By Dr Subhash Kapila
The 8th BRICS Summit is being hosted by India in Goa on October 15-16 2016 ordinarily would have passed off as an eventful diplomatic event, but it now takes place against a soured background due to adverse strategic postures against India by its member-nations in2016.
BRICS member nations line-up includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Intended as an economic grouping to prove as a counterweight to United States global dominance of financial institutions, BRICS has not met its intended goals as the strategic postures of its nations being contradictory to each other overwhelm and negatively impact the intended economic integration goals and its emergence as an alternative engine of global economic growth.
Major share of the blame for the generation of a soured background in2016 especially now hovering over any substantial outcome of the BRICS Summit 2016 needs to be shared by China and Russia as the leading nations of BRICS. Brazil and South Africa have succumbed to Chinese policy formulations opposing India and thereby ruling out their being cast as independent or neutral observers. India singularly stands alone in BRICS but not without economic and strategic clout.
China is politically and militarily adversarial to India now for decades and persisting as one is a recorded fact. The China-Pakistan Axis with strategic underpinnings pointedly aimed at India is also an established strategic reality. India vainly keeps hoping that economics would ultimately prevail and modulate China’s patent targeting of India’s strategic rise in Indo Pacific Asia.
In 2016, in the run-up to BRICS 2016, China has belied all hopes that it can transform its pronounced anti-India and pro-Pakistan tilt in its policy formulations. China continues with its border intrusions into India on specious grounds; China is dismissive of India’s objections to route its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through disputed territory of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir; China vetoed resolutions in the United Nations to declare Pakistan’s major terrorist leader Hafeez Saeed as a “global terrorist” a resolution supported overwhelmingly; China vetoed India’s entry into the Nuclear Supplier Group to honour Pakistan’s objections to the same and now in September assures Pakistan that it would come to its aid should any offensives are launched against it.
Ironically, China sent its top Foreign Office dignitary to persuade India not to raise the South China Sea issue at the G20 Meet last month in China but on the eve of the BRICS Summit, China as per media reports emerging today, has for the third time issued its veto on branding Pakistani terrorist Hafeez Saeed as a global terrorist. China therefore by shielding Pakistan’s mastermind of terrorism against India legally emerges as an accessory to the fact of conniving in Pakistan’s strategy of Jihadi terrorism.
Further to express solidarity with Pakistan, China at the same time has let it newly emerge that China will be diverting the waters of a tributary of the River Brahmaputra which not only flows into India but also to Bangladesh. This again to please Pakistan that should India scrap the Indus Waters Treaty to pressurise Pakistan, China would use its own pressure points against India to help Pakistan to stand upto India.
Russia has joined China’s strategic bandwagon more openly in 2016. Russia has indulged in an unfriendly strategic pivot to Pakistan after decades of professing endurable strategic partnership with India. Galling for Indian public opinion was the deplorable spectacle of a time-tested strategic partner deciding to continue with its first-ever joint military exercise with the Pakistan Army, agonisingly for India, when Pakistani terrorists had attacked the Uri Army Base and killed twenty soldiers. Russia as a mark of sentimental respect for India could have cancelled the joint exercise with the Pakistan Army. Russia first announced cancellation of this joint exercise but later made a U-turn and decoded to continue with the joint exercise with Pakistan, seemingly under China’s pressures.
Brazil with which India professes to have substantial ties elected to follow China in opposing India’s entry into the NSG at the Seoul Meet in June 2016. Obviously Brazil was succumbing to Chinese pressure. It had no other plausible reason other than sounding technicalities.
South Africa despite all Indian friendly overtures towards establishing substantial ties with this strategically placed nation on the Indian Ocean littoral tilts heavily towards China. This got reflected when South Africa sided with China in opposing India’s entry into the NSG at the Seoul Meet in July 2016.
With such a soured contextual political background hovering over and clouding India’s intra-BRICS relationships no logical conclusions emerge on analysis as to the optimistic prospects of BRICS Summit in October 2016 in Goa.
With no political and strategic gains accruing to India from its BRICS membership attention logically turns to whether any economic gains have so accrued to India. There does not seem to be any. In fact amongst all the BRICS member nations it is the Indian economy which is registering the fastest and sustained rates of economic growth without any substantial economic inputs from BRICS nations.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the BRICS Eighth Summit at Goa on October15-16 2016, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj listed India’s central priorities during its year-long of holding the BRICS chair. These priorities were listed as (1) Institution Building (2) Implementation (3) Integration (4) Innovation (5) Continuity and Consolidation
All of the above priorities denote on closer analysis as vague and abstract, possibly, reflecting the prevailing ground realities of a soured contextual background.
The point was also made that India would push for greater economic growth and reform of global financial institutions. How can India push for economic growth of the stagnant or declining economies of the four other BRICS nations? India needs to bother about sustaining its own economic growth. There was also a call for reform of global financial institutions. Why should the United States oblige China and Russia on this score? Why should India indulge in advocacy for them? With growing US-India strategic relationship automatically global financial institutions would oblige India. Where does BRICS come in on this for India?
The only gain that accrues to India is that BRICS Summit this month would afford an opportunity for India for dialogues with the Chinese President and the Russian President. In fact a separate Russia-India Annual Summit will also be held in Goa after the BRICS Summit.
India’s dialogues with the Chinese President simply amount to a dialogue with the deaf. India even with PM Modi’s persuasive diplomacy cannot steer him away from Pakistan. On the contrary, China can be expected to adopt more hard line approaches to India to please Pakistan.
The Russian President has displayed a flawed and uncalled for insensitivity on India’s strong sensitivities on Pakistan’s disruptive policies against India. It is difficult for him to make a U-turn again.
The Eighth BRICS Summit has no potential to emerge as a game-changer in current international relations template in any manner, not even political signalling.
Recalling the Fourth BRICS Summit held in India the thrust was that BRICS would provide an over-arching organisation spanning continents for maintenance of “Global Stability, Global Security, and Global Prosperity”. Noble words rhetorically but hardly provide strategic solace to India in view of the BRICS member nations adopting unfriendly policy postures against India in 2016 in the run-up to the Eighth BRICS Summit, once again in India. Surely, India needs to review its continued membership of BRICS.
Concluding, one would like to again re-emphasise that India should withdraw from all China-dominated, China-centric or China-led so-called international organisations. They serve no useful strategic purpose as in China’s strategic blueprint Pakistan is the linchpin for strategic containment of India. Memberships of such China-centric organisations are now becoming an avoidable drag on the new directions adopted in the foreign policy thrusts of PM Modi.