BRICS, Columns/Op-Eds, In the News, Politics / Globalisation

BRICS needs doses of steroids to prosper

Original link is here

By Samir Saran & Vivan Sharan Source:Global Times
BRICS.jpeg

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The political leaders of BRICS member countries are facing pivotal national moments.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is simultaneously navigating her socialist and internationalist moment, after a face-off with the Americans on the NSA spying saga. She has reasserted Brazil’s propositional role in the global order by hosting the ambitious NETmundial – Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s European misadventures have gotten him embroiled in a controversial international debate on sovereignty, while his country’s economy struggles to overcome structural flaws.

On the back of a decisive popular mandate, the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces tough regional challenges, even as he tries to revive industrial output and create jobs.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in charge of an administration which has courted altercations on various fronts while in search of a new and sustainable model for economic growth.

And recently re-elected South African President Jacob Zuma has to contend with both a weak political mandate and rising socioeconomic inequity, while attempting to reconcile differences with African neighbors.

Each of the BRICS leaders is faced with significant challenges. How useful will coordination and cooperation at the BRICS platform be for each of them? The BRICS platform itself will first need doses of steroids if it is to remain viable.

This past year has been quite unsettling for those interested and invested in BRICS. Economic growth of the member countries has been below par. The external economic environment has not been favorable either.

The promise of BRICS is based on new economic and political opportunities. The group is lean and lithe by design and therefore has the right ingredients to make for a 21st century cooperation and coordination platform. Both these characteristics were on display when the group met in India in 2012, where a number of forward-looking economic and political decisions were made. However, neither critical decision-making nor effective implementation has been on display over the last year. Relating to this, there are five concerns that must be addressed at this year’s BRICS summit.

First of all, the focus of the previous summit was clearly on African issues. The eThekwini Declaration in 2013 focuses on unlocking Africa’s potential, regional integration for Africa’s growth and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. With the continued moderation of growth rates, the grouping must prioritize domestic economic imperatives and close commercial ties rather than narrowly focus on a single region or use the platform for regional grandstanding.

The second concern follows directly from the first. BRICS members have large stakes in the international system and share the common aspiration of becoming global agenda-setters. Indeed, they must not continue to be passive recipients of rules and standards in vital areas such as global trade and investment.

Third, the new areas of cooperation listed in last year’s declaration outlining areas for immediate collaboration are strikingly vague. As a result of myopic drafting, a rather counter-productive role reversal has taken place. The interactions between non-government stakeholders have started to lag behind inter-governmental interactions.

Governments have limited vocabulary and dynamism compared with the private sector and civil society and intra-BRICS cooperation must be unfettered and creative. An example is the BRICS Exchange Alliance, a market-led initiative to integrate financial trading platforms. Such concrete efforts must be replicated rather than endlessly expand the list of issues to cooperate on for the sake of seeming ambitious.

The fourth concern relates to the veritable silence on BRICS engagements in the world media following the high-profile summit last year. Perception-building must take greater precedence at this summit. This must be aided by the timely dissemination of information on actions such as the setting up of the Contingency Reserve Fund and a BRICS-led development bank.

And finally, perhaps the most critical issue for the five BRICS leaders, who will meet at the sunny shores of Fortaleza, will be practical goal-setting. This will be an exercise in planning and coordination to maintain continuity as well as honing in on objectives for the long term. If there is an opportunity to be seized in cross-leveraging political and economic ties, it will be in the coming years.

Samir Saran is a vice president and Vivan Sharan is an associate fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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BRICS, Columns/Op-Eds, In the News, Politics / Globalisation

BRICS of a new world

Opinion, July 12, 2014

Original link is here

Pic 1

BRICS must mitigate the systemic risks posed by imbalances in the global economic system, perpetuated by Western central banks. (Source: Reuters photo)


 

The Fortaleza summit should address the undermining of the multilateral trading system.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first major foreign visit, to the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, is in the news for a variety of reasons. But there is little discussion on what is at stake and the possible takeaways for BRICS, and particularly India.

This is a crucial moment for the world, faced with a central European face-off, the long tail of the financial crisis, trouble in the western Pacific, a stalemate on trade and environment, new contests in cyberspace and outer space and a new irrationality in the Middle East. BRICS, particularly India, are vulnerable to downward spirals in any of these areas. India must seek to first protect and then promote its interests at this platform. The new prime minister is the right man for this task and there are five key areas he must navigate.

