Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 33.2020
2020.08.10 — 2020.08.16
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Africa: Moment of Truth for BRICS:Challenges, Opportunities and the Way Forward (Африка: момент истины для БРИКС: вызовы, возможности и путь вперед) / South Africa, August, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues, economic_challenges
South Africa

As already known, BRICS is an association of five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. South Africa joined the association in 2010. The BRICS has a significant influence on regional affairs and very active on the global stage. All of them are members of the G20. While the group has received both praise and criticism from different corners of the world, BRICS is steadily working towards realizing its set goals, bilateral relations among them are conducted on the basis of non-interference, equality and mutual benefits. In this exclusive interview, Dr Byelongo Elisee Isheloke, who is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town and has scholarly researched some aspects of BRICS for the past ten years, spoke with KesterKennKlomegah about his observations, the existing challenges, opportunities and the future perspectives of BRICS. Here are the interview excerpts;

South Africa joined BRICS in 2010, a decade ago, and so how do you assess South Africa in BRICS these years? What are its greatest contributions to the development of the group?

I would say South Africa is strongly committed to its engagement in the BRICS. It has hosted two of its summits. As an active member, it has what it takes to deliver despite the internal economic crises in South Africa. I think over the years, South Africa grew in confidence within the partnership, particularly when the first BRICS summit took place in Durban South Africa.

In the Durban 2013 BRICS summit, African presidents were invited to join leaders of BRICS and the theme evolved around Africa. In this context, South Africa regained its muscles as a BRICS member. South Africa therefore represents Africa well in the BRICS, in a way, and I think the African countries should support it. The only thing I think people want is to be more involved. While the BRICS started as a partnership of political nature, now that it has embraced economic development, the voice of the people must be heard.

The major problem of South Africa is that it is not robust economically compared to its BRICS counterparts, and its economy has been performing badly since the 2008/2009 world's economic crisis. It has been a zero growth economy ever since. If any growth, then it has been below 1%. South Africa has struggled to stabilize its economy during the past few years, and now the COVID-19 has exacerbated this but it is common to many countries around the world.

In your previous discussion, you talk about a transition from politics to economy. How do you see BRICS influence on international issues, its collective position on the global arena?

BRICS did not transit from politics to economy as such but put emphasis on economic projects. BRICS leaders still talk global politics while experts guide the leaders on foreign policy issues. For me, I think it is a very good approach going forward. BRICS must deliver on capital-intensive infrastructure development, and the funding from the New Development Bank (BRICS) is critical in this regard. With good policies in place, this will help the SADC region and the rest of Africa. It is great that the branch of this bank operates from Johannesburg in South Africa.

Furthermore, I must say that BRICS influence on international scale is dented by minor problems in the organization. For example, the diplomatic conflict between India and China, the fact that both Russia and China wants to be in a position of favor with the United States on diplomatic ground, this is not helping its influence globally. I think BRICS must clean its home, or clean before its door, if it wants to be the balancing power in international affairs. The other problem is the capital issue. At the moment, the BRICS do not have the muscles to outcompete the Bretton Wood Institutions, the World Bank and IMF. More investment, more capital is needed in the BRICS Bank.

In the past, there was the lack of synergy in diplomatic position as far as the BRICS is concerned. In the UN Security Council, for instance, the BRICS have to consult in order to accommodate views on issues of global importance. We know that South Africa is a member of the SADC and there is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), another SADC country, which has a plethora of problems of security and economic nature. I think that any assistance from such an organization (BRICS) would be appreciated.

Quite recently, more than 200 civilians known as the Bembe people were massacred in the eastern DRC by Ngumino and Twagineho militias. These militias are of foreign origin to the DRC. This news is not broadcasted in South Africa, if the BRICS could invest more in peace-keeping mission,maybe help the current government, perhaps it could help the failing Monusco, a UN mission in the DRC. It is such engagement that can make the BRICS shine internationally. They need a collective position on global issues. This is just one example.

