Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 49.2020
2020.11.30 — 2020.11.06
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
India's Growing Strategic and Economic Interests in the Quad (Растущие стратегические и экономические интересы Индии в четверке) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges, political_issues

India's new readiness to engage with the US and its two major Asian treaty allies, Australia and Japan, in the so-called Quadrilateral Security Framework is widely viewed as a major departure from its traditional policy of non-alignment. But a closer look suggests that Delhi did experiment with close alignments in the past, when its core national interests faced serious threats. Beyond security, India's embrace of the Quad and its associated arrangements like the Quad Plus could turn out to be even more significant in the economic domain, as Delhi seeks to decouple from China-led economic globalisation, writes C. Raja Mohan, Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.


On the face of it, India's growing enthusiasm for the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security framework, that brings Delhi together with Canberra, Tokyo and Washington, seems at odds with its long-standing principles of strategic autonomy and non-alignment. It also seems incongruent with its ties to Russia and China in the BRICS forum along with Brazil and South Africa. India is also an active participant in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which was founded by, and nurtured through, the joint-leadership of Beijing and Moscow.

Although the Quad is a long way from matching the levels of collective activity or institutionalisation achieved under the BRICS and SCO formats, it draws much greater international attention. This is probably due to the concern or expectation that the new coalition marks a major shift in the geopolitics of the East, marked by India's participation in a security coalition with the US and its allies.

India's growing strategic engagement with the Quad is rooted in the structural changes in the distribution of power in Asia, and is likely to be an important part of Delhi's international relations in the coming decades. India's participation in the Quad is easier to understand if we look at India's past turn to the BRICS at the turn of the century.

Quest for a Multipolar World

Delhi's fears about the unipolar world order after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War were real and rooted in US attempts in the 1990s to 'revolve' the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan as well as Washington's international campaign to 'roll back' the South Asian nuclear and missile programmes.

Delhi, which had signed a security treaty with the Soviet Union in 1971 at the height of the Cold War, sought to limit the dangers of a unipolar world by agreeing to the Russian proposal to build a 'Strategic Triangle' involving Russia, India and China in the mid-1990s. The resulting RIC forum was soon followed by the creation of the broader BRICS forum. India's interest in the Eurasian forum, SCO, was also part of the effort to limit US regional hegemony.

The Quad represents a significant change in India's threat perception. If the fear of a unipolar world drove Delhi to join the BRICS, fears of Chinese hegemony in a 'unipolar Asia' are nudging India into the Quad. India's engagement with the US in the first two decades of the 21st century saw the resolution of their nuclear dispute and the marginalisation of the Kashmir question in bilateral relations.

Fear of a Unipolar Asia

Even as the mutual trust between Delhi and Washington improved, it began to diminish between India and China. A number of factors contributed to this transformation. Since the end of the 2000s, China had become far more assertive in its territorial disputes with India. This steady increase in tensions led to serious military crises on the border in 2013, 2014 and 2017. The Indian Army and the PLA are now settling down for a prolonged military show-down in the High Himalayas. The face-off could continue through the harsh winter.

Delhi was also upset with Beijing's moves to block the historic civil nuclear initiative led by the US to end India's isolation in the global nuclear order. China is also the only permanent member of the United Nations Security Council that is unwilling to support India's campaign to expand the P-5. On the economic front, Delhi has been unable to persuade Beijing to address the mounting trade surplus in favour of China. In 2019, the trade surplus was worth nearly $55 billion.

The extended military standoff in the summer of 2017, coupled with the widening range of serious differences, probably convinced India of the need to balance China. India, which was reluctant to embrace the Quad, was now ready for its revival. And as India confronted fresh aggression from China on its frontiers in the summer of 2020, the case for the Quad has become irresistible in Delhi.

Reviving the Quad

The accidental origins of the Quad go back to the Boxing Day Tsunami in the eastern Indian Ocean at the end of 2004, when the navies of the four nations came together on short notice to coordinate the regional relief efforts. Soon after, in 2007, Shinzo Abe, the then-Prime Minister of Japan, articulated the concept of the Indo-Pacific and urged the collaboration between US and three democracies in the region — India, Japan and Australia—to stabilise the new strategic geography.

But the Quad went into a coma, after the first round of meetings in 2007, as Canberra dissociated itself from the concept. The other three members shared these reservations about the Quad. All that has begun to change in the last couple of years as the relations between China and all the members of the Quad began to rapidly deteriorate. But the scale of the immediate threat that India confronts from China is far more serious than what the others face.

The US and Australia are far from China and their threats are not territorial. Japan shares a disputed maritime periphery with China and sharpening military tension. However, that does not compare with the massive territorial dispute between India and China, which has spread all along the Great Himalayas. To make matters worse, India's disputed frontier with China meets India's contested borders with Pakistan in the Ladakh region of Kashmir. China's huge investments in the strategic partnership with Pakistan over many decades has made the prospect for a two-front war more real than ever before.

India's response therefore to the Chinese aggression has been intense and has involved some unexpected moves. On the one hand, India has matched the Chinese military mobilisation by deploying troops and heavy weapons at 14,000 feet and above. On the other hand, India has also chosen to escalate horizontally—in the commercial domain.

Economic Decoupling

Since the crisis began, India has begun to limit Chinese foreign investments into India, imposed significant tariffs on imports from China, cut Chinese companies out of major public procurement contracts, and banned a large number of Chinese digital apps, including TikTok, which is hugely popular. All indications are that Delhi is prepared to go considerable distance down this path to impose economic costs on Beijing.

India's economic measures against China coincided with the post-Covid efforts led by the US to mobilise support for reducing international reliance on China-centred supply chains. Since the middle of this year, the US has initiated 'Quad Plus' consultations to draw in South Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand into the Quad conversations on coping with the pandemic. Israel and Brazil have also occasionally participated in these conversations.

As part of its own national response to the Covid-19 crisis, India has announced a comprehensive overhaul of national economic strategy to create fresh incentives for foreign investment into India's manufacturing sector that has been battered by imports from China over the decades, opened its farm sector for agri-business, and liberalised the labour laws. Meanwhile digital dissociation from China has opened up room for deeper ties between US tech giants and Indian majors, like Reliance, that have ambitious plans to expand into e-commerce and other domains.

* * *

In the end, the success of India's engagement with the Quad and Quad Plus depends on three important factors. One, despite the growing volumes of foreign direct investment into India, the country remains a less inviting destination than others like Vietnam that are taking advantage of the rearrangement of the supply chains away from China. Two, there is some uncertainty on how the administration of Joe Biden might deal with China on both the security and economic fronts. Three, there is a very faint possibility that China might conclude that it has overreached with India and that a measure of mutual accommodation might be preferable to pushing Delhi into Washington's arms. Whatever the eventual outcome, India's security and economic policies have now moved beyond its old moorings.

India does not need to put itself in a position to be used in geopolitical games (Индии не нужно ставить себя в положение, когда ее можно будет использовать в геополитических играх.) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts

US-India relations are on the rise, fueled by increasingly Indian-Chinese tensions. However, India also has bilateral issues – mainly at the Kashmir border – with Pakistan, a traditional US ally. In fact, India may even find itself vulnerable to possible Pakistani tapping by becoming part of a military communication network with the US (a network which includes Pakistan) and could also lose part of its control over satellites to the US.

The rising tensions involving India, China, and Pakistan were visible at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. The SCO is a Eurasian alliance comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and since 2017, India and Pakistan. Some see the SCO as a potential counterweight to NATO and it has indeed emerged as one of the largest international trans-regional organizations

On Monday, India chaired the virtual Council of Heads of Government (CHG) summit of SCO. It was the Indian Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu who addressed the meeting and emphasized that the main challenge for the SCO Eurasian region is still terrorism. Commenting that India is concerned about "threats emerging from ungoverned space" that "leverage terrorism as an instrument of state policy", he clearly referred to Pakistan. In doing so, he accused Pakistan of employing cross-border terrorism as an instrument of its state policy.

Another reference was the following statement: "It is unfortunate to note that there have been attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into the SCO". Pakistan often raises bilateral issues, such as Kashmir, at multilateral forums. In response, Russia noted that such bilateral issues really should not be raised at the forum and some analysts saw this as a kind of a "blow" to both China and Pakistan, even though the statement is in accordance with SCO own rules and its charter. On Monday, the India ministry of external affairs also stated that it is "up to them" regarding the issue of whether Pakistan would join Indian initiatives at the SCO.

India sees the SCO as a strategic forum to promote cooperation in the region and has offered to host annually the Special Working Group on Startups and Innovation and also the SCO Startup Forum.

At the SCO, India once again refused to support the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In fact, India was the only nation (amongst the 8 members) which did so. A major point of contention is that a significant portion of the project passes through Kashmir (claimed by both India and Pakistan), and New Delhi has repeatedly demanded Beijing to cease such endeavor, claiming it violates India's territorial integrity.

Another important development is that China and Pakistan signed a new military deal (a memorandum of understanding) on Monday that enhances their bilateral defense collaboration regarding regional security. This is being seen as a reaction to the recent Malabar-2020 exercise involving India and its QUAD allies.

India maintains its strategic partnership with Russia even on nuclear issues – India also leases some of the best Russian nuclear submarines. For example, the Russian "Chakra III" Akula-class (nuclear-powered) submarine is to be transferred to India by 2025 as part of a $3 billion contract.

Even amid bilateral contentions, there is plenty of room for Eurasian nations to cooperate in a number of levels. Regarding both India and Russia, articles published by the Russian Valdai Club in 2019 suggested these two countries could lead a new non-aligned movement.

The current Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a 120 developing countries group forum, is the largest grouping of states in the world after the United Nations. The NAM was quite important during the Cold War and India played a key role in it. It was created through an initiative of the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru - together with Egyptian President Gamal Nasser and others - in 1961. Since the end of the Cold War, the NAM struggles to reinvent itself in terms of its purpose in the current global system. NAM still promotes South-South cooperation, emphasizing multilateralism.

In accordance with the ideas of geographer Halford Mackinder and others, for the US it is a geopolitical imperative to prevent any major power from arising anywhere in the Eurasian landmass. Thus, the new Biden administration will most likely employ a version of a "dual containment" against Russia and China (treating the former as a kind of open enemy and the latter as a competitor) and trying to forge ties with India and other Chinese rivals.

The US clearly attempts to draw India into its sphere of influence in order to counter Chinese growth. India does have its issues with China but it does not need to put itself in a position to be used by the US in its geopolitical games. Washington's approach towards India and China is a variation of the classical "divide and rule" modus operandi.

A US-led QUAD (the alliance which includes India, Japan, and Australia) has been described as a "new NATO" for the Indo-Pacific Region. Engaging with India, the US in its dispute with China tries to indirectly co-opt part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – which is also a partner of the SCO.

Indian engagement with the QUAD contradicts its ties to China and Russia in the BRICS group and is at odds with its participation in the SCO. The US plans for the QUAD are a reason for concern – however, it is also true that currently the QUAD has not reached the same level of strength and institutionalization of the SCO and even BRICS.

Forums such as the BRICS, the SCO and a reinvented NAM can provide India and China the opportunity to focus on the dimensions of their relations (even when there is a crisis in their borders) and a negotiation table. From the Chinese perspective, there are plenty of reasons to eventually seek some degree of mutual compromise with New Delhi. China still remains India's largest trading partner, after all. In fact, a "China plus India" strategy could benefit both countries' scales and complement strengths.