The first is the big-ticket BRICS-led development bank, proposed at the New Delhi summit in 2012. While China has clear ambitions, a worse outcome would be to allow the creation of a Chinese version of the Asian Development Bank. The new bank must follow a one-country-one-vote formula, and allow other states and institutions to invest capital in return for a minority controlling stake and returns commensurate to their investments. BRICS members must walk the talk on the “equity and fairness” they seek from the West. By allowing each BRICS country equal weight in ownership of the bank, they would demonstrably craft a model for other IFIs to emulate.

The second area is global trade and investment. Through the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), developed economies are seeking to redirect trade and investment flows. They will do so by instituting new rules, standards and tariffs, and by gradually dismantling the multilateral system (WTO) that India and others believe to be essential. BRICS must seek to counter the negative externalities from such mega free trade arrangements (FTAs). While it is expected that BRICS will announce export guarantees and agreements on innovation and banking, the members must also commission academic assessments of the impact of imminent mega FTAs and coping strategies.

Third, BRICS must mitigate the systemic risks posed by the imbalances in the global economic system, perpetuated by the central banks of advanced economies. BRICS leaders are expected to launch a foreign exchange reserve fund of $100 billion as a hedging mechanism. This will resemble the Chiang Mai Initiative, put in place by Asean+3 after the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. It is essentially a pooling arrangement, with China contributing $41 billion, Brazil, Russia and India $18 billion, and South Africa $5 billion. Indeed, Modi would do well to suggest that BRICS take a principled position on recent policy decisions by Western central banks, already suspected to be fuelling new asset class bubbles.

Fourth, over the years, political content in the outcome statement has increased dramatically. BRICS states will need to discover common approaches on political developments in different regions. In particular, the stability of southwest Asia is critical to India, and as the US withdraws from Afghanistan, there is bound to be a jostle for political capital. Can BRICS catalyse the RIC (Russia, India and China) into discovering a basis for meaningful cooperation in the region? Here, the bilateral meetings on the sidelines will be vital. Similarly, Russian expectations on collective support for its position on Ukraine will need to be delicately managed.

The fifth area pertains to cyber governance and cybersecurity. There are clear differences in the positions of BRICS members. Russia has passed a bill requiring all technology companies to store personal user data on domestic servers. This closely mirrors developments in China that ensure local data storage and government control. Meanwhile, the Brazilians, who hosted the “Net Mundial”, have positioned themselves alongside the US and EU, favouring a multi-stakeholder framework. India sees a greater “state” role as it seeks to connect its “next billion” to the internet. There is an opportunity to recognise these cleavages, and develop a calibrated approach for discovering common digital ground. That each BRICS member has either the US or EU as its most important economic partner in the digital world may help.

The Fortaleza summit will represent the reboot of BRICS. This is a different world altogether, with the Brazilians seemingly reasserting a “Lulaesque” style of external engagement, the Russians defiant and petulant at the same time, the Chinese testing the geographical limits of their economic and political ambitions, and the South Africans seemingly wedded to their regional aspirations. Prime Minister Modi has the biggest political mandate among his BRICS counterparts, and also the weight of the largest expectations.

The writer is vice president, Observer Research Foundation. Views are personal

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Columns/Op-Eds, In the News, Politics / Globalisation

The #NaMo wave has yet to translate into effective governance

Original link is here

Published: 22:50 GMT, 30 June 2014, MailOnline India, Mail Today

Author and eminent scholar Dan Hahn described successful political communication as something where “some will be attracted to what is said, to the position taken by the orator. Others will be impressed by the orator’s crafting of the speech – the organisation, the word choice, or the how the language is combined.”

He might as well have been describing the #NaMo campaign, where the combination of a message of hope, soft ideology and communication craftsmanship has attracted a substantial number of voters within and outside BJP’s traditional vote bank.

Assessment

The new Indian PM ran an efficient and professional campaign that was arguably even more innovative than the first Obama campaign.

Pic 1
Moving forward: Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) invited his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif (right) to his swearing-in ceremony, a move which characterised the forward thinking nature of his election campaign. The momentum has yet to translate into major institutional changes
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However, the million-dollar question is whether PM Modi will be able to institutionalise this communication expertise into a durable feature of his time in office, or if he will struggle, as President Obama has in recent years, to communicate his initiatives and vision to large parts of the citizenry.

The first 30 days offer us a moment to reflect on the communication performance of the PM. It is a mixed bag.
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…………………………………………………………………………………………………

On the upside, we have witnessed deft public positioning, like the invitation extended to South Asian neighbours during his swearing-in ceremony or his visit to Bhutan – each appreciated as significant gestures and adding to his image as a progressive leader.

We have seen the institutionalisation of social media by the Modi Cabinet to reach out to citizens. And we now have #NaMo on twitter in person and in his official persona.

Yet, something is amiss. The PM’s persuasive presence during his campaign is now reduced to clinical digital chatter.

The message, therefore, is incomplete and sometimes unclear. Other voices, some of dissent (rail price hike) and other incongruent, from within and outside his party are muddying the waters very early into his term in office.

The communication code that he had cracked seems to have been misplaced and it is apparent that the campaign team that ably communicated PM aspirant Modi’s vision to many, is either avoiding the Delhi summers or is distracted.

During the election, candidate Modi was ahead of the curve. He was proactive and anticipated issues; he sidestepped curve balls and revelled in responding to provocations.

After the elections, PM Modi has been playing catch up, been largely reactive, and has failed to anticipate imminent challenges.

Vision

Modi has prided himself in being able to empower and use the bureaucracy in Gujarat, and now he hopes to do the same in Delhi.

However, is his communication also going to be defined by the not-so-creative Delhi Durbar? Will slow-moving bureaucratic systems do justice to a man known for his glib oratory skills and deft communication?

Let’s take the swearing-in ceremony as a case in point.

The soon-to-be Indian PM invited Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders (and Mauritius) for his swearing-in ceremony. It was a grand spectacle that did create excitement and was largely appreciated, and yet one was left with a hollow feeling the day after.

Pic 2

Groundbreaking: The new Indian PM ran an efficient and professional campaign that was arguably even more innovative than the first Obama campaign
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

We got to know what the MEA felt about it – its official statement offered standard, cut and dry and politically correct fare.

We know what every Pakistan watcher and self-styled foreign policy expert on television and on the op-ed pages thinks about it. But we still do not know what PM Modi thinks about it.

What is this big-picture neighbourhood philosophy that he seems to be crafting? Or is there one? It was his show all the way, and his views and vision are still missing.

More recently, when the rapes and murders took place in Badaun and when the Muslim youth was killed in Pune, a calibrated communication response was required.

While there may have been no need for the PM to react himself, a statement from the Home Minister, showing concern, would have helped assuage the shrill response by civil society and the media.

The government was absent on this count.

PM Modi must realise that his victory is his to own alone, and so is all that goes wrong.

Revitalise

Silence is golden, but there is such a thing as too much silence. These are early days and PM Modi is not really affected. Yet, a crisis could unfold at any point. That is the nature of government, and systems must be in place.

Modi has always faced a hostile media. This has not changed since his election. The honeymoon period may be shorter than anticipated and questions will be asked, and the din will get louder each week.

During the election campaign, his masterstroke was bypassing media and engaging directly with people. He needs to do this while being in office as well.

It will help to explain the big but potentially controversial policies he wants to pursue.

Of course, he can’t do it every week or every day as he did during the campaign.As such he will need to think of a routine, and of a creative mechanism to manage public expectations and the media.

The PRO cannot remain out of bounds for the media, not for the media’s sake but for the sake of the PM and for the policy line he wishes to perpetuate and guard.

Pic 3
In power: The PM’s persuasive presence during his campaign is now reduced to clinical digital chatter
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This is how governments work everywhere. Twitter and other social media platforms are excellent communication tools and the PM has mastered their political potency faster than most Indian politicians.

In government, he needs to build a platform that combines social media with more traditional communications mechanisms.

He needs to disrupt the lethargy of the Lutyens communication machinery by introducing some of his young campaign team into the mix, and he needs to reinvent and revitalise #NaMo in his new role as PM.

It was #NaMo that got him here.

The writer is Vice-President and Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation

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Uncategorized

PM’s Politics of Communication by Samir Saran

PM’s Politics of Communication by Samir Saran

The new Indian PM ran an efficient and professional campaign that was arguably even more innovative than the first Obama campaign.

PM's Politics of Communication by Samir Saran

PM’s Politics of Communication by Samir Saran

Author and eminent scholar Dan Hahn described successful political communication as one where “some will be attracted to what is said, to the position taken by the orator. Others will be impressed by the orator’s crafting of the speech-the organisation, the word choice, or the how the language is combined.” He might as well have been describing the NaMo campaign, where the combination of a message of hope, soft ideology and communication craftsmanship was able to attract a substantial number of voters within and outside BJP’s traditional vote bank.

Assessment

The new Indian PM ran an efficient and professional campaign that was arguably even more innovative than the first Obama campaign. However, the million- dollar question is whether PM Modi will be able to institutionalise this communication expertise into a durable feature of his time in office or would he struggle, like President Obama has in recent years, to be able to communicate his initiatives and vision to large parts of the citizenry.

The first 30 days offer us a moment to reflect on the communication performance of the PM. It is a mixed bag. On the upside, we have witnessed deft public positioning, like the invitation extended to South Asian neighbours during his swearing-in ceremony or his visit to Bhutan, each appreciated as significant gestures and adding to his image as a progressive leader. We have seen the institutionalisation of social media by the Modi Cabinet to reach out to citizens.

And we now have #NaMo on twitter in person and in his official persona.

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Yet, something is amiss. The PM’s persuasive presence during his campaign is now reduced to clinical digital chatter. The message therefore is incomplete and sometime unclear.

Other voices, some of dissent (rail price hike) and other incongruent, from within and outside his party are muddying the waters very early into his term in office. The communication code that he had cracked seems to have been misplaced and it is apparent that the campaign team that ably communicated PM aspirant Modi’s vision to many, is either avoiding the Delhi summers or is distracted.

During the election, candidate Modi was ahead of the curve. He was proactive and anticipated issues; he sidestepped curve balls and revelled in responding to provocations. After the elections, PM Modi has been playing catch up, been largely reactive and has failed to anticipate imminent challenges.

Vision

Modi has prided himself in being able to empower and use the bureaucracy in Gujarat, and now he hopes to do the same in Delhi. However, is his communication also going to be defined by the not so creative Delhi Durbar? Will slow moving bureaucratic systems do justice to a man known for his glib oratory and deft communication? Let’s take the swearing in ceremony as a case in point. The to be Indian PM invited Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders (and Mauritius) for his swearingin ceremony. It was a grand spectacle that did create excitement and was largely appreciated and yet one was left with a hollow feeling the day after. We got to know what the MEA felt about it-its official statement offered standard, cut and dry and politically correct fare.

We know what every Pakistan watcher and self-styled foreign policy expert on television and on the op-ed pages thinks about it. But we still do not know what PM Modi thinks about it. What is this big-picture neighbourhood philosophy that he seems to be crafting? Or is there one? It was his show all the way, and his views and vision are still missing.

More recently, when the rapes and murders took place in Badaun and when the Muslim youth was killed in Pune, a calibrated communication response was required. While there may have been no need for the PM to react himself, a statement from the Home Minister, showing concern would have helped assuage the shrill response by civil society and the media. The government was absent on this count. PM Modi must realise that his victory is his to own alone, and so is all that goes wrong.

Revitalise

Silence is golden but there is such a thing as too much silence! These are early days and PM Modi is not really affected. Yet, a crisis could unfold at any point. That is the nature of government and systems must be in place. He has always faced a hostile media. This has not changed since his election. The honeymoon period may be shorter than anticipated and questions will be asked and the din will get louder each week.

ADVERTISEMENT

During the election campaign, his masterstroke was bypassing media and engaging directly with people. He needs to do this while being in office as well. It will help to explain the big but potentially controversial policies he wants to pursue. Of course, he can’t do it every week or every day as he did during the campaign. As such he will need to think of a routine, and of a creative mechanism to manage public expectations and the media. The PRO cannot remain out of bounds for the media, not for the media’s sake but for the sake of the PM and for the policy line he wishes to perpetuate and guard. This is how governments work everywhere.

Twitter and other social media platforms are excellent communication tools and the PM has mastered their political potency faster than most Indian politicians.

In government, he needs to build a platform that combines social media with more traditional communications mechanisms. He needs to disrupt the lethargy of the Lutyens communication machinery by introducing some of his young campaign team into the mix and he needs to reinvent and revitalise # NaMo in his new role as PM. It was # NaMo that got him here.

The writer is Vice President & Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation

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