India’s BRICS Chairmanship and its role in promoting new development paths

di Emanuela Scridel
18 luglio 2016

“Building Responsive, Inclusive & Collective Solutions” or simply “BRICS”: this is the “new brand” of India’s BRICS Chairmanship in 2016. Prime Minister Modi aims at promoting a new strategic vision of the BRICS. The acronym ‘BRICS’ is not just an acronym but it is a bulk of meanings which represents the change and the growth of the five emerging countries: responsible economic powers acting in the new global scenario.

India has assumed the chair of the BRICS from February 2016 to December 2016. The 2016 BRICS summit will be the eighth annual BRICS summit attended by the heads of state or heads of government of the five member states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; The summit will be held in Panaji Goa in India, from 15th to 16th October 2016. The 11 months of Chairmanship will be very crucial for India in two ways: first, in terms of shaping BRICS as an “institution”; second, building its role as a “responsive global leader” instead of just being an “economic power”.

What is to point out is that, adopting such a comprehensive approach India intends to implement a diversified strategy towards shaping BRICS, which is, shifting the priority from a limited economic rationale to a more global one, where the key challenge is combating “global terrorism’ . In this way the BRICS group is going to become a key player non only for what concerns the global governance but also for what concerns global security. The BRICS are then going to shaping themselves as a new “multilateral institution”.

It is not a case thsat in his latest speeches, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, strongly condemn the recent terror attacks at the BRICS leaders meeting and calls for “the need for a united global effort to combat terrorism”. So, considering the international relations of each of the BRICS countries and the twines of the international relations on the whole – whose effects could be compared to those produced by the so-called “spaghetti bowl” in terms of international economic policy – a joint action of the BRICS could be crucial in redefining the international coalitions and political global balance.

Indian Chairmanship of the BRICS has planned an agenda rich of events that focus on a variety of subjects ranging from renewable energy to scientific research, from measures to adopt for combating corruption to the establishment of a film festival.

Most of the topics that will be faced are those proposed by India in the last BRICS Summit held in UFA in 2015. In that occasion PM Modi had proposed the so-called ‘Das Kadam”, Ten Steps for the Future’, to put forward new initiatives for the BRICS grouping: BRICS trade fair, a railway research centre, cooperation among supreme audit institutions, a digital initiative, an agricultural research centre, a forum of state/local governments among the BRICS nations, cooperation among cities in the field of urbanization, a sports council and an annual sports meet, first major project of New Development Bank to be in the field of clean energy and a film festival. Given this agenda, the ten steps aim to build greater connectivity by tapping the potential among the BRICS countries. Along with these initiatives India also aims to build greater people-to-people contacts, developing deeper engagements and expanding the scope of the multilateral institutional ties.

In 2016 apart from assuming the BRICS Chairmanship, India also takes the first presidency over the BRICS New Development Bank which is headquartered in Shanghai. Among the priorities of the new Bank there is that of addressing investments in infrastructural works and renewable energy projects in developing countries, getting free from the ties of World Bank and IMF.

The new Development Bank wants to reach those areas with a high demographic density but that have no services. In this way the BRICS Bank goes to fill the needs  of those developing countries, like Africa, not so interesting for Western Banks and advance economies. For India as its President, the key point lies in fact in addressing the “inclusive and responsive” needs of those new emerging countries, hence, fulfilling the core objective of BRICS in developing a global financial institution where developing countries will have greater influence. Doing so the new Bank is going to become a competitor of the Western financial Institutions.

India, the largest democracy in the world, global economic giant, Member of the BRICS, near to become Member of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), Member of G20, aims at becoming “the regional power” in Asia. In order to reach this goal, India is increasing the relations with the neighbouring countries and trying to assume a new role in the region, developing an “economic dialogue” with China and getting closer to Russia in terms of power and military cooperation.

The ability of India to deal with countries inside and outside the BRICS is probably the distinctive point of strength that could be the leverage to reach most of the goals of the BRICS Agenda foreseen in 2016. This is confirmed by the declaration of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs last April in which he affirms to fully support the Indian Agenda for the BRICS: “In every way we support programmes outlined by the Indian presidency of the emerging economies of BRICS” Lavrov said.

As well relevant are the increasing relation between India and US: economic agreements amounting to more then 10 billion dollars, establishment of new Indian-American joint ventures, removals of trade barriers mainly for everything concerns the development of nuclear power.

Much more complex the relations between India and the EU. The BRICS hardly perceive the EU as a single body then continuing to develop relations with the Member States individually. On the other side the EU seems not to understand that the BRICS are becoming an “institution”.

Among the priorities of Indian BRICS Presidency Agenda is to foster knowledge and innovation.

In India the growth of the IT sector has been around 50% per year from 1993 till today and the turnover has been around 30 billion dollars: Bangalore District is ranked as one of the top Five Technology and Innovation Clusters in the world by the Word Economic Forum and it now competes with the Silicon Valley. India, just after the financial crash of the 1991, has understood that knowledge and human capital are the keys for growth: a growth based on the knowledge economy that is the distinctive point of the 21st century.

The EU has defined this era as the “era of knowledge”. Then, knowledge and innovation could be the key tools through develop a renewed dialogue between EU and the BRICS. Further, the specific characteristics of India, like being a democracy, to have a Common law system, have English as official language, its knowledge of Asian region, could be a value added for being a bridge between EU and BRICS, through the development of a joint multilateral diplomatic initiative.