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma, at BRICS summit, Benaulim, Goa, October 16 (PTI)

Heading into the BRICS summit in Goa last weekend, Indian diplomacy sought four key objectives. First, use the forum to strengthen bilateral relationships with all four countries, especially Russia and China. BRICS as a grouping will undoubtedly be served well, and its mandate strengthened, as a result of political exchanges at the bilateral level. Second, stabilise the BRICS regime at a time when some of its major constituents have been perceived as disruptive forces in the international order. Third, leverage the platform to highlight concerns of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, and lend momentum to India’s efforts to promote a comprehensive, multilateral instrument to tackle terrorism. And fourth, consolidate and build on the institutionalisation of intra-BRICS initiatives, aimed mainly at promoting economic growth.

All four objectives were materially advanced by New Delhi at the summit, with varying degrees of success. At a time of general turbulence in the international system, whether it is armed conflict in Syria, contestation in the South China Sea or the imminent overhaul of global climate and trading regimes, India can take credit that the summit concluded on a sober, even footing, without letting the political predilections of each power holding sway over the group.

On the subject of terrorism, the Goa declaration strongly endorsed multi-national efforts to tackle the spread of terror networks, and specifically urged countries to crack down on terrorist organisations designated by the United Nations Security Council. It is frankly besides the point that groups based in Pakistan. such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed did not find mention by name in the declaration, since they are groups that are listed by the UNSC under its anti-terror sanctions regime. The references to terrorism in Afghanistan in particular are significant, as they cast a shadow over Islamabad’s conduct in preventing its neighbour from pursuing its “independent political and economic course”. India’s pointed references to Pakistan’s less-than-constructive role in tackling home grown terror networks indicate New Delhi is prepared to sustain its recent efforts to draw ever more global attention to the subject.

The conversations on terrorism in Goa, however, should not detract from the substantial progress that BRICS countries have made in the last year in charting a common economic narrative. Thrown into sharp relief by Britain’s exit from the European Union, the diminishing appetite for integrated markets and indeed, globalisation as we know it, has not deterred BRICS countries from pushing ahead with key economic initiatives.

The Goa declaration correctly highlights the critical role of the New Development Bank (NDB) in attracting foreign investment and supporting renewable energy and infrastructure projects in the global South. Consensus on a BRICS credit rating mechanism was not forthcoming at the 8th summit, given that a consolidated view on perception of financial risk and regulation is a sensitive matter. It is worth noting here that the NDB itself was the product of many such BRICS meetings, both at the level of leaders and sector experts. The credit ratings mechanism is an important initiative that should be pursued with vigour when BRICS finance ministers, industry associations and independent experts now meet over the course of the calendar year to flesh out its details.

Among the biggest takeaways from the summit’s deliberations is BRICS’ continued willingness to take on the unfavourable economic headwinds together, whether by pushing towards greater integration of its markets, facilitating the mutual ease of doing business or providing accessible capital to its businesses. India’s hosting of the BRICS and BIMSTEC summits helped in highlighting that trade ties need to be significantly enhanced, not just among BRICS, but also between BRICS and BIMSTEC countries. On this count, the declaration’s heightened attention and call to build the capacity of micro, small and medium enterprises to ensure they are included in global value chains are significant as they are crucial sources of employment.

The summit declaration also brought the focus back to international norms that promote stability and inclusion in common spaces. At a time when mega-regional trading agreements have significantly altered the discourse on cross-border trade, the summit stressed the need for co-operation in crucial matters relating to Intellectual Property Rights and the digital economy. BRICS members have always attributed a position of “centrality” to the WTO-led trading system, but their endorsement this year is significant.

The Goa declaration reflects an important moment in the group’s history, which has seen the “alternative” powers weighing on the side of liberal, multilateral trading institutions that were conceived by the West. References to the “open and non-fragmented” nature of digital spaces should not be viewed from the prism of Internet governance alone. It is also a pointed reference to the need to keep cyberspace open for commerce, and prevent its “stratification” by exclusive trading regimes.

The BRICS summit in Goa reinforces India’s position as a “bridge” between the liberal institutional order and the potential disruptive impulses of major powers that have opened up the possibility for contestation. Its concurrent hosting of the BIMSTEC heads of state meeting allowed New Delhi to raise the grouping’s profile, and signal its importance to India’s neighbourhood diplomacy in the days to come.

As for the Goa declaration, India may not have had its way on every issue – this is only natural, just as New Delhi sought to moderate the influence of Moscow’s holding the pen at the BRICS Ufa summit last year, the gives and takes of diplomacy ensure a document that is acceptable to all. The Goa declaration ensured the BRICS ship continues to sail steady, and remains on course for bigger and more effective projects in the years to come.

Samir Saran is vice president, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi