ORF

Column in The Times of India: “Time to get over it”

New Delhi, 11th of May 2012
Please find here the link to the original article as well as the PDF-file: Article – Time To Get Over It.

Time to get over it
by Samir Saran and John C. Hulsman

One tired conversation that dominates most European institutions and forums threatens to become a fatal liability – distancing the EU from its partners across the Atlantic and among the new capitals that influence global decision-making in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is Europe`s Don Quixote-like quest for `common global values.`The search for this faux Holy Grail is preventing the global community from discovering vital common ground on the key issues that the emerging multipolar world is confronted with. Whatever be the issue, spending time trying to find the fool`s gold of universal values gets in the way of cutting the interest-based deals that will actually make this new world work.This wrong-headedness also leads to analytical failure, explaining the West’s self-comforting dismissal that much has changed, due to the view that the Brics ( Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) themselves seemingly share little in terms of `common values’.

But the Brics do share common interests. First, all Brics countries stress there must be a stable external environment that must not be jeopardised by partisan interventions in Iran or other parts of the Middle East and Africa. Second, an accountable and stable global financial regime must evolve – with a far greater say for the rising economic powers – the promises for which remain unfulfilled since 2008-09.

Third, there must be a far greater global emphasis on development and poverty reduction efforts in Asia, Africa and Latin America – linked to the new hurdles of `green protectionism’ that Brics must stand up against. No developing power is likely to commit economic suicide to make over-privileged western `greens’ happy. As a global agenda (and despite not possessing common values), that is a lot to agree upon.

It is time to wake up to the world we actually live in and move towards the more workable paradigm of `shared interests and shared prosperity`. These are terms that flow from the vocabulary of the realist camp, acknowledging that beneath every facade, nations and societies share at least the one common value of self-preservation based on self-interest. A man in the gutter and a man in a mansion will share this, even if nothing else.

This approach offers a far greater global potential for powers, old and new, to collaborate and cooperate than the parochial values-based approach that is viewed by most outside of the EU as a not so subtle attempt to propagate wes-tern interests in an ethical cloak.

But this fetish with values is not the only intellectual challenge that efficient global governance is confronted with today. The concept of sovereignty – and the very different individual experiences of nation-states that compel them to define this critical notion differently – is another potential stumbling block.

The Brics and other emerging power centres view this transition period of their relative rise as the time to consolidate their sense of nationhood and reclaim sovereignty from a western-dominated world. Again Europe is the outlier, as sovereignty actually matters. If the Brics are to be made stakeholders in the new global governance architecture, this conceptual difference must be recognised.

The third reality of our times is that large economies in the Indo-Pacific (India, China and some others) with low-income populations and prevalent poverty will now be the fulcrum for governing the most important regions of the world. Their success is essential for global growth to be safeguarded, else, we will live in a far more hostile world. The West will need to carve out partnerships within the region to secure sea-lanes, trade, property rights and ensure stability. This dependence on these large emerging economies will change the ethos of governance.

Growth and not human rights will dictate the agenda. Industrialisation will trump environmentalism and poverty alleviation will define sustain-able development. Only when western efforts are truly made to accommodate the views, interests and needs of the rest on these issues will we see a more efficient multipolar framework emerge.

So how to make sense of this new world? The primary rule of the road must be the unbreakable link between burden-sharing and power-sharing. This basic principle must become nothing less than the new mantra of the multipolar age.

Of course, this fundamental global change takes place on a continuum; it will take years for the transition from a western-dominated world to a world with many powers (with the Brics leading the economic way) tobe completed. But as the global financial crisis made clear, change is already occurring more rapidly than anyone imagined. Along the way, a fading West and a `not-yet-up-to-it’rest could well drop the ball over vital global governance issues, resulting in what American political scientist Ian Bremmer (somewhat apocalyptically) has referred to as a G-0 world, where nothing much gets done.

It is time for Europe to get over it. Nations will not have common values, because nations themselves are a collection of diverse experiences. However, there is no need to throw in the towel, for nations can have a vision for shared prosperity with different approaches to get there. To make all this work, there must be some common macro rules and these must be negotiated on the realist terms of common interests and not through the fruitless semantics of ethics and morality.

Saran is vice-president, Observer Research Foundation, and Hulsman is president of a strategic consultancy firm.

Discussion with Open Magazine on BRICS: “Not just a talk shop”

29th of March, 2012
Please find here the link to the original article.

It may be an idiosyncratic club, but should it therefore be written off? As leaders of BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—gather in New Delhi for a summit to prove that their five-member group is something ‘solid’ (a word Indian PM Manmohan Singh has used in an Indo-Pak context), rather than just another talk shop, critics across the world have not been able to hide their derision. The interests of these countries are far too divergent, they mutter, to result in anything that could matter.

For exponents of the idea, however, the five represent not just a fifth of global output, but also a dynamic geo-economic bloc on the ascendant. It owes its name to a 2001 Goldman Sachs report that projected a world economy under BRIC domination (South Africa was admitted only in 2010) within half a century. Today, it is a club more than a clever acronym, and one with an agenda too. “[The group] seeks political dialogue towards a more democratic multipolar order,” says senior Indian bureaucrat Sudhir Vyas, adding that the global power shift currently underway calls for “corresponding transformations in global governance”.

The buzzword at the Delhi summit is cooperation. Says Bipul Chatterjee of Consumer Unity & Trust Society: “These leaders are likely to float the idea of a development bank to be capitalised by BRICS, or perhaps all developing nations, to fund the development aspirations of the poor world.” This aim has its origin in Manmohan Singh’s 2010 suggestion that the world’s surplus savings be funnelled into emerging economies short of capital for investment in infrastructure and other public utility projects. Says Samir Saran, a BRICS expert with the Observer Research Foundation: “The proposed bank could tap these savings by creating sovereign guaranteed debt instruments to leverage more money for these economies.”

The other area of mutual interest is trade. As a booster, of help would be an agreement among the five countries’ central banks to grant one another access to loans in local currencies. Saran says the BRICS platform would “offer the five ‘R’s: rupee, rouble, renminbi, rand and real” for trade payments as part of a test settlement mechanism, “before internationalising these currencies”. The goal here is to reduce dependence on the US dollar as an international means of exchange.

Sceptics do not see much coming of it. Yet, it is worth noting that the five have managed to get this far as a club without letting bilateral bickering get in the way. This in itself is commendable. Perhaps BRICS bashers should wait a while before writing it off.

BRICS, Steel, Mortar….and Money – Analysis of the 4th BRICS Summit in New Delhi

by Samir Saran and Vivan Sharan
4th of April 2012
Please find here the original link to the article.

With the Delhi Declaration, BRICS nations, which met recently in the Indian capital, have shown that they have the steel to stand up to traditional power structures, a cohesive vision to jointly respond to development challenges through institutionalisation of concrete mechanisms, and the determination to channel monetary power to strengthen markets, businesses and trade. The Declaration indeed gives insight into the gradual transformation of BRICS, from essentially a response mechanism crafted to address the various development challenges posed by the global financial crisis, to a forward looking entity seeking to enact and enable real global transformation.

The Delhi Declaration extends over 50 paragraphs which are all encompassing in some sense and address many relevant themes for BRICS countries and the developing world at large. The Declaration is significantly more impressive and comprehensive than the 16 paragraph Joint Statement of the BRICS Leaders at the first summit held at Yekaterinburg in 2009 and the sketchy and macro statement of purpose at Sanya last year. The Action Plan within the Delhi Declaration consists of 17 steps which will deepen intra-BRICS engagements. There are three prominent narratives that define the Delhi Declaration – reaffirmation of the UN framework for global governance, disappointment with financial regimes shaped in the mid 20th century and a confidence to tap into economic opportunities that exist within BRICS.

The Delhi Declaration has stamped the intent of BRICS nations to coordinate and collectively respond to global security challenges within appropriate frameworks that give precedence to fundamental principles such as international law, transparency and sovereignty. BRICS members have recognised and re-emphasised the centrality of the UN in dealing with regional tensions and they have explicitly outlined this for specific cases including the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Syrian imbroglio and the contentious Iranian nuclear programme.

The Declaration unambiguously states that “plurilateral initiatives” that go against the fundamental principles outlined earlier, will not be supported by BRICS. The Declaration is clearly against actions such as asymmetric trade protectionism, unilaterally imposed sanctions and taxes imposed on businesses. The EU’s Aviation Tax is one such example from contemporary policymaking. In terms of trade, there is strong emphasis on operating within legal instruments such as the WTO and institutions such as the UNCTAD for furthering the inclusive development efforts through consensus and technical cooperation.

The aftershocks from the financial crisis are still a cause of concern to the BRICS nations. The pre-occupation with Europe has distracted attention from the social transformation programmes and poverty alleviation efforts among BRICS members. The Delhi Declaration has spelt out the “immediate priority” of restoring market confidence and getting global growth back on track. The steps to address such concerns will include attempts to rebalance global savings and consumption, furthering of regulatory and supervisory oversight in the financial markets, increasing the voice of developing and emerging nations in global financial governance and the institutionalisation of financial mechanisms to redirect existing capital to tackle development imperatives.

The BRICS members have therefore announced a working group led by the Finance Ministers of the individual nations, in order to examine the “feasibility and viability” of a BRICS Development Bank. When formed, such an institution will likely be able to shift and contextualise the development discourse within and outside BRICS and therefore is one of the most significant actionable outcomes. It is evident that such a multilateral institution is not meant to compete with existing ones, but rather, to enhance lending and investment to create sustainable development trajectories. Contrary to expectations several high ranking Chinese policymakers, including the Assistant Foreign Minister, Ma Zhaoxu, have supported the idea.

The BRICS members have clearly outlined that the purpose and nature of Bretton Woods Institutions such as the World Bank, must shift from being essentially a mediation instrument to enable North-South cooperation, to one which can actually prioritise “development issues” and overcome the “donor-recipient dichotomy”. They have also called upon the World Bank to mobilize greater directed resources and enable development financing at reduced costs through financial innovations and improved lending practices. Indeed for BRICS, the focus on World Bank and IMF reforms has remained constant through the years, yet the Delhi Declaration articulates these concerns more lucidly than ever before.

Given that intra-BRICS trade has been consistently on the rise over the past decade, BRICS Leaders have endorsed the conclusion of the Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in Local Currency under the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism and the Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement between their respective EXIM/Development Banks. Such steps to mitigate market risks and enable local currency transactions will only add to the existing momentum and build resilience in BRICS economies to global business cycle fluctuations and exchange rate volatilities. Notably, BRICS have also endorsed the market led efforts to set up a BRICS Exchange Alliance between the major stock exchanges of BRICS, which will enable investors to efficiently allocate capital across BRICS economies and invest in the BRICS growth story.

The unity and purpose of BRICS has been the target of speculation and scepticism from various quarters. With the Delhi Declaration, BRICS members have been able to assuage such doubts as they have begun to create a credible hedge against traditional global narratives of security and development. They have simultaneously been able to project that there is resolution within the group to deal with issues that are not only of immediate concern but even those that will need attention in the future. The Delhi Declaration paves the way for the institutionalisation of BRICS cooperation, making BRICS a significant transcontinental and politically united force. In Sanya BRICS spread wide to include South Africa; in Delhi they went deep to include substance.

Samir Saran is Vice-President and Vivan Sharan an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. The Foundation hosted the BRICS Academic Forum in March this year. 

Samir on Russia TV: Interview on BRICS Summit, New Delhi.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wmS11HnNbk0#!

The BRICS countries’ leaders are preparing for their annual meeting. These countries make up 42 percent of the world’s population and a quarter of its landmass. They are also responsible for 20 percent of the Global GDP and
own a whopping 75 percent of the foreign reserve worldwide. In these tough times for world economics these countries are trying to find a solution for the situation.

Fourth BRICS Summit – Delhi Declaration / Samir live on BBC World News

Was on BBC this morning….was asked to discuss BRICS….

Ques 1 – China will dominate BRICS because of its money and might?

Ques 2 – How will India counter China at the BRICS?

Ques 3 – How can this group work together without common ideology (or something like that)?

Was at my charming best while basically saying…China will be an important player in any grouping – why only BRICS….the questions are posed incorrectly…BRICS is not a platform for India countering China….it is indeed an opportunity to take the edge of the bilateral …..and some people do not see common ideology as being necessary….(this Euro Centric fetish for “Common Humanity”) and with our individual and rich experiences we can find ways to developing pathways (unique) for an equitable and prosperous future….

Synergy and Complimentarity are the operative words and BRICS are rich with these possibilities.

For some in India as well – it is all a zero sum game….maybe it is …but they need to know the rules of arithmetic are changing and the nation state may not be the unit of measurement any more – The BRICS Stock Exchange is the business thumbs up to BRICS and the 4th Academic Forum was the “experts” support to it….many more to follow….

The skeptics can continue to earn their salaries…while we build a new platform 🙂

The Political will is expressed in the Delhi Declaration and it is positive, decisive and firm on what the BRICS need to do together and how they need to interact with the developed world on many common issues. I am certain that in this instance the BRICS surprised themselves …..in what they were able to agree to ….In Sanya the BRICS went wider and added South Africa….In Delhi the BRICS went deeper and added substance….

Happy BRICS Day

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Fourth BRICS Summit – Delhi Declaration
March 29, 2012
Please find here the full version as PDF: Declaration Fourth_BRICS_Summit

1. We, the leaders of the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the

Republic of India, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa,

met in New Delhi, India, on 29 March 2012 at the Fourth BRICS Summit. Our

discussions, under the overarching theme, “BRICS Partnership for Global Stability,

Security and Prosperity”, were conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality and warmth

and inspired by a shared desire to further strengthen our partnership for common

development and take our cooperation forward on the basis of openness, solidarity,

mutual understanding and trust.

2. We met against the backdrop of developments and changes of contemporary global

and regional importance – a faltering global recovery made more complex by the

situation in the euro zone; concerns of sustainable development and climate change

which take on greater relevance as we approach the UN Conference on Sustainable

Development (Rio+20) and the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological

Diversity being hosted in Brazil and India respectively later this year; the upcoming

G20 Summit in Mexico and the recent 8th WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva;

and the developing political scenario in the Middle East and North Africa that we

view with increasing concern. Our deliberations today reflected our consensus to

remain engaged with the world community as we address these challenges to global

well-being and stability in a responsible and constructive manner.

3. BRICS is a platform for dialogue and cooperation amongst countries that represent

43% of the world’s population, for the promotion of peace, security and development

in a multi-polar, inter-dependent and increasingly complex, globalizing world.

Coming, as we do, from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, the transcontinental

dimension of our interaction adds to its value and significance.

4. We envision a future marked by global peace, economic and social progress and

enlightened scientific temper. We stand ready to work with others, developed and

developing countries together, on the basis of universally recognized norms of

international law and multilateral decision making, to deal with the challenges and the

opportunities before the world today. Strengthened representation of emerging and

developing countries in the institutions of global governance will enhance their

effectiveness in achieving this objective.

5. We are concerned over the current global economic situation. While the BRICS

recovered relatively quickly from the global crisis, growth prospects worldwide have

again got dampened by market instability especially in the euro zone. The build-up of

sovereign debt and concerns over medium to long-term fiscal adjustment in advanced

countries are creating an uncertain environment for global growth. Further, excessive

liquidity from the aggressive policy actions taken by central banks to stabilize their

domestic economies have been spilling over into emerging market economies,

fostering excessive volatility in capital flows and commodity prices. The immediate

priority at hand is to restore market confidence and get global growth back on track.

We will work with the international community to ensure international policy

coordination to maintain macroeconomic stability conducive to the healthy recovery

of the global economy.

6. We believe that it is critical for advanced economies to adopt responsible

macroeconomic and financial policies, avoid creating excessive global liquidity and

undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs. We draw attention to the

risks of large and volatile cross-border capital flows being faced by the emerging

economies. We call for further international financial regulatory oversight and reform,

strengthening policy coordination and financial regulation and supervision

cooperation, and promoting the sound development of global financial markets and

banking systems.

7. In this context, we believe that the primary role of the G20 as premier forum for

international economic cooperation at this juncture is to facilitate enhanced

macroeconomic policy coordination, to enable global economic recovery and secure

financial stability, including through an improved international monetary and

financial architecture. We approach the next G20 Summit in Mexico with a

commitment to work with the Presidency, all members and the international

community to achieve positive results, consistent with national policy frameworks, to

ensure strong, sustainable and balanced growth.

8. We recognize the importance of the global financial architecture in maintaining the

stability and integrity of the global monetary and financial system. We therefore call

for a more representative international financial architecture, with an increase in the

voice and representation of developing countries and the establishment and

improvement of a just international monetary system that can serve the interests of all

countries and support the development of emerging and developing economies.

Moreover, these economies having experienced broad-based growth are now

significant contributors to global recovery.

9. We are however concerned at the slow pace of quota and governance reforms in the

IMF. We see an urgent need to implement, as agreed, the 2010 Governance and Quota

Reform before the 2012 IMF/World Bank Annual Meeting, as well as the

comprehensive review of the quota formula to better reflect economic weights and

enhance the voice and representation of emerging market and developing countries by

January 2013, followed by the completion of the next general quota review by

January 2014. This dynamic process of reform is necessary to ensure the legitimacy

and effectiveness of the Fund. We stress that the ongoing effort to increase the

lending capacity of the IMF will only be successful if there is confidence that the

entire membership of the institution is truly committed to implement the 2010 Reform

faithfully. We will work with the international community to ensure that sufficient

resources can be mobilized to the IMF in a timely manner as the Fund continues its

transition to improve governance and legitimacy. We reiterate our support for

measures to protect the voice and representation of the IMF’s poorest members.

10. We call upon the IMF to make its surveillance framework more integrated and

even-handed, noting that IMF proposals for a new integrated decision on surveillance

would be considered before the IMF Spring Meeting.

11. In the current global economic environment, we recognise that there is a pressing

need for enhancing the flow of development finance to emerging and developing

countries. We therefore call upon the World Bank to give greater priority to

mobilising resources and meeting the needs of development finance while reducing

lending costs and adopting innovative lending tools.

12. We welcome the candidatures from developing world for the position of the

President of the World Bank. We reiterate that the Heads of IMF and World Bank be

selected through an open and merit-based process. Furthermore, the new World Bank

leadership must commit to transform the Bank into a multilateral institution that truly

reflects the vision of all its members, including the governance structure that reflects

current economic and political reality. Moreover, the nature of the Bank must shift

from an institution that essentially mediates North-South cooperation to an institution

that promotes equal partnership with all countries as a way to deal with development

issues and to overcome an outdated donor- recipient dichotomy.

13. We have considered the possibility of setting up a new Development Bank for

mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in

BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, to supplement the

existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and

development. We direct our Finance Ministers to examine the feasibility and viability

of such an initiative, set up a joint working group for further study, and report back to

us by the next Summit.

14. Brazil, India, China and South Africa look forward to the Russian Presidency of

G20 in 2013 and extend their cooperation.

15. Brazil, India, China and South Africa congratulate the Russian Federation on its

accession to the WTO. This makes the WTO more representative and strengthens the

rule-based multilateral trading system. We commit to working together to safeguard

this system and urge other countries to resist all forms of trade protectionism and

disguised restrictions on trade.

16. We will continue our efforts for the successful conclusion of the Doha Round,

based on the progress made and in keeping with its mandate. Towards this end, we

will explore outcomes in specific areas where progress is possible while preserving

the centrality of development and within the overall framework of the single

undertaking. We do not support plurilateral initiatives that go against the fundamental

principles of transparency, inclusiveness and multilateralism. We believe that such

initiatives not only distract members from striving for a collective outcome but also

fail to address the development deficit inherited from previous negotiating rounds.

Once the ratification process is completed, Russia intends to participate in an active

and constructive manner for a balanced outcome of the Doha Round that will help

strengthen and develop the multilateral trade system.

17. Considering UNCTAD to be the focal point in the UN system for the treatment of

trade and development issues, we intend to invest in improving its traditional

activities of consensus-building, technical cooperation and research on issues of

economic development and trade. We reiterate our willingness to actively contribute

to the achievement of a successful UNCTAD XIII, in April 2012.

18. We agree to build upon our synergies and to work together to intensify trade and

investment flows among our countries to advance our respective industrial

development and employment objectives.We welcome the outcomes of the second

Meeting of BRICS Trade Ministers held in New Delhi on 28 March 2012. We support

the regular consultations amongst our Trade Ministers and consider taking suitable

measures to facilitate further consolidation of our trade and economic ties. We

welcome the conclusion of the Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in

Local Currency under BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism and the Multilateral

Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement between our EXIM/Development

Banks. We believe that these Agreements will serve as useful enabling instruments

for enhancing intra-BRICS trade in coming years.

19. We recognize the vital importance that stability, peace and security of the Middle

East and North Africa holds for all of us, for the international community, and above

all for the countries and their citizens themselves whose lives have been affected by

the turbulence that has erupted in the region. We wish to see these countries living in

peace and regain stability and prosperity as respected members of the global

community.

20. We agree that the period of transformation taking place in the Middle East and

North Africa should not be used as a pretext to delay resolution of lasting conflicts but

rather it should serve as an incentive to settle them, in particular the Arab-Israeli

conflict. Resolution of this and other long-standing regional issues would generally

improve the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. Thus we confirm our

commitment to achieving comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Arab-

Israeli conflict on the basis of the universally recognized international legal

framework including the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab

Peace Initiative. We encourage the Quartet to intensify its efforts and call for greater

involvement of the UN Security Council in search for a resolution of the Israeli-

Palestinian conflict. We also underscore the importance of direct negotiations

between the parties to reach final settlement. We call upon Palestinians and Israelis to

take constructive measures, rebuild mutual trust and create the right conditions for

restarting negotiations, while avoiding unilateral steps, in particular settlement

activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

21. We express our deep concern at the current situation in Syria and call for an

immediate end to all violence and violations of human rights in that country. Global

interests would best be served by dealing with the crisis through peaceful means that

encourage broad national dialogues that reflect the legitimate aspirations of all

sections of Syrian society and respect Syrian independence, territorial integrity and

sovereignty. Our objective is to facilitate a Syrian-led inclusive political process, and

we welcome the joint efforts of the United Nations and the Arab League to this end.

We encourage the Syrian government and all sections of Syrian society to

demonstrate the political will to initiate such a process, which alone can create a new

environment for peace. We welcome the appointment of Mr. Kofi Annan as the Joint

Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis and the progress made so far, and support him in

continuing to play a constructive role in bringing about the political resolution of the

crisis.

22. The situation concerning Iran cannot be allowed to escalate into conflict, the

disastrous consequences of which will be in no one’s interest. Iran has a crucial role to

play for the peaceful development and prosperity of a region of high political and

economic relevance, and we look to it to play its part as a responsible member of the

global community. We are concerned about the situation that is emerging around

Iran’s nuclear issue. We recognize Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy

consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues

involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue between the parties

concerned, including between the IAEA and Iran and in accordance with the

provisions of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

23. Afghanistan needs time, development assistance and cooperation, preferential

access to world markets, foreign investment and a clear end-state strategy to attain

lasting peace and stability. We support the global community’s commitment to

Afghanistan, enunciated at the Bonn International Conference in December 2011, to

remain engaged over the transformation decade from 2015-2024. We affirm our

commitment to support Afghanistan’s emergence as a peaceful, stable and democratic

state, free of terrorism and extremism, and underscore the need for more effective

regional and international cooperation for the stabilisation of Afghanistan, including

by combating terrorism.

24. We extend support to the efforts aimed at combating illicit traffic in opiates

originating in Afghanistan within the framework of the Paris Pact.

25. We reiterate that there can be no justification, whatsoever, for any act of terrorism

in any form or manifestation. We reaffirm our determination to strengthen

cooperation in countering this menace and believe that the United Nations has a

central role in coordinating international action against terrorism, within the

framework of the UN Charter and in accordance with principles and norms of

international law. We emphasize the need for an early finalization of the draft of the

Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the UN General Assembly

and its adoption by all Member States to provide a comprehensive legal framework to

address this global scourge.

26. We express our strong commitment to multilateral diplomacy with the United

Nations playing a central role in dealing with global challenges and threats. In this

regard, we reaffirm the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN, including its

Security Council, with a view to making it more effective, efficient and representative

so that it can deal with today’s global challenges more successfully. China and Russia

reiterate the importance they attach to the status of Brazil, India and South Africa in

international affairs and support their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN.

27. We recall our close coordination in the Security Council during the year 2011, and

underscore our commitment to work together in the UN to continue our cooperation

and strengthen multilateral approaches on issues pertaining to global peace and

security in the years to come.

28. Accelerating growth and sustainable development, along with food, and energy

security, are amongst the most important challenges facing the world today, and

central to addressing economic development, eradicating poverty, combating hunger

and malnutrition in many developing countries. Creating jobs needed to improve

people’s living standards worldwide is critical. Sustainable development is also a key

element of our agenda for global recovery and investment for future growth. We owe

this responsibility to our future generations.

29. We congratulate South Africa on the successful hosting of the 17th Conference of

Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 7th

Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol

(COP17/CMP7) in December 2011. We welcome the significant outcomes of the

Conference and are ready to work with the international community to implement its

decisions in accordance with the principles of equity and common but differentiated

responsibilities and respective capabilities.

30. We are fully committed to playing our part in the global fight against climate

change and will contribute to the global effort in dealing with climate change issues

through sustainable and inclusive growth and not by capping development. We

emphasize that developed country Parties to the UNFCCC shall provide enhanced

financial, technology and capacity building support for the preparation and

implementation of nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries.

31. We believe that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is a

unique opportunity for the international community to renew its high-level political

commitment to supporting the overarching sustainable development framework

encompassing inclusive economic growth and development, social progress and

environment protection in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Rio

Declaration on Environment and Development, including the principle of common

but differentiated responsibilities, Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of

Implementation.

32. We consider that sustainable development should be the main paradigm in

environmental issues, as well as for economic and social strategies. We acknowledge

the relevance and focus of the main themes for the Conference namely, Green

Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication

(GESDPE) as well as Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD).

33. China, Russia, India and South Africa look forward to working with Brazil as the

host of this important Conference in June, for a successful and practical outcome.

Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa also pledge their support to working with

India as it hosts the 11th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on

Biological Diversity in October 2012 and look forward to a positive outcome. We will

continue our efforts for the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols, with

special attention to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair

and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, Biodiversity

Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and the Resource Mobilization Strategy.

34. We affirm that the concept of a ‘green economy’, still to be defined at Rio+20,

must be understood in the larger framework of sustainable development and poverty

eradication and is a means to achieve these fundamental and overriding priorities, not

an end in itself. National authorities must be given the flexibility and policy space to

make their own choices out of a broad menu of options and define their paths towards

sustainable development based on the country’s stage of development, national

strategies, circumstances and priorities. We resist the introduction of trade and

investment barriers in any form on the grounds of developing green economy.

35. The Millennium Development Goals remain a fundamental milestone in the

development agenda. To enable developing countries to obtain maximal results in

attaining their Millennium Development Goals by the agreed time-line of 2015, we

must ensure that growth in these countries is not affected. Any slowdown would have

serious consequences for the world economy. Attainment of the MDGs is

fundamental to ensuring inclusive, equitable and sustainable global growth and would

require continued focus on these goals even beyond 2015, entailing enhanced

financing support.

36. We attach the highest importance to economic growth that supports development

and stability in Africa, as many of these countries have not yet realised their full

economic potential. We will take our cooperation forward to support their efforts to

accelerate the diversification and modernisation of their economies. This will be

through infrastructure development, knowledge exchange and support for increased

access to technology, enhanced capacity building, and investment in human capital,

including within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development

(NEPAD).

37. We express our commitment to the alleviation of the humanitarian crisis that still

affects millions of people in the Horn of Africa and support international efforts to

this end.

38. Excessive volatility in commodity prices, particularly those for food and energy,

poses additional risks for the recovery of the world economy. Improved regulation of

the derivatives market for commodities is essential to avoid destabilizing impacts on

food and energy supplies. We believe that increased energy production capacities and

strengthened producer-consumer dialogue are important initiatives that would help in

arresting such price volatility.

39. Energy based on fossil fuels will continue to dominate the energy mix for the

foreseeable future. We will expand sourcing of clean and renewable energy, and use

of energy efficient and alternative technologies, to meet the increasing demand of our

economies and our people, and respond to climate concerns as well. In this context,

we emphasise that international cooperation in the development of safe nuclear

energy for peaceful purposes should proceed under conditions of strict observance of

relevant safety standards and requirements concerning design, construction and

operation of nuclear power plants. We stress IAEA’s essential role in the joint efforts

of the international community towards enhancing nuclear safety standards with a

view to increasing public confidence in nuclear energy as a clean, affordable, safe and

secure source of energy, vital to meeting global energy demands.

40. We have taken note of the substantive efforts made in taking intra-BRICS

cooperation forward in a number of sectors so far. We are convinced that there is a

storehouse of knowledge, know-how, capacities and best practices available in our

countries that we can share and on which we can build meaningful cooperation for the

benefit of our peoples. We have endorsed an Action Plan for the coming year with

this objective.

41. We appreciate the outcomes of the Second Meeting of BRICS Ministers of

Agriculture and Agrarian Development at Chengdu, China in October 2011. We

direct our Ministers to take this process forward with particular focus on the potential

of cooperation amongst the BRICS to contribute effectively to global food security

and nutrition through improved agriculture production and productivity, transparency

in markets and reducing excessive volatility in commodity prices, thereby making a

difference in the quality of lives of the people particularly in the developing world.

42. Most of BRICS countries face a number of similar public health challenges,

including universal access to health services, access to health technologies, including

medicines, increasing costs and the growing burden of both communicable and noncommunicable

diseases. We direct that the BRICS Health Ministers meetings, of

which the first was held in Beijing in July 2011, should henceforth be institutionalized

in order to address these common challenges in the most cost-effective, equitable and

sustainable manner.

43. We have taken note of the meeting of S&T Senior Officials in Dalian, China in

September 2011, and, in particular, the growing capacities for research and

development and innovation in our countries. We encourage this process both in

priority areas of food, pharma, health and energy as well as basic research in the

emerging inter-disciplinary fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced

materials science, etc. We encourage flow of knowledge amongst our research

institutions through joint projects, workshops and exchanges of young scientists.

44. The challenges of rapid urbanization, faced by all developing societies including

our own, are multi-dimensional in nature covering a diversity of inter-linked issues.

We direct our respective authorities to coordinate efforts and learn from best practices

and technologies available that can make a meaningful difference to our societies. We

note with appreciation the first meeting of BRICS Friendship Cities held in Sanya in

December 2011 and will take this process forward with an Urbanization and Urban

Infrastructure Forum along with the Second BRICS Friendship Cities and Local

Governments Cooperation Forum.

45. Given our growing needs for renewable energy resources as well as on energy

efficient and environmentally friendly technologies, and our complementary strengths

in these areas, we agree to exchange knowledge, know-how, technology and best

practices in these areas.

46. It gives us pleasure to release the first ever BRICS Report, coordinated by India,

with its special focus on the synergies and complementarities in our economies. We

welcome the outcomes of the cooperation among the National Statistical Institutions

of BRICS and take note that the updated edition of the BRICS Statistical Publication,

released today, serves as a useful reference on BRICS countries.

47. We express our satisfaction at the convening of the III BRICS Business Forum

and the II Financial Forum and acknowledge their role in stimulating trade relations

among our countries. In this context, we welcome the setting up of BRICS Exchange

Alliance, a joint initiative by related BRICS securities exchanges.

48. We encourage expanding the channels of communication, exchanges and peopleto-

people contact amongst the BRICS, including in the areas of youth, education,

culture, tourism and sports.

49. Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa extend their warm appreciation and sincere

gratitude to the Government and the people of India for hosting the Fourth BRICS

Summit in New Delhi.

50. Brazil, Russia, India and China thank South Africa for its offer to host the Fifth

BRICS Summit in 2013 and pledge their full support.

Delhi Action Plan

1. Meeting of BRICS Foreign Ministers on sidelines of UNGA.

2. Meetings of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on sidelines of G20

meetings/other multilateral (WB/IMF) meetings.

3. Meeting of financial and fiscal authorities on the sidelines of WB/IMF meetings as

well as stand-alone meetings, as required.

4. Meetings of BRICS Trade Ministers on the margins of multilateral events, or standalone

meetings, as required.

5. The Third Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, preceded by a preparatory

meeting of experts on agro-products and food security issues and the second Meeting

of Agriculture Expert Working Group.

6. Meeting of BRICS High Representatives responsible for national security.

7. The Second BRICS Senior Officials’ Meeting on S&T.

8. The First meeting of the BRICS Urbanisation Forum and the second BRICS

Friendship Cities and Local Governments Cooperation Forum in 2012 in India.

9. The Second Meeting of BRICS Health Ministers.

10. Mid-term meeting of Sous-Sherpas and Sherpas.

11. Mid-term meeting of CGETI (Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues).

12. The Third Meeting of BRICS Competition Authorities in 2013.

13. Meeting of experts on a new Development Bank.

14. Meeting of financial authorities to follow up on the findings of the BRICS Report.

15. Consultations amongst BRICS Permanent Missions in New York, Vienna and

Geneva, as required.

16. Consultative meeting of BRICS Senior Officials on the margins of relevant

environment and climate related international fora, as necessary.

17. New Areas of Cooperation to explore:

(i) Multilateral energy cooperation within BRICS framework.

(ii) A general academic evaluation and future long-term strategy for BRICS.

(iii) BRICS Youth Policy Dialogue.

(iv) Cooperation in Population related issues.

New Delhi

March 29, 2012

Column in The Hindu: “Banking on BRICS to deliver”

New Delhi, 27th of March 2012
Please find here the link to the original article

If conceptualised carefully, the Bank can help rebalance the global economy leading to equitable and resilient growth.

Even as New Delhi prepares for the arrival of BRICS Heads of States towards the later part of the week, media and experts across the world continue to debate the relevance, capacity and cohesiveness of the grouping. The common refrain in the western press is that it is a ‘motley crew’ with little in common and therefore with little capability to create institutions and multilateral platforms of substance. Well, they may be in for a surprise. In fact, BRICS may also surprise itself.

Besides the usual declarations on cooperation on political matters, social challenges, climate and energy, food and water, health and education, industry and trade, BRICS is likely to make two significant announcements this time, which will, in many ways, mark its coming of age. First — the formal launch of the “BRICS Exchange Alliance” in which the major stock exchanges of BRICS countries will offer investors index-based derivatives trading options of exchanges in domestic currency. This will allow investors within BRICS to invest in each other’s progress, expand the offerings of the individual exchanges, facilitate greater liquidity, while simultaneously strengthening efforts to deepen financial integration through market-determined mechanisms. From talking to people in the know, this alliance is good to go, and the operational modalities around currency, settlement cycles and inter-exchange regulatory coordination are all issues that have been thought through and resolved.

‘South-South bank’

The second announcement that has people most interested is on the much discussed “BRICS Bank” or the “South-South Bank” that many consider to be an Indian proposal for creating an institution that can serve the development needs and aspirations of the emerging and developing world. This proposal saw much debate (some heated) at the recent BRICS Academic Forum and surely was a key issue for deliberations at the recently concluded BRICS Finance Ministers Meeting. There are many complex and some contested issues that need to be discussed and thought through, but due to the growing support for such an institution among BRICS it is almost certain that the leaders will, at the very least, announce a working group to study the feasibility and operational modalities of such a multilateral bank. Whether they are bold enough to suggest a time line for its establishment remains to be seen but in the opinion of many, it is an idea whose time has come.

Foremost amongst the reasons for the creation of the institution is the need for BRICS to assume pole position in global financial governance. BRICS nations represent nearly half the world’s population. Two of them are already among the top five economies in purchasing power parity terms, and four are in the top 10. If conceptualised carefully, such an institution will have the potential to reshape and realign the global development agenda positively. It can also help to efficiently redistribute and redirect savings available with the emerging economies to infrastructure and social development in the same regions and, therefore, contribute to the rebalancing of the global economy.

Several multilateral banks already exist, that serve as templates for creating a new institution. The World Bank, which is deeply embedded in the global development narratives, serves as a particularly relevant example. If a multilateral BRICS bank is instituted, its functions would not supplant the role of existing multilateral banks that support development, but rather, supplement them. And this supplementary instrument is needed as multilateral banks such as the World Bank, ADB, etc., have not been growing significantly in terms of the total amount of loans disbursed. While there was a jump in disbursals following the financial crisis, the normalisation process is already under way. On the other hand, demand for funds for infrastructure and social transformation grows unabated in BRICS and the developing world.

But how would the BRICS Bank work? There are doubts expressed in some quarters on the process of capitalisation itself. The Bank would have to raise capital from open market operations; floating debt to finance lending operations. While the reliance on markets for raising capital would make the fiscal asymmetries within BRICS nations irrelevant, the sovereign ratings of some of the members, who will collectively be the shareholders of a BRICS Bank, are barely investment grade. This would limit the amount of capital that could be raised from the financial markets and also affect the cost of capital and therefore the cost of lending. One suggested solution is the sequestration of a proportion of foreign reserves of BRICS members into a trust fund that would back-stop the borrowed capital. In the case of the World Bank, the total paid-up capital is around 10 per cent while the rest is AAA rated ‘callable capital’, which has never been requisitioned. To enhance the creditworthiness further, existing multilateral banks, and other western countries could also be given minority stakes.

China’s role

The second element that is always embedded in the discussions around the bank is the role of China. An impression is sought to be created that with its massive monetary reserves and political clout, China may exert undue influence in this bank. This is unlikely. Such a bank will not require too much paid-up capital (relative to the average size of respective sovereign reserves) if intelligent financial engineering can help sequester foreign reserves. This would mean that the smallest BRICS economy, South Africa, could easily commit an amount similar to that of China in the capital structure. Such doubts could be further allayed with the institution of a rotating Presidency of, say, a two-year term that could initially be restricted to the BRICS countries alone. In any case, the charter of any modern day banking institution with sovereign stakeholders would need to include the mandates of transparency and independence, which would make the institution as viable as any.

The third aspect that remains central to the viability of such a bank is the currency of business. There would be expectations that such a bank would transact in local currencies where possible and in international currency when needed. The bank would need to work with the right currency mix to mitigate credit risk while simultaneously balancing intricate political dynamics within BRICS. For instance, being a current account deficit country, India would not be averse to the U.S. dollar being the currency of disbursal while Brazil with its appreciating “Real’ may prefer local currency. The Chinese may see this bank as a platform for promoting the Renminbi as the currency of choice, especially among the emerging and developing countries. Ultimately, the right mix would need to take into account monetary policy and exchange rate imperatives of each of the primary sovereign stakeholders and in a manner that makes this venture uncomplicated and attractive to other stakeholders as well.

The fourth aspect is the business mandate of such a bank. An effective development bank would have to integrate the multiple economic priorities. Key areas such as infrastructure and the medium and small scale enterprises sector could be natural starting points. The Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) could be considered an exemplar. The BNDES disbursed close to $140 billion in 2011, with around 30 per cent going to the medium to small enterprises sector (MSME) and about 40 per cent going to large infrastructure projects. The BNDES also played a crucial role in stabilising the Brazilian economy after the financial crisis by stepping up development assistance. Similarly, a BRICS Bank could also assume the role of a financial support mechanism which appropriately responds to the variabilities in the global economy.

Corporations are the primary growth drivers of BRICS economies. They create economic momentum, new business opportunities and, most importantly, in the context of BRICS, employment. The creation of SPVs to cater to the investment and insurance needs of corporations would therefore complement the development agenda. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) provide readymade frameworks. The IFC provides investment solutions for the private sector through services such as equity finance and structured finance, while the MIGA provides non commercial risk insurance guarantees. Guarantees against political risk — which is a significant investment constraint in emerging markets — could facilitate a spurt of new business activity within BRICS, and lest we imagine this instrument to be risk-laden, MIGA has paid only six insurance claims since it was set up in 1988 and needs no counter guarantees.

Need for consensus

BRICS is in transition and cannot afford to lose growth momentum. Multilateral institutions such as a BRICS Bank can aid in sustaining directed, equitable and resilient growth. A consensus on the creation of such an institution would be a very real expression of intent by BRICS to craft alternative development trajectories to those passed down by the OECD countries. And it is also time to Bank with BRICS.

Samir Saran is Vice-President and Vivan Sharan an Associate Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. The foundation hosted the BRICS Academic Forum in March this year.

Meeting His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

An extraordinary meeting with His Holiness The Dalai Lama in New Delhi organised by an unnamed friend and accompanied by my dear friend Wendy. In the 30 minutes or so that we were able to spend with him, I was able to ask him about China and the growth of religion in that country and its implications. His Holiness was very lucid in his views on China and the possible changes, the Tibetan youth and incidents of violence and his great love and admiration for India and its people shone through. His views remain with me alone, yet i left the room with some thought that i will capture in another article soon…

My own thoughts post this meeting:

1) How will the Tibetan population exist in India post the Dalai Lama and how would the dynamics alter?