In relation to economy and trade, what are your arguments about collaboration among BRICS? Do you also see China and India racing for global dominance, and Russia steadily raising its business profile on global stage?

With regard to this question, this is what I have to say. In fact, trade protectionism is only good temporarily and it works only in the short run. It is not sustainable as a policy in the long term. We know in the 17th century it was promoted in European countries but there was a time when the Laissez-faire ideology took precedence on economic isolationism. We also know that a couple of BRICS countries have a communist background (Russia and China). What I can say is that China opened up its economy to trade, and for more than 30 years, it manage to build a robust economy (now considered the 2nd largest after the United States) with potential prospects of outperforming the United States. I think we can learn from the Chinese economic success.

The COVID-19 situation may help change the forecasts but free trade has proven over the years to be highly supportive to the economy of nations. This does not mean one needs "to throw away the baby with the water" when it comes to the gain obtained during the socialist approach to economic development.

The BRICS countries should find a way of striking a balance between the two economic systems. But frankly speaking, an open economy leaning more towards free trade is what I would recommend for an emerging economy. Now even countries where the economy is freer like South Africa and India, we see that the major hindrance is corruption and bad governance in certain instances. If the BRICS can address these obstacles or hurdles, they will have a better chance of winning. In China, human rights abuses shouldn't be covered up. Doing-Business with countries where dictatorship and abuses are evident should it be alright.

In addition, there will be areas where BRICS will compete, and this is healthy to any economy, but there must be more focus on what BRICS can do together to address abject poverty, growing unemployment and human rights abuses. China and India need to talk more to address their differences. The future of BRICS depends, to some considerable extent, on their good relations. The race for dominance if military is dangerous. I think they need to talk as friends and partners. The rest of the BRICS should mediate in this regard.

Many experts still question the role of BRICS members in Africa. It is important here to recall that Russia was involved in helping African countries during their struggle for independence and that was the Cold War. It lost its influence after the split of the USSR. Currently Russia's foreign policy largely seeks to regain what it lost to the United States and China and other foreign players in Africa. But for our Russian partners, Africa needs sustainable development, and not military weapons and equipment. Africa is looking for foreign players to invest in infrastructure and play large part economically.

In your post-doctoral research on BRICS, and in your article to The Conversation, you mentioned what South Africa can offer or shared with other members. Is it possible to restate explicitly the kind of "beneficiation" here?

I would make known, first, that as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cape Town, my academic investigation deals with the impact of and the challenges towards mineral beneficiation policy interventions in the SADC region. This has some importance for foreign players looking opportunities to invest in mineral resources in the SADC.

Having said the above, I am more than prepared to embark on a project that will help BRICS to understand the effects of Brics partnership on mineral beneficiation in South Africa and within the Southern African Development Community. In this connection, I think South Africa has a lot to offer to the BRICS. There must also be a consensus with other African countries. Understandably, South Africa can be an investment gateway to Africa. As the presiding head of the African Union, South Africa represents the interests of the AU in BRICS.

On beneficiation, South Africa has a tremendous experience on nuclear power that, if used for energy, could help the beneficiation industry in the country. One needs to be cautious of deviations in that regard, not that I am suggesting South Africa would deviate, but care needs to be observed by all member countries on that issue. As a pacifist, I would advise that African countries look at alternative, renewable energy sources. A gradual approach to beneficiation and a dialogue between trade partners will take the BRICS partnership to another level as far as South Africa is concerned in the BRICS.

How do you assess the current coronavirus spread and its impact, especially among BRICS, (Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa) and allegedly (yet to be proved) virus originated from China (BRICS member)?

The BRICS are hit by the COVID-19 crisis just like any other country. As we know, the COVID-19 started in Wuhan, China, and then spread in no time to all the continents. It is however important to note that China closed its borders and cooperated with the World Health Organization (WHO) to alert other countries. On the other hand, in Africa, we saw China helping the African Union (AU) with PPEs and other test equipment. This should be appreciated.