India has much to gain from reaffirming its traditional independent foreign policy, from strengthening its relations with Indonesia, and the ASEAN position of seeking to shape a security architecture aiming at prosperity for the Indo-Pacific region (which links the Indian and Pacific oceans). It also has a lot to gain by maintaining close ties with Russia to boost its civil nuclear energy programs (in the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, the largest joint Russian Indian project) and from projecting itself as a global player in defence of multipolarity.

India Succeeds Russia as BRICS Chair Amid Rising Challenges (Индия сменила Россию на посту председателя БРИКС на фоне растущих вызовов) / India, December, 2020
Keywords: chairmanship, expert_opinion, economic_challenges

India assumes the rotating Chairmanship of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) regional association on January 1, 2021. The South Asian nation takes over from Russia under whose leadership the organization managed to achieve progress in the political, economic and humanitarian fields.

During the five-nation bloc's last meeting held under the theme "BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth" – on November 17, the organization noted that much advance has been attained in streamlining the full-scale operational activity of BRICS.

With noticeable efforts, BRICS has consistently been pushing for diverse health initiatives, most especially vaccines, to halt the coronavirus pandemic that has shattered the global economy. There are Chinese and Russian vaccines, both reported as effective and safe, and currently getting ready to ramp up large-scale production.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and these countries together account for one-quarter of the world economy. According to the World Health Organization, China with its 1.3 billion population currently managed to reduce virus infections to nearly 90,000 while India's cumulative Covid-19 cases exceed 9 million. Brazil has more than 6 million and Russia more than 2 million cases this November. South Africa has the lowest among the BRICS, but the worst in Africa.

Besides the pressing need to find a quick and lasting solution to a global pandemic, the organization is keenly interested in increasing financial and economic cooperation among the member countries, effective industrial interaction and practical cooperation in developing and implementing new joint energy, telecommunications and high-tech projects among others.

According to official sources, Russia held 130 events at different levels, including several ministerial and interagency meetings and the last official XII BRICS summit via video and moderated from Moscow.

In his speech, President Vladimir Putin unreservedly expressed confidence that his colleague, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would ensure continuity in the work of the organization and would further add new interesting projects and ideas of cooperation between the five countries.

While wishing every success to Prime Minister Modi, Putin reassured that Russia would provide all-round assistance to Indian partners in steering the organization until the next round of XIII BRICS summit in 2021.

Each BRICS member takes over the Chair for a year. Reminding that Russia previously chaired BRICS in 2015, held a summit in the provincial city of Ufa. Russia also presided over the group back in 2009, before BRIC turned into BRICS following South Africa's accession.

In 2016, India held the Eighth BRICS Summit under the theme "Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions" in Goa, India. In order to enrich understanding and engagement with countries in the region, it brought together an outreach summit of BRICS leaders with the leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. As expected, the October summit adopted a joint declaration and endorsed the Goa Action Plan.

Now as India takes the helm of BRICS, effective from the start of January 2021, experts and research analysts are showing deep interest and are discussing possibilities of multilateral cooperation, existing challenges and identifying diverse priorities, the strength and weaknesses of BRICS.

Almost all experts interviewed for this article have acknowledged the trilateral platform – Russia, India and China (RIC) – that facilitates decision-taking on some issues. China, with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), moves extremely faster investing and trading worldwide. India has its footprints with science, technology and trade. Russia is prominent with its fine-tuned diplomacy, for example advocating consistently for wholesale reforms, especially of the United Nations Security Council.

Professor Ashok Tiku, Head Amity School of Languages and Member of BRICS Centre at the Amity University stressed to IDN that India's priority, as Chair of the BRICS, should be "to seek common grounds on United Nations Security Council reforms to enable South Africa, Brazil and India join this Security Council as permanent members. The biggest obstacle being China, but if other members persuade China, the reforms can move smoothly."

Professor Ashok Tiku added: "As India is joining UNSC as a non-permanent member from January 2021, this should be India's top priority. We feel UN will wither away without the necessary reforms. The second priority, of course, is an international conference on cooperation in fighting terrorism".