2) Will the youth get restless on both sides of the border and which country would bear the brunt – India or China?

3) Even a more democratic China may not mean reintegration for the Tibetans in India?

4) How does it feel to be a nation without real estate?

5) How does he still smile while recounting his story?

Perhaps these are old posers….perhaps they still need to be understood…perhaps they never will be….

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Column in The Economic Times: “Building a new world”

Economic Times of India
14th of March 2012
Please find here the PDF version of Article – Building a new world1

The 4th BRICS Academic Forum recently concluded in New Delhi. Over 60 delegates representing academic institutions, think tanks and expert community from the member countries participated in substantial debates that covered virtually every challenge and opportunity of contemporary times. The debates were intense, sometimes combative but almost always conducted among friends. This was the key takeaway from this meeting. The community is strong, it is aware of the differences, eager to resolve those and is comfortable with the irresolvables. The skeptics of BRICS for four years, would now need to rethink, this group has evolved, this group sees potential in greater and deeper engagement, and this group is capable of proposing bold and visionary ideas at the New Delhi Summit later this month and in the other interactions before and after.

This was not always the case and we only have to recall the early days of the relationship. To anyone witnessing one of the early Track 2 interactions on a cold day in Moscow in 2008, it would have seemed improbable that the grouping would come this far. There was early hesitance and unformed agendas among each of the experts gathered from the four countries (at that time BRIC). The Brazilian experts were unsure of their being there in the first place. A very prominent diplomat from Brazil saying, “why are we here, why do you need us, you are all neighbours and should talk amongst yourselves”. The Russians at that time, and who must be credited for the inception of the BRIC idea, saw in it a political opportunity to create a grouping of that could counter the Atlantic alliance and the Western economic and political weight. They were to be dissappointed, India and China were already deeply integrated with the US and EU in the arena of trade and economics and would not play ball. The experts from China liked the BRIC idea, which could be another instrument for projecting their growing pole position in world affairs and India was beginning to manage the nuances of diverse relationships in multi-polar world. It had also learnt from the SCO experience and this time it would not demur.

However, the early days of the conversations amongst experts and indeed among the policy makers from these countries lacked detail. This has changed, from the macro discussions on global governance, financial architecture, security and greater coordination, the discussions today focus on the substantive, on experince sharing, on creating institutions and linking up existing ones. In the fourth year of the BRICS (South Africa joined last year), the group has come of age. This is attested to by two facts. First, the experts from the four countries have signed an agreement to step up their interactions which till now have been sporadic and on the sidelines of the Leaders Summit and two, the wide ranging recommendations that the experts forum has submitted for the consideration of the Leaders at the summit in New Delhi demonstrate the limitless possibilities for the grouping.

The Forum’s recommendations to the 4th BRICS Leaders Summit to be held in New Delhi on March 29th are relevant and actionable. They are the result of intense discussions, debates and negotiations between the delegates on common challenges and opportunities faced by BRICS members, as they seek to set the global agendas for governance and development going forward. The theme for this year’s Academic Forum was “Stability, Security and Growth” – all common imperatives for the emerging and developing BRICS nations.

17 policy recommendations were carefully crafted by the Forum and are centred on key priorities for BRICS within the aegis of governance, socio-economic development, security and growth. The mandate of the Forum was to provide concrete policy alternatives to BRICS Leaders and to the credit of the delegates this year, the recommendations may have lived up to the mandate. The Forum deliberated context specific micro debates embedded within larger narratives. Varied and significant themes were addressed including the articulation of a common vision for the future; a framework to respond to regional and global crises; climate change and sustainable resource use; urbanization and its associated challenges; improving access to healthcare at all levels; scaling up and implementing new education and skilling initiatives; the conceptualization of financial mechanisms to support and drive economic growth; and finally sharing technologies, innovations and improving the cooperation across industrial sectors and geographies.

The Forum deliberated upon two distinct sets of engagement. One set of engagements is through research and initiatives that are “Intra-BRICS” in nature. These involve experience sharing across social policy, resource efficiency, poverty alleviation programmes, sustainable development ideas, innovation and growth. Each of these themes can be effectively mapped to help tailor policy within BRICS. The recommendations highlight the possibilities for enhancing such engagements through exchange of institutional experiences and processes, free flow of scholars and students, joint policy research, capacity and capability building for facilitating such interactions.

The second set of engagements and outcomes pertain to interaction of BRICS with other nations,  external actors and groupings at various multi-lateral forums and institutions. These are reflected in the recommendations pertaining to climate policies, Rio +20, financial crisis management, traditional security threats, terrorism and other new threats and global challenges around health, IPR and development.

The Forum provided a valuable platform for exchange of perspectives between delegates without adhering to national positions or party loyalties. There were heated debates on issues such as the possible institutionalisation of a BRICS Development Bank and an Infrastructure Investment Fund that could assist in the development aspirations of the BRICS and other developing countries. The discussions on the setting up on new, credible institutions to initially supplement and eventually substitute existing financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF reflect the strong desire of BRICS to move ahead and away from the traditional development agendas of 20th century institutions that are today incapable of empathising with some of the realities and aspirations of the 21st century. This is perhaps a reflection on the way Bretton Woods Institutions are managed and governed and indeed to their legitimacy itself.

The recommendations reveal that BRICS view the sustainable development agenda through the lens of inclusive growth and equitable development primarily. The recommendations have also clarified that BRICS will continue to focus on achieving efficiency gains in resource use. Both these outcomes point towards resolute and far sighted policy guidance by the Forum. Climate change mitigation debates which have become a proxy for “Promoting Green Technology” and indeed are an outcome of “re-industrialisation policy” of some EU countries were conspicuous by their absence from the debates. Instead, with “plurality in prosperity” as a common ideal, the outcomes also signify that the research community within BRICS want the sustainability discourse to shift from one that emphasises common responsibility to one that emphasises common prosperity. This means that BRICS must attempt to reorient consumption patterns and energy use globally, towards sustainable trajectories. The BRICS Leaders would do well to replicate the cohesiveness of the BRICS academics in the articulation of their vision for creating sustainable economies, ecologies and societies. Similarly the promotion of cultural cooperation, establishing innovation linkages, sharing pathways to universal healthcare and medicine for all, strenghthening indigenous knowledge are all recommendations that are timely and appropriate.

The gradual transition process of BRICS becoming the global agenda setters has been one of the more exciting developments to watch and study. While sceptics may still dismiss the possibility of BRICS being “rule-makers”, it is unlikely that they will not influence “rule-making” processes. The experts at the forum were unambiguous in their vision for the grouping. While recognising that in many instances BRICS might eventually yield to sub optimal policy formulations due to national agendas and geo-political constraints, they were determined that the incubation period is over and now the bar must always be set high and the leaders must be ambitious. In the words of one of the delegates at the 4th BRICS Academic Forum, BRICS have indeed created a “new geography of cooperation” and opportunities are boundless.