Whether the alert came late or not, I do not have any means to determine that. Why would China want to do that? Instead of pointing fingers to others, I think it is time the world learns from the threat we face together as humans and find a common ground to halt (stop) the spread of COVID-19. It should be an opportunity to re-engineer our health facilities and capabilities for a better tomorrow for all. Personally, I would call for cooperation between BRICS and non-BRICS countries (the United States and Europe for example to get involved). Failing to do that will be a recipe for more complications.

What do you think of BRICS collaborating on COVID-19 vaccine? Do you see "cooperation or competition" among its members (China, India and Russia) racing for global market with the vaccine?

Interestingly, I see both cooperation and competition. But I think we need more cooperation and sharing of the information. The BRICS must remember what they owe the world. Cooperation should be on all aspects of life. We hear stories of people of color being ill-treated in China for example. I think the authorities should investigate that and take appropriate actions to care for others with dignity.

In South Africa as well, the refugee community was almost neglected in the management of the COVID-19. I am glad the government decided to do something about it. BRICS scientists, as well, need collaboration to come up successfully with a solution or vaccine. Efforts by other scientists need to be taken into account. And as regards Africa, an African solution to Africa's problem approach should not be neglected or relegated to the backyard.

BRICS are partners, they can help each other but they should not replace own efforts towards security and safety. Vaccine or solutions to the pandemic should not be profit-orientated. In Africa, we believe in Ubuntu. I think our BRICS leaders will not do such a mistake. I am highly optimistic on that.

World of Work
Darknet misuse for drug crimes discussed in BRICS meet attended by India: MHA (Злоупотребление даркнетом для совершения наркопреступлений обсуждается на встрече БРИКС с участием Индии: MHA) / India, August, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, top_level_meeting

New Delhi: India discussed "misuse" of the darknet and modern technology for drug trafficking during a recent webinar conference of BRICS nations, a government statement said on Sunday.

The anti-narcotics agencies of this multi-nation grouping also discussed steps to curb increased instances of drug trafficking through the maritime route, it said.

The 4th session of the BRICS anti-drug working group, under the chairmanship of Russia, was held on August 12 and the Indian side was represented by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Director-General Rakesh Asthana. The BRICS comprises Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa and India.

"Fruitful exchange of opinions concerning the drug situation in the BRICS states, the international and regional trends of illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, as well as the impact of various internal and external factors on the situation took place during the summit," a statement issued by the Union Home Ministry said.

"The common points emerged during the discussions include need for real-time information sharing among the member states and need to curb increased drug trafficking through maritime routes," it said.

It added that the "misuse of darknet and other advanced technologies for drug trafficking was one of the key focal areas of the meeting."

Darknet refers to the deep hidden internet platform that is used for narcotics sale, exchange of pornographic content and other illegal activities by using the secret alleys of the onion router (ToR) to stay away from the surveillance of law enforcement agencies.

The NCB had busted a first-ever such case after it apprehended a narcotics vendor based in Uttar Pradesh in February who allegedly used the darknet to ship hundreds of psychotropic drug parcels abroad in the garb of sex stimulation medicines.

The member nations adopted a communique that covered all the points discussed in the meeting, the statement said.

"The growing economic might of BRICS countries, their significance as one of the main driving forces of global economic development, their substantial population and abundant natural resources form the foundation of their influence on the international scene and are the driving forces behind the grouping," it said.

"Among other areas of collaboration, matters pertaining to drug trafficking is an important area of cooperation among the BRICS member states," it added.

The Indian side at the conference included NCB Deputy Director General (operations) B Radhika, NCB Deputy Director (operations) KPS Malhotra, First Secretary (trade) in the Indian Embassy at Moscow?Vrindaba Gohil and under secretary (multilateral economic relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs Vaibhav Tandale, it said.

