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BRICS need to draw a Charter of Principles April 19, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Mishra, Binoda Kumar , trackback

Binoda Kumar Mishra

The recently concluded third BRIC and first BRICS summit is being perceived both optimistically and pessimistically. If one goes by the media reports, the Western media perception is somewhat rejectionist. While the West watches the developments in BRICS closely, it likes to think it does not emerge as a strong bloc. The Western fear lies in the current international trend which shows the decline in Western dominance and the sustained rise of non-Western countries, particularly the BRICS. The West is not unmindful of the fact that BRICS was a coinage originating from their own analysis of the future international economic situation. It was Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs who in 2001 predicted the growing importance of BRIC countries, particularly China in the coming decade. It secondly predicted in 2003 that by 2050 each of the BRIC countries would surpass the then G7 countries and specifically China would surpass all other economies except the US by 2016. To their surprise China reached that target six years early. Thus, there are genuine anxieties in the West about the loss of economic predominance to these BRIC countries.

To their further surprise, they are seeing the BRIC countries coming together to create a platform, particularly against the backdrop of global economic recession, to lead the global economic recovery. Only in its third year of existence, it has expanded with the inclusion of South Africa, making it BRICS. The Sanya summit of the BRICS leaders sends very interesting signals for the international community, which can be interpreted as pro-active and at the same time cautious. A cursory look at the declaration would suggest that it is an association of economically evolving countries pledging to assist each other in their aspiration to emerge as important economic powers. Viewed thus, it is an economic club with little political importance in international relations. The passing reference to the current turmoil in the Arab world is not significant as such posturing is not going to impact on the process that is unfolding in the Arab world. The West is not going to change course due to BRICS declaration against the use of force in Libya.

Now the important question is what is the importance of BRICS in the emerging international system? How effective is BRICS going to be in coming years? Though it is just three years old, BRICS has not been able to spell out the broad vision of the association. The Sanya meeting had “Broad Vision and Shared Prosperity” as its theme. If the Sanya Declaration is anything to go by, then what we saw is the attempt of achieving shared prosperity among the five fastest growing economies. The broad vision is conspicuously missing. In order to be accepted as an important entity, BRICS has to spell out in clear terms what are the broad visions of this platform and how this particular association is planning to achieve those visions. The absence of such articulation of broad vision can be attributed to the differing ideals of the members of BRICS. India and China, the two most important members of BRICS, have different political systems and different international political preferences. While India would prefer to see and work towards emergence of democratic regimes in all parts of the world, China seems to be more interested in maintaining the status quo in the domestic affairs of the present autocratic countries.

Secondly, there is a common aspiration or apprehension that BRICS is an alternative to the US in global dominance. If this is so then BRICS have to spell out in clear terms what their principles of global governance are. What is the BRICS’ stand on contemporary global issues such as terrorism, human rights and environment. The Sanya Declaration certainly talks about terrorism but says nothing as to how to deal with the issue of terror and terror imparting countries. On environment, it merely addresses the developmental concerns of the developing world making the stand less than a universal declaration or universally acceptable declaration. On human rights, BRICS is silent. Therefore, in order to emerge as an alternative model of global governance, BRICS have to chart a charter that is acceptable to all and particularly to those who are opposed to US domination of world affairs. Without that BRICS will not be perceived as an organisation of any political and strategic significance and at best would serve the interests of the five member countries in economic matters only. There is an old saying that temporary necessity cannot be the basis of permanent friendship. So when the economic recession is over the need for BRICS may diminish, leading either to internal conflict among the members or to liquidation of the forum.


1. Vikas - April 22, 2011

BRICS is unlikely to be effective as a group. A minor border conflict in Arunachal or Ladakh will suffice to paralyze BRICS. Chinese inability to address concerns on trade deficit with other members of BRICS is a persistent and therefore more important irritant.