Samir Saran is Vice-President and Vivan Sharan an Associate Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. The foundation hosted the 4th BRICS Academic Forum. 

Article in “Russia & India Report”: BRICS for a new world

by Samir Saran and Vivan Sharan
March 12th, 2011
Please find here the original article

The 4th BRICS Academic Forum recently concluded in New Delhi. Over 60 delegates representing academic institutions, think tanks and expert community from the member countries participated in substantial debates that covered virtually every challenge and opportunity of contemporary times. The debates were intense, sometimes combative but almost always conducted among friends. This was the key takeaway from this meeting. The community is strong, it is aware of the differences, eager to resolve those and is comfortable with the irresolvables. The skeptics of BRICS for four years, would now need to rethink, this group has evolved, this group sees potential in greater and deeper engagement, and this group is capable of proposing bold and visionary ideas at the New Delhi Summit later this month and in the other interactions before and after.

This was not always the case and we only have to recall the early days of the relationship. To anyone witnessing one of the early Track 2 interactions on a cold day in Moscow in 2008, it would have seemed improbable that the grouping would come this far. There was early hesitance and unformed agendas among each of the experts gathered from the four countries (at that time BRIC). The Brazilian experts were unsure of their being there in the first place. A very prominent diplomat from Brazil saying, “why are we here, why do you need us, you are all neighbours and should talk amongst yourselves”. The Russians at that time, and who must be credited for the inception of the BRIC idea, saw in it a political opportunity to create a grouping of that could counter the Atlantic alliance and the Western economic and political weight. They were to be dissappointed, India and China were already deeply integrated with the US and EU in the arena of trade and economics and would not play ball. The experts from China liked the BRIC idea, which could be another instrument for projecting their growing pole position in world affairs and India was beginning to manage the nuances of diverse relationships in multi-polar world. It had also learnt from the SCO experience and this time it would not demur.

However, the early days of the conversations amongst experts and indeed among the policy makers from these countries lacked detail. This has changed, from the macro discussions on global governance, financial architecture, security and greater coordination, the discussions today focus on the substantive, on experince sharing, on creating institutions and linking up existing ones. In the fourth year of the BRICS (South Africa joined last year), the group has come of age. This is attested to by two facts. First, the experts from the four countries have signed an agreement to step up their interactions which till now have been sporadic and on the sidelines of the Leaders Summit and two, the wide ranging recommendations that the experts forum has submitted for the consideration of the Leaders at the summit in New Delhi demonstrate the limitless possibilities for the grouping.

The Forum’s recommendations to the 4th BRICS Leaders Summit to be held in New Delhi on March 29th are relevant and actionable. They are the result of intense discussions, debates and negotiations between the delegates on common challenges and opportunities faced by BRICS members, as they seek to set the global agendas for governance and development going forward. The theme for this year’s Academic Forum was “Stability, Security and Growth” – all common imperatives for the emerging and developing BRICS nations.

17 policy recommendations were carefully crafted by the Forum and are centred on key priorities for BRICS within the aegis of governance, socio-economic development, security and growth. The mandate of the Forum was to provide concrete policy alternatives to BRICS Leaders and to the credit of the delegates this year, the recommendations may have lived up to the mandate. The Forum deliberated context specific micro debates embedded within larger narratives. Varied and significant themes were addressed including the articulation of a common vision for the future; a framework to respond to regional and global crises; climate change and sustainable resource use; urbanization and its associated challenges; improving access to healthcare at all levels; scaling up and implementing new education and skilling initiatives; the conceptualization of financial mechanisms to support and drive economic growth; and finally sharing technologies, innovations and improving the cooperation across industrial sectors and geographies.

The Forum deliberated upon two distinct sets of engagement. One set of engagements is through research and initiatives that are “Intra-BRICS” in nature. These involve experience sharing across social policy, resource efficiency, poverty alleviation programmes, sustainable development ideas, innovation and growth. Each of these themes can be effectively mapped to help tailor policy within BRICS. The recommendations highlight the possibilities for enhancing such engagements through exchange of institutional experiences and processes, free flow of scholars and students, joint policy research, capacity and capability building for facilitating such interactions.

The second set of engagements and outcomes pertain to interaction of BRICS with other nations,  external actors and groupings at various multi-lateral forums and institutions. These are reflected in the recommendations pertaining to climate policies, Rio +20, financial crisis management, traditional security threats, terrorism and other new threats and global challenges around health, IPR and development.

The Forum provided a valuable platform for exchange of perspectives between delegates without adhering to national positions or party loyalties. There were heated debates on issues such as the possible institutionalisation of a BRICS Development Bank and an Infrastructure Investment Fund that could assist in the development aspirations of the BRICS and other developing countries. The discussions on the setting up on new, credible institutions to initially supplement and eventually substitute existing financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF reflect the strong desire of BRICS to move ahead and away from the traditional development agendas of 20th century institutions that are today incapable of empathising with some of the realities and aspirations of the 21st century. This is perhaps a reflection on the way Bretton Woods Institutions are managed and governed and indeed to their legitimacy itself.

The recommendations reveal that BRICS view the sustainable development agenda through the lens of inclusive growth and equitable development primarily. The recommendations have also clarified that BRICS will continue to focus on achieving efficiency gains in resource use. Both these outcomes point towards resolute and far sighted policy guidance by the Forum. Climate change mitigation debates which have become a proxy for “Promoting Green Technology” and indeed are an outcome of “re-industrialisation policy” of some EU countries were conspicuous by their absence from the debates. Instead, with “plurality in prosperity” as a common ideal, the outcomes also signify that the research community within BRICS want the sustainability discourse to shift from one that emphasises common responsibility to one that emphasises common prosperity. This means that BRICS must attempt to reorient consumption patterns and energy use globally, towards sustainable trajectories. The BRICS Leaders would do well to replicate the cohesiveness of the BRICS academics in the articulation of their vision for creating sustainable economies, ecologies and societies. Similarly the promotion of cultural cooperation, establishing innovation linkages, sharing pathways to universal healthcare and medicine for all, strenghthening indigenous knowledge are all recommendations that are timely and appropriate.

The gradual transition process of BRICS becoming the global agenda setters has been one of the more exciting developments to watch and study. While sceptics may still dismiss the possibility of BRICS being “rule-makers”, it is unlikely that they will not influence “rule-making” processes. The experts at the forum were unambiguous in their vision for the grouping. While recognising that in many instances BRICS might eventually yield to sub optimal policy formulations due to national agendas and geo-political constraints, they were determined that the incubation period is over and now the bar must always be set high and the leaders must be ambitious. In the words of one of the delegates at the 4th BRICS Academic Forum, BRICS have indeed created a “new geography of cooperation” and opportunities are boundless.

Samir Saran is Vice-President and Vivan Sharan an Associate Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. The foundation hosted the 4th BRICS Academic Forum.