Amity University announces to establish BRICS Centre of Excellence in Russia on the occasion of Independence Day (Университет Амити объявляет о создании Центра передового опыта БРИКС в России по случаю Дня Независимости) / India, August, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, social_issues

New Delhi: 74th Independence Day was celebrated at Amity University Greater Noida Campus with great enthusiasm and Patriotic Fervour. Flag Hoisting Ceremony was organized at Amity University Greater Noida Campus. Due to the Covid-19 crises, the celebration was organized at the campus and on virtual platforms as well.

Prof. (Dr.) Gurinder Singh, Group Vice Chancellor, Amity Universities unfurled and hoisted the Tricolour at the Amity Greater Noida Campus. Continuing with the tradition of planting sapling during every Independence Day, Dr. Singh planted a few saplings at the Greater Noida Campus. The function was followed by cultural programs and the virtual inauguration of many International Partnerships and initiatives which step forwards Amity's commitment of providing the best of World Education and giving students international exposure through international internships, training, projects, research, and placements.

The virtual ceremony began with the online Flag Hoisting by Founder President Dr. Ashok K. Chauhan; Chancellor Dr. Atul Chauhan, and Prof. (Dr.) Gurinder Singh, in the virtual presence of all officials, faculties, staff, and students.

Dr. Ashok Chauhan in his address said that Amity Will work day and night to fulfil the vision and mission of Prime Minister of India. He further mentioned that values are the most important in the life of an individual, Amity is an institution of values. Chancellor Dr. Atul Chauhan, in his address, said that this pandemic has given us much learning including the value of freedom. He further assured that Amity will create new benchmarks in this tough situation.

Dr. Gurinder Singh congratulated everyone and Said that Amity is coming with a number of initiatives and we are committed to create meaningful employment and bring some of the top-level Universities to India. We will ensure that Indian students get the same salary package which they get in some of the top universities abroad. India will shine and the education revaluation being nurtured by the founder of Amity Universities Dr. Chauhan will build a bridge between students and the industries.

The occasion was marked special by launching many initiatives which include the establishment of BRICS Centre of Excellence in Russia with support of Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) Russia. Dr. Victoria Panova Vice-President for International Relations of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), Russia was present during the virtual launch of the Center. An initiative of University Social Responsibility by UK India Business Council was also launched with the august presence of Ms. Tara Panjwani of the UK India Business Council.

For Strengthening Global Study Program through NAVITAS by launching AMITY NAVITAS Partnership to integrate Amity with its Global Consortium of University Partners. Few more initiatives like the establishment of Centre for Robotics, & Machine Learning; Strengthening Management Domain with Simulator Labs to facilitate Industry and International Collaborations in the area of Econometrics, Finance, HR, Marketing & Communications were also announced during the celebration.

Vice President RBEF, VP (Personnel), Deans, HOIs, HODs, Faculty Members, Senior Officials of Amity Greater Noida Campus & Amity International Business School and hundreds of the students attended this virtual celebration of our beloved Country's 74th Independence Day.

BRICS experts discussed anti-drug cooperation of "G-5" (Эксперты БРИКС обсудили антинаркотическое сотрудничество «большой пятерки») / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, off_docs

On August 12, a meeting of the BRICS Anti-Drug Working Group was held under the chairmanship of the Russian Federation in a videoconference format.

The chiefs of relevant departments of the competent authorities discussed the drug situation in the five countries, international and regional trends in the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, as well as the impact of various internal and external factors. The participants reaffirmed their common commitment to combating the global drug threat and their readiness to further develop law enforcement cooperation within the BRICS, and the need to preserve the current international drug control system.

Experts expressed concern about the use of modern technologies and technical means in the interests of drug crime, as well as the legalization of proceeds from illegal drug trafficking by using electronic payment systems and cryptocurrencies.

A joint statement was adopted following the meeting.

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