But for Dr. Pankaj Kumar Jha, an Associate Professor at O P Jindal Global University in Sonipat, Haryana, China and India border conflict will continue influencing BRICS.

"China and India relations would have an impact on BRICS, and it has happened in the past too during the Doklam crisis and subsequently also when China has tried to put its agenda on the working of the BRICS. This has been strongly opposed by Russia and Brazil. Even bringing South Africa on board was a ploy of China to bring Chinese heft in the dialogue process," Dr Jha told IDN.

However, India and China are cooperating to develop alternate financial structures, cohesive guidelines within Asia and the global south on many issues such as trade, investment and developing an understanding so that dominance of the of west could be reduced to a minimum in global financial architecture, he said and added, "the foundation of cooperation in BRICS brings potential resources and critical development requirements under one umbrella".

Dr. Jha further pointed out that both Asian countries differ largely on many issues and have different foreign policy challenges, these differences have been there and would remain so especially when India's entry into the East Asia Summit was opposed by China and Malaysia.

In addition, China has tried to limit ASEAN interaction and primacy to the ASEAN+3 process while India wanted to develop the ASEAN+6 process as a core dialogue mechanism. India has strong reservations to China building dams on the Brahmaputra and even on the Mekong. The stance taken by India with regard to Chinese assertive activities in the South China Sea and related maritime boundaries is well known, explained Dr. Jha.

However, on non-traditional security issues and developing better trade and investment linkages have given signs of cooperation but India is wary of Chinese exports gaining more market access in comparison to other countries getting access to Chinese markets, and therefore the negotiations and the role of origin aspects would be major nagging points in years to come, Dr. Jha explained.

On a more positive note, he said: "BRICS serves as a platform for discussion and dialogue but ASEAN is a strategic space where the two countries would try to influence the organization as a legitimate stakeholder."

In an opinion article titled "Contradictions Grow Amid Another BRICS Summit" published by Observer Research Foundation, a private and non-profit public policy research NGO, Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan argues that India's aim in engaging with BRICS may be an effort to demonstrate that it retains strategic autonomy and that it engages with all major powers irrespective of incongruences.

China and Russia have an anti-American political goal for the grouping, which sits very uneasily with Indian interests, considering India has invested significantly in building and nurturing its bilateral ties with the United States as well as engaging in strategic minilaterals such as the Quad and various trilaterals in the Indo-Pacific, Dr- Rajagopalan wrote.

That India works with China in the BRICS format, when the aim of India's Quad and other such minilaterals is to restrict and restrain China's 'aggressive and bullying behaviour', adds to the growing array of contradictions. Certainly, BRICS cannot be a military and security grouping given the significant differences between each of the players, most notably between India, China, and Russia.

She points out that the success of groupings such as BRICS will depend on the health of bilateral ties among those within the group. India-China relations in the backdrop of the Galwan conflict do not suggest that all is well on the bilateral front or even in the regional context.

As contradictions keep piling up, questions about the future of BRICS as anything other than an ineffective talk shop are bound to grow, concluded Dr. Rajagopalan

The BRICS member countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world's geographic area and are home to 3.6 billion people, about 42% of the world's population and a combined nominal GDP of US$16.6 trillion.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of InfoBRICS.

BRICS nations urged to share governance skills (Страны БРИКС призвали поделиться навыками управления) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: global_governance

BRICS countries were encouraged to strengthen experience sharing on matters of governance and to deepen people-to-people and cultural exchanges, a senior official of the Communist Party of China said on Thursday.

Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, made the remark via video link at the opening ceremony of the BRICS Seminar on Governance and Cultural Exchange Forum 2020.

Huang said that the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the CPC has drawn up a blueprint for China's development over the next five years and even through to 2035, which fully reflects the latest developments of President Xi Jinping's important thoughts on governing the country.

The new development philosophy gives clear guidance for reviewing development experiences at home and abroad and opening up a new chapter in modernