BRICS Summit

From Cold War to Hot Peace: Why BRICS matters

13 July 2015 2:47PM, Article, Lowyinterpreter
Original link is here

As BRICS leaders met in Ufa, Russia, for their annual meeting late last week, there were expectations and anxieties galore. The group met as tensions between Russia and NATO rose, Europe’s circus of the absurd (the Greece crisis) continued, impending global agreements on sustainable development and climate action were being negotiated, and celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the UN approached in New York. All of this at a time when the liberal international order was shown to be inept at managing radicalism, barbarism, parochialism and illiberalism across the world.

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The BRICS member states are also experiencing their own specific political moments. Russia is struggling to cope up with the dynamics of the energy sector economy and is involved in an intractable conflict in its neighborhood. Brazil seems to have lost the ‘Lula mojo’ and is fighting economic and political inner demons. South Africa and its enthusiasm for being the gateway to Africa has suffered a body blow with reports of a series of fatal attacks on African migrants. India is pre-occupied with rewriting its story under the tireless outreach of Prime Minister Modi, who is exclusively focused on reshaping India’s economic trajectory. And then there is China, which is putting together the plans and institutions that might soon constitute the ‘Beijing Consensus’ that could dominate the geo-economic landscape over the next few decades.

The 77-paragraph outcomes statement from the summit was inevitably going to be a list of ideas that would cater to different expectations and aspirations of each of its members.

What BRICS means for Russia

For Russia, the political takeaways are the key. If one was to go through the list of Russian proposals on BRICS cooperation in the months leading up to the summit (some at the official level others at track II dialogues), you would detect an aspiration to create a political aggregation among the BRICS collective. These proposals included an ambitious agreement on cyber security, cooperation on outer space, peace and conflict treaties, a proposal on planetary defence, a new agreement on non-aggression and peaceful co-existence, non-proliferation arrangements around new technologies and even a new arms control and export control regime.

As Russia’s global legitimacy shrinks, the role of BRICS as a legitimising platform becomes more important for Moscow.

For many Russians, the world has moved on from the Cold War of the last century to the ‘Hot Peace’ of the current one. To them, BRICS must be a force for stability, and one that can counter what they see as the eastward expansion of the Atlantic alliance. That the official statement covers some of these Russian ideas (watered down, no doubt) is Russia’s gain.

What BRICS means for China

The import of BRICS for the Chinese is starkly different. They are in the process of resetting some key rules that have defined postwar geo-politics and geo-economics. To them, BRICS may be another platform that will institutionalise and promote those facets of global engagement that benefit China. While confrontation between Russia and NATO is something from which Beijing would wish to keep a healthy distance, China’s leaders realise that a beleaguered Russia offers them a chance to consolidate their ‘March west’ agenda, through the central Asian and Eurasian landmass and into the heart of the EU.

Still, never in their wildest dreams would China’s leaders have imagined the servility Russia is now demonstrating.

A Russia that once killed the opportunity to integrate with Western Europe because Moscow was unwilling to play anything less than ‘big brother’ now seems willing to play second fiddle to the Chinese dragon. Such was the level of kowtowing to China’s ambitions and agenda that many at the track II meetings over the past couple of months remarked that Russia had officially replaced South Africa as China’s ‘B Team’ within BRICS. One Russian proposition went so far as to suggest that the New Development Bank (NDB; a joint BRICS development bank but one which is strongly influenced by Beijing) must support and lend to the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative. This was reminiscent of the concentration of all financial flows in the past century serving to reinforce US power.

But for Beijing, BRICS could offer three key benefits vital for its national project. First, BRICS offers a truly large economic landscape on which the experiment to internationalise the Renminbi could begin. The NDB, the trade cooperation agreement and the economic cooperation pact among BRICS could facilitate this. The second key advantage has to be diversification of the Chinese product market by moving towards an eventual BRICS Free Trade Zone, seeds for which were planted in Ufa.

The final advantage of BRICS for China is the affirmation it gives to the legitimacy of the Chinese system, something no democratic bloc has accorded Beijing before. Outside the BRICS context, it’s hard to imagine Brazil, South Africa and India discussing, defending and promoting the Beijing Consensus, which is premised on everything these three democracies otherwise abhor. BRICS gives the Chinese dragon the license to drive a wedge in the liberal order.

What BRICS means for South Africa

South Africa is a BRICS anomaly; it is dwarfed in demographic and physical size by the others in the group. Yet it is this anomaly that makes the BRICS gambit so important for South Africa – effectively acting as its ticket into the big league. Pretoria has been promised a regional hub of the BRICS bank, which means South Africa will be the node for BRICS into Africa. This puts a potent tool in South African hands but also saddles it with the responsibility of reconciling its differences with other African economies and polities.

What BRICS means for Brazil

Brazil is struggling to define its role in BRICS, with its attendance reduced to the mundane. Much of this has been due to the Government being bogged down by domestic problems, leading to a loss of the momentum that President Lula had injected. For a country that is still searching for its place in the world, the Lula vision was to move Brazil from being merely ‘that big country on the left of the map’ to becoming a critical partner in the Asian century. BRICS provided it a free ride to undertake this ambitious plan. But it remains to be seen how and when Brazil will overcome its inertia.

What BRICS means for India

Finally we have India, in many ways the proverbial swing state for which BRICS could offer the flexibility it needs and without which the BRICS would not just lose its ‘I’ but also a fair part of its identity. For a country that is slowly but surely exhibiting signs of becoming part of the liberal order it once opposed, BRICS is the rhetorical, normative and tactical vehicle to affect its transition from ‘trade union leader’ to ‘global manager’.

The BRICS rubric also allows for sustained engagement with China, which could build multiple dependencies. It enables India to demonstrate muscularity on its border dispute with China while concurrently embracing it. For example, the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank enable India to participate in Beijing’s ambitions and benefit from it (it needs huge doses of commercial loans and development finance) without being socialised into ‘Pax Sinica’.

BRICS will be beneficial for India if it opts for pragmatism over ideology and sees the Beijing Consensus as means of shaping the discourse of the ‘east’ until it is able to script one of its own. On the other hand, if Delhi chooses to play the ideological card, it will end up on the wrong end of the bargain as it did with the Washington Consensus – staying out and consequently being excluded from the mechanisms and institutions that shape global development and direct global capital.

BRICS is also the last hand India has to play with Russia, given the dwindling interdependence between the two states. India fears continental encirclement, owing to increased Russian engagement with Pakistan (visible in the diluted treatment of counter-terrorism in the BRICS outcomes statement) and what it believes is a Russian slide into China’s orbit. Consequently, it will be through the normative processes as well as the economics of the BRICS grouping that India can maintain a serious balancing play with Moscow.

Finally we must acknowledge that for all the talk of a rising democratic India being welcomed with open arms by the great powers, India’s acceptance into the Western-led global order has been lukewarm. A deeper integration into BRICS, as the outcomes statement promises, will give Delhi far greater bargaining power in negotiating its place within the global political and economic governance institutions currently dominated by the West.

Photo by Flickr user MEAphotography.

A LONG-TERM VISION FOR BRICS

Original link is here 

The objective of this document is to formulate a long-term vision for BRICS. This in turn flows from substantive questions such as what BRICS will look like in a decade and what the key priorities and  achievements will be. It is true  that  BRICS is a nascent, informal grouping   and   its   agenda   is  evolving   and   flexible.   Therein  lays  the uniqueness of BRICS. The BRICS leaders have reiterated that  BRICS will work  in  a gradual,  practical and  incremental manner. Nonetheless, the grouping  needs  a long-term vision  to  achieve  its  true  potential for two reasons: (1) to dove-tail  the tactical and individual activities into  a larger framework and direction; and (2) to help in monitoring the progress of the various sectoral initiatives in a quantifiable manner.

The  Track  II BRICS dialogue,  under  the  chairmanship of India  in 2012, has been robust. On March  4th  – 6th,  2012,  academics and experts  from the five BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia,  India,  China and South  Africa— assembled  in  New  Delhi   for  the   4th   BRICS  Academic   Forum. The overarching theme was “Stability, Security  and  Growth.” This  theme is useful for understanding the motivation and ethos of BRICS as a platform for dialogue and cooperation on issues of collective interest.

The  dialogue  led to the drafting of a comprehensive set of recommendations for BRICS leaders  (Annexure 1). The  17  paragraphs that  capture the  recommendations to  the  BRICS leaders  were  reached through a consensual process between  60 academics and experts from the five countries. Forum  delegates  contributed a number of research and policy papers  that  formed  the basis for the enriching discussions. Each of these  papers  highlighted key  areas  for  cooperation, within the  overall construct of the BRICS agenda.  This  research led to a significant build-up of knowledge on BRICS. This  long-term vision document is an attempt to aggregate the dialogue and research that  has fed the Track II process so far and to build upon it.

Broadly speaking, the document is divided into four sections. The first, on ‘Common Domestic Challenges’, aims to pinpoint multiple areas in which sharing experiences and best practices within the BRICS Forum  will help to respond to common problems. For example, BRICS nations have vastly differing levels of educational attainment and healthcare policies. As large developing   countries with  significant  governance challenges,  but  also ‘demographic dividends’ and  other  drivers  of growth  to reap,  BRICS can greatly benefit from innovative ideas emanating from similarly positioned nations.

The  second  the  matic section focuses  on  ‘Growing  Economies, Sharing Prosperity’. Given  the  huge distance that  the  BRICS nations have yet to cover   in   tackling  poverty   and   providing   livelihoods  to   their   rising populations, there  is no option other  than maintaining and  accelerating economic growth.  This  section outlines the necessity of deepening intra- BRICS  and  worldwide   trade   and  economic synergies.   Additionally,  it documents growing energy needs and discusses how the economic growth imperative affects the BRICS discourse on climate change.

The third section, titled ‘Geopolitics, Security and Reform of International Institutions’, outlines an enhanced role for BRICS within an increasingly polycentric world  order.  Within the  United  Nations  (particularly the Security  Council), enhanced BRICS representation can institutionalise a greater  respect  for  state   sovereignty and  non-intervention. In  Bretton Woods Institutions, like the IMF and World Bank, BRICS seeks to reform voting  shares   to  reflect  the  evolved  global  system, different  from  that forged in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Finally,  as leaders  in the   developing   world,   BRICS  nations  seek  to  create   a  development discourse that better represent their aspirations.

The  fourth thematic section, on the  ‘Other Possible  Options for Cooperation’, outlines possible  developments to further collective engagement once the necessary prerequisites are achieved. At the present juncture, it  may  be  too  early  to  think of  BRICS  becoming a  formal, institutionalised alliance. However,  it  is important for the  grouping  to envision a commonality of purpose, continuity of operation and dialogue beyond annual summit meetings.

There are five prominent agendas  of cooperation and  collaboration that emerge from this  vision document. These themes are integral to the very idea of long-term engagement between  the  BRICS nations and provide  a framework for accelerating momentum and  increasing significance over the long term:

1.         Reform of Global Political  and Economic Governance Institutions: This  is the centrepiece of the BRICS agenda,  which  in many  ways resulted in the  genesis  of the  grouping. With  the  move  towards a polycentric world order,  BRICS nations must assume a leadership role in the global political  and economic governance paradigm and seek greater equity for the developing world. Over the coming years, they  must continue to  exert  pressure for  instituting  significant reforms within institutions—such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),  the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund  (IMF). Various  suggestions outlined in this  report  provide  a constructive framework for enabling substantive reforms.

2.         Multilateral Leverage: There are multiple formats for engagement and cooperation in order to leverage the BRICS identity at the global high  table.  The  outcome of the  BRICS officials  meeting on  the sidelines of the  November 2012  G20  in  Mexico,  where  it  was decided  to  create  and  pool  a currency reserve  of up  to  USD  240 billion   is  one   instance  of  enhanced  intra-BRICS cooperation. Similarly, the  Conference of Parties, the  United Nations, and  the World  Trade   Organisation are  existing   cooperative frameworks,

within which BRICS countries can collectively position themselves by fostering  intra-BRICS consensus on issues  of significance. The United Nations is central to a multilateral framework, and there  is significant potential for BRICS to collaborate and  assume a more prominent  role   in   global   political   and   economic  governance, conflict  resolution etc.,  through institutions such  as the  Security Council.

3.         Furthering Market Integration: Global  economic growth  has  been seriously  compromised in the years following the Global Financial Crisis. Each percentage point  reduction in global growth  leads to a significant  slowdown  of  economic development within  BRICS which hinges  upon  a necessary component of economic growth.  In this   regard,   market  integration within  BRICS,  whether in  the context of trade, foreign investments or capital markets, is a crucial step  to  ensure that  the  five countries become  less  dependent on cyclical trends in the global economy.

4.         Intra-BRICS  Development   Platform:  Each   BRICS  nation  has followed a unique development trajectory. In the post-Washington Consensus era, developing  economies within BRICS must set the new development agenda, which in turn must incorporate elements of inclusive growth,  sustainable and  equitable development, and perhaps most   importantly,  uplifting those  at  the  bottom of the pyramid. The  institution of BRICS-specific  benchmarks and standards, as  well  as  more  calibrated collaboration on  issues  of common concern including the rapid pace of urbanisation and the healthcare needs of almost half the world’s population represented by BRICS, must be prioritised.

5.   Sharing of Indigenous and Development Knowledge and Innovation Experiences  across   Key  Sectors:   Along   with   the   tremendous potential for resource and technology sharing and mutual research and development efforts, coordination across  key sectors—such as information technology, energy generation, and high-end manufacturing—would prove immensely beneficial for accelerating the BRICS development agenda. Moreover, the BRICS nations must share  indigenous practices and experiences to learn and respond to the immense socio-economic challenges from within and outside. This  vision document contains multiple suggestions for instituting such  sharing mechanisms through various  platforms and cooperation channels.

This   document  analyses  the   above   themes  in   detail.   Each   section concludes with  recommendations specific  to  the  chapter’s theme. The final  section contains synthesised suggestions which  serve as an outline/framework for enhancing intra-BRICS cooperation and collaboration. The  official declarations/statements of BRICS leaders  are available in Annexure (s) 2 to 5.

BRICS and mortar for India’s global role

ImageDEVELOPMENT PARTNERS: The grouping’s members can not only learn from each other’s development experiences and understand views on subjects like climate change but also define new rules for health care, education and Intellectual Property Rights.

 

New Delhi finally has a platform to assert its might and rewrite the rules of global, political and economic governance

India is at a unique geopolitical moment. On the one hand its neighbourhood and the larger Asian continent are being unpredictably redefined. The United States has declared, if somewhat ambiguously, its reorientation or “pivot” towards Asia, recognising the region’s economic force moving forward, or perhaps merely countering enhanced Chinese power. India and China are charting new geographies of contests, the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. The “Arab Spring” has exposed the fundamental inadequacies in Middle Eastern and North African governing structures but has also given rise to an uncertain political future in an important energy-producing region. Last, but certainly not least, China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region has led to increased, if sometimes seemingly unnecessary, conflict with neighbours in Southeast Asia and Japan.

On the other hand, the world is seeing a once-in-a-century churn. The global board of directors that sit on the high table and define rules for conduct of political and economic governance are now unrecognisable from the lot just after World War II. India must seize the moment to shape these revisions of rules devised by the Atlantic countries and defend its growth and development interests in areas such as trade, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), space, climate, and energy policy, among others.

Regional order and global governance are both in flux and demanding India’s attention. This is not unique by itself. What is different this time around is that India has the capacity, increased capabilities and enhanced level of demonstrated intent to engage with this dual external relations challenge. In order to attain the global power status it desires, India must walk and chew gum at the same time. It must tend to its immediate and extended Asian neighbourhood while also engaging with the task of shaping a new rules-based political and economic order. BRICS represents a uniquely appropriate platform and flexible mechanism with which India can address this dual imperative.

Role for three

Engaging with China and Russia in an environment free of the sharp edges often wrought in bilateral negotiations will catalyse congruence over an array of mutually important issues. Any stable Asian order must have at its core, a certain level of accord among these three large continental powers. The past would need to be defrayed and the path for future integration would need to sidestep suspicion and history. Annual BRICS summit-level discussions on political and economic matters allow the three countries such an arena of tactical camaraderie. The current moment allows a unique opportunity for the three to shape a new construct for Asia amidst the regional flux. Perhaps at some stage it may be worthwhile having a summit level RIC meeting on the sidelines of BRICS to discuss this Asian project.

On resetting and reshaping economic and political governance, BRICS has the potential to be the new (and often criticised) game changer. The sheer size and rate of growth of intra-BRICS trade and economic exchange will allow each of these countries to exert their collective weight for their individual gains. Who gains more should not matter, as long as every member benefits from this dispensation and the order is visibly equitable.

There are a few benefits that India must seek through and with the BRICS. First, there are many multilateral organisations within which a “BRICS-bloc” can exert significant leverage. The U.N. and World Trade Organization are two such forums. While geopolitical and economic thinking among BRICS is not always in-sync, where there is consensus (and the areas are increasing rapidly) BRICS could be a compelling voice. Like they did on the debates on non-interference and “Responsibility to Protect.” Similarly, India’s views on climate change, financial norms, trade rules and so on could also benefit from BRICS’s aggregate voice. Of course the UNSC membership issue strikes a discordant note but it should not cannibalise the possible coming together on other matters.

Barrier against slowdown

Second, as economic powerhouses and regional hubs, intra-BRICS market integration can insulate these nations from western economic slowdown. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stagnation is impacting BRICS growth, with multi-percentage point GDP dips in India and China. BRICS market integration could leverage the economic power of emerging world economies by sparking increased trade and foreign investment, especially if done in local currencies. Only China is part of India’s top 15 trading partners, making the BRICS forum an attractive stage from which India can promote economic ties with other dynamic economies. The BRICS development bank, option of holding each others’ currencies as reserves, stronger trade facilitation and eventually a comprehensive BRICS economic partnership agreement are all worthy possibilities.

For inclusive growth

Third, the BRICS are each experiencing rapid development with uniquely national characteristics. However, despite growing middle class populations, BRICS hold the lion’s share of the world’s impoverished population. These nations must take increased responsibility for a new global development agenda, incorporating inclusive growth, sustainable development and poverty alleviation. BRICS is a platform not only to learn from each other’s development experiences but also the instrument that can define new rules for health care, education and IPR for the billions at the bottom of the pyramid.

The collective BRICS experience around social policy could be beneficially shared with others as well. A forum (like the OECD) or clearing-house to disburse this information would prove a relatively low-cost measure producing substantial insight into development efforts, technology sharing, low-cost and sustainable energy generation, information technology and manufacturing.

By drawing on collective BRICS brainpower, local development efforts will be catalysed. For example, sharing China’s experience on infrastructure development or poverty reduction or Brazil’s in clean-fuel generation could be beneficial for India currently lacking the ability to take full advantage of its economic potential.

Is BRICS just a catchy acronym masking the haphazard, slapping together of five developing, yet ultimately incompatible, nations? India should respond with an emphatic no. At this unique moment, when India faces a multitude of challenges seeking its attention both towards the region and the global stage, BRICS provides a flexible platform to respond to both.

(Samir Saran is vice president and Daniel Rubin is Henry Luce Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.)

Article in the Indian Express: “The Africa Question”

by Samir Saran
12th of December 2012
Please find here the link to the original article.

It will be counterproductive for BRICS if South Africa’s chairmanship ends up representing the continent.

With the impending handover of the chairmanship of BRICS by India to South Africa, there is a flurry of activities in BRICS capitals, including a visit of a high-powered South African delegation to New Delhi. While there would be discussions on the modalities of the handover, the central focus must remain on the BRICS agenda.

If recent conversations with South African scholars are any indication, the country’s chairmanship of BRICS may be conditioned by a strong impulse to represent Africa. In two recent conferences in China, interventions by South African delegates on BRICS matters introduced a heavy dose of Africa, issues that currently engage the African Union and the state of the continent generally. In the run up to the 2013 BRICS summit, the country seems to be placing upon itself the onerous task of discovering and representing a unified African voice. While this has drawn criticism, it is also flawed in more ways than one and has the potential of undermining the progress so far.

The first problem is the inherent moral hazard. South Africa must not see its role as the voice of Africa at BRICS. It would be presumptuous and a number of African countries may take strong exception. And is it anyone’s case that it is only Africa that somehow needs a special relationship with BRICS? Home to half of the world’s poverty and any number of development and social challenges, South Asia may deserve such attention as well. Should India then be the voice of South Asia and represent the subcontinent? Surely, some South Asian countries would have a reason to challenge this. This can also be argued in the case of Brazil and South America, Russia and Eurasia, China and East Asia. Such ambassadorial roleplay for larger regions is dangerous and can weigh down the lithe and nimble platform that BRICS seeks to be.

On the other hand, almost every BRICS member has robust bilateral engagements with the continent. While the Chinese may be more recent partners to many African nations, India has both civilisational and contemporary ties. Many Indians are settled in Africa; India has maintained among the largest peacekeeping forces; and of course Indian businesses, much like their Chinese counterparts, are taking increasing interest in the continent. Brazil also has a fair constituency in Lusophone Africa. Africa’s immense resource wealth, and underdeveloped infrastructure, have attracted a large amount of commercial interest from Brazil. Hence, can the premise that South Africa represents Africa and is best positioned to serve its interests pass muster?

The second flaw with the “South Africa for Africa” formulation is that it misunderstands the reason for South Africa’s inclusion in the group. Only a rather naive (and linear) rationale will attach the responsibility for Africa to South Africa. While it is undeniable that one of the key reasons for the inclusion was to have a voice from the continent, the voice was meant to speak for itself alone. South Africa is an emerging economy that offers a unique perspective and adds value to BRICS by itself. It is counterproductive and self-defeating for a small club to allow proxy memberships.

The third and central weakness of this proposition is its lack of appreciation of the core BRICS objectives. It is indisputable that the purpose of this group is to offer a counter-narrative on global governance to the one scripted by the incumbents in the Western hemisphere. BRICS is not and must not become another “trade union” or voice of the “global opposition”. It is a club that allows these five nations to pitch their collective weight behind efforts to shape and change rules for the road, old and new, at the global high table. There is a lot at stake. The world is in flux and governance is being re-imagined, redefined and indeed renegotiated. BRICS allows each country an exponentially weightier presence while parleying with the incumbents. That must remain the group’s salience.

It is time for BRICS to ask themselves some blunt questions. Should the resources and time devoted by each country at this forum be invested in regional issues such as those important to Africa? Should the tensions and imperatives of South Asia find centrestage? Will it be in the interests of BRICS to be engaged with the problems of the South China Sea? Or should BRICS remain that unique proposition, where a group of emerging economies, with critical stake in the global future, create a platform for meaningfully engaging with the developed and developing countries on key issues?

There is no denying that South Africa will remain the continent’s economic powerhouse for the foreseeable future. It is also a veritable geographic fulcrum, which is viewed by some as a strategic node between Latin America and Asia. This gives South Africa a weight far greater than its military might or economic numbers. South Africa by itself completes BRICS. As the next summit draws closer, it must urgently conduct a strategic and realist re-evaluation of what it wants from BRICS against what is on offer.

The writer is senior fellow and vice president, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi

Article in “The Hindu”: Giving BRICS a non-western vision.

by Samir Saran and Vivan Sharan
New Delhi, February 14, 2012

Please find here the link to the original article.

India is all set to host the Fourth BRICS Summit in March this year. The journey from Yekaterinburg to New Delhi has demonstrated that the political will amongst member nations to sustain this contemporary multilateral process is strong. Along the way South Africa has been welcomed into the original “group of four.” Yet, the challenge for BRICS has always been, and continues to be, the articulation of a common vision. After all, the member nations are at different stages of political and socio-economic development. While some have evolved economically and militarily they are yet to succeed in enabling plural governance structures, while others who represent modern democratic societies are being challenged domestically by inequalities and faultlines created by caste, colour, religion and history. The BRICS nations do have a historic opportunity — post the global financial crisis and the recent upheavals in various parts of the world — to create or rebuild a new sustainable and relevant multilateral platform, one that seeks to serve the interests of the emerging world as well as manage the great shift from the west to the east.

Way forward

Indeed, two out of the five economies in BRICS, China and Russia, have already emerged, and are veritable heavyweights in any relevant global political and economic discourse. Why then should BRICS depend on sluggish multilateral channels such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), or try to imbibe didactic, non-pragmatic western perspectives on issues purely of common interest? It is amusing to be offered solutions to poverty and inequality, bottom of the pyramid health models, low cost housing options, education delivery, energy and water provision, et al by the wise men from organisations and institutions of the Atlantic countries. When was the last time they experienced poverty of this scale, had energy deficiency at this level and suffered from health challenges that are as enormous? The responses to the challenges faced by the developing world reside in solutions that have been fashioned organically.

BRICS could systematically create frameworks offering policy and development options for the emerging and developing world and assume the role of a veritable policy think tank for such nations, very similar to the role played by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the 20th-century world. Thus BRICS must create its own research and policy secretariat (for want of a better term) for addressing specific issues such as trade and market reforms, urbanisation challenges, regional crises responses, universal healthcare, food security and sustainable development (many of these issues are being discussed year at the BRICS Academic Forum in March).

Non-traditional security

The OECD’s stated mission is to “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” Although the BRICS nations account for a fourth of global GDP and represent over 40 per cent of the total global population, none of them are OECD members as yet; instead what they have is “enhanced engagement” with the OECD. The BRICS nations have already created a viable platform for “enhanced engagement” with each other through the institutionalisation of the annual Leader’s summit, preceded by an Academic Forum of BRICS research institutions and a Financial Forum of development banks (and this year, a newly instituted Economic Research Group will focus on specific economic issues). The dominant discourses within each of the BRICS nations today are centred on non-traditional security, which can be efficiently addressed through collective market based response mechanisms.

Despite intra-BRICS trade volumes rising exponentially over the past decade, there are few instances of actual financial integration within the consortium (aside from the case of Russia and China starting bilateral currency trading last year). A useful first step to enable this would be to institute a code of liberalisation of capital movements across the five countries, as a modern day parallel to the 1961 OECD code with an equivalent mandate. In the current environment of global economic uncertainty, multinational corporations are perhaps the most adaptable and profitable drivers of economic growth. Therefore, at the outset, the creation of favourable policies for multinationals to conduct business across BRICS would be well justified. Moreover, just as the OECD has a comprehensive set of guidelines that set benchmarks for various economic activities, from testing standards for agricultural goods to corporate governance of state owned enterprises, the BRICS nations could create their own guidelines on the best practices and standards within the consortium.

Finally, within the BRICS nations, there are both import and export centric economies. This provides an excellent template for a realistic multilateral negotiating platform where obdurate self serving bargaining positions are natural starting points. The stalled discussions at the Doha Round of the WTO are an example of the difficulties of consensus building. Since the BRICS nations are already addressing a plethora of issues covered by the Doha Round, they are well placed to move ahead of it, and resolve mutual positions and common concerns.

What started as an investment pitch by Goldman Sachs (BRIC) has evolved into a useful multilateral instrument, for the BRICS nations. BRICS must now move on from being a grouping of individual nations, discussing agendas, to becoming a “go-to” institution for setting regional and global agendas. The essence and ethos of such an institution must in turn, flow from the inorganic prism of stability, security and growth for all. Stability from business cycles and financial governance failures, security from traditional and non-traditional threats posed to humans and the environment, and unbiased growth and prosperity are common aspirations for all BRICS nations, and they must be achieved and delivered from within. The Fourth BRICS Academic Forum will attempt to address these imperatives.

Samir Saran is Vice-President and Vivan Sharan an Associate Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. The foundation is the Indian coordinator for the Fourth BRICS Academic Forum on March 5-6, in New Delhi.