Special Reports

India plays important role at Brics summit

Aneesa Fazel

It is critical for developing economies to work together for progress.

India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh (courtesy IHC)

The fifth Brics summit, which took place between March 26 and 27 in Durban, was the first meeting held on the African continent between leaders of the five top emerging economies.

The theme, Brics and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation, was a move to show commitment to develop partnerships with the continent and the rest of the developing world. South Africa was invited to join Brazil, Russia, India and China on September 21 2010, officially forming Brics.

President Jacob Zuma was given the Chair of Brics by India's Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to lead the Brics forums this year.

Before leaving India to attend the summit, Singh said: "As the current Brics chair, India received the unstinted support of its partners in successfully implementing the ambitious agenda adopted at the New Delhi Summit in March 2012.

"The Durban Summit gives us an opportunity to make further progress on the initiatives that we launched in Delhi to deepen intra-Brics cooperation and fulfil our international responsibilities. I look forward to discussions on new ideas in Durban to advance our goals."

He said he was confident that President Zuma would further intra-Brics talks this year, and was enthusiastic to meet with China's new president, Xi JinPing, to maintain their countries's positive relationship.

Bound by history
He stressed the binding relationship between Africa and India through their solidarity during colonialism and apartheid.

"India has a special affinity for this city, because it was Durban that first welcomed the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, when he arrived in South Africa nearly 120 years ago in May 1893," he said.

The two countries share various partnerships in the India-Africa Forum. These partnerships will strengthen infrastructure development, institution building and others on the African continent. The most recent India-Africa Project Partnership was held a week before this year's summit.

On India's support to conflict resolution in Africa, Singh said: "More than 6 500 Indian soldiers support UN peacekeeping operations in various parts of Africa.

"A large Indian contingent is helping the UN stabilisation mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo to carry out its mandate.

"We have also made financial contributions to the African Union mission in Somalia and the African-led international support mission to Mali. We strongly support the restoration of Mali's territorial integrity as well as constitutional order in that country."

Finally, we should work for a reform of global institutions of political and economic governance that reflects contemporary realities and equips them more effectively to deal with emerging challenges. In particular, reform of the United Nations Security Council and the IMF are urgently needed.

Growing partnerships
At the summit, Singh said: "Our discussions demonstrated the similarity of our perspectives on many global issues, such as the situation in West Asia and efforts to rekindle global economic growth. A number of substantial outcomes, such as the launch of the Brics Business Council and the Consortium of Think Tanks, as well as the enabling agreements between our Development Banks to enhance financing of projects in Africa and for sustainable development, signify the promise of intra-Brics cooperation. This being the first Brics Summit on African soil, it is only appropriate that it includes a special Brics – Africa event and I look forward keenly to our interaction with African leaders later today.

"I once again thank President Zuma for hosting this Summit, and for admirably guiding it towards a very successful outcome. I also extend my best wishes to him as he takes over the Chairmanship of Brics. India's relations with Africa are rooted in the history of our solidarity against colonialism and apartheid. Mahatma Gandhi developed the tools of peaceful resistance on this very soil. Our engagement with Africa has come a long way since then and we have built a new template for partnership in the form of the India-Africa Forum Summit. This partnership is guided by the vision and priorities of our African partners. India will assist Africa in charting its own course through institution-building, infrastructure development and technical and vocational skill development.

"Human resource development and capacity-building assistance were mentioned in this very meeting, and we consider them to be at the core of India's cooperation with Africa, because they enable and empower people to take charge of their own future. Over 15,000 African students are studying in India. Agricultural and scientific fellowships specially designed for African scholars are highly popular. Our assistance with vocational and entrepreneurial skill development, with particular emphasis on small and medium enterprises, is helping promote employability and job creation for the youth in Africa".

Current Brics commitments
Brics ministers of trade issued a joint statement on March 26 with key recommendations. Some of these included their acknowledgment of the economic weight of emerging economies, but it was not being reflected in global institutions.

They hoped to continue working on governance reforms in these institutions. It also reflected on their support for the possibility of setting up a Brics Development Bank.

The Brics summit declaration also highlighted its concerns regarding the slow pace of reforms within the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The declaration of March 27 stated: "We call for the reform of International Financial Institutions to make them more representative and to reflect the growing weight of Brics and other developing countries.

"We remain concerned with the slow pace of the reform of the IMF. We see an urgent need to implement, as agreed, the 2010 IMF Governance and Quota Reform.

"We urge all members to take all necessary steps to achieve an agreement on the quota formula and complete the next general quota review by January 2014.

"The reform of the IMF should strengthen the voice and representation of the poorest members of the IMF, including Sub-Saharan Africa."

Furthermore, Singh said: "We will discuss ways to revive global growth and ensure macroeconomic stability, as well as mechanisms and measures to promote investment in infrastructure and sustainable development.

"India will also urge faster movement on reform of institutions of global political and economic governance. It is important that Brics continue to consult closely on developments affecting global peace and security."

The world today faces uncertainties, turbulence and transition on an unprecedented scale, leading to multiple economic and security challenges for us. Terrorism, piracy and the emerging threats from cyber-space are important security concerns for us. It is incumbent upon us to use our collective voice and capacity and make an effective and meaningful contribution to addressing these challenges and fostering global peace, stability and security.

In conclusion, let me once again reaffirm the importance that India attaches to BRICS, not only for the benefit of our people, but also for the world at large. My conviction comes not merely from our capacity, but also from the purposeful manner in which we have worked together. I am sure the forum will scale new heights in the years to come. I assure President Zuma of our full support as he leads this forum over the coming year.

Previous Brics commitments
India hosted the 4th Brics Summit on March 29 2012, where it formed the "India-China Friendship and Cooperation". This was a move to strengthen its political relationship with China. It aimed to respond jointly to challenges in the region and also contribute to peace in Asia.

Other commitments taken by the five nations at last year's summit included the master agreement on extending Credit Facility in Local Currency and the Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility agreements.

This intends to ultimately replace the dollar as the main trade currency between the countries.

They also called for a need to implement the 2010 Governance and Quota Reform, which they hoped would be achieved by January 2013. However, they reiterated their concern on this matter at this year's summit in Durban, citing January 2014 to be a commited date in seeing a reform in governance in global institutions.

On foreign policy matters, the five countries urged the international community to continue development projects in Afghanistan and cautioned against military intervention by the West into Syria.

History
As part of a modelling system to forecast global economic trends, economists at Goldman Sachs coined the term Bric (Brazil, Russia, India, China) for a bloc of nations with emerging market economies.

The first Bric summit was held in June 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The second Bric summit was held in Brazil in April 2010. In September of that year, the four nations agreed to invite South Africa to the group, making it Brics. The third Brics summit was held in Sanya, China in April 2011 and in New Delhi, India in April 2012.

Although this article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers, content and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G supplements editorial team. It forms part of a larger supplement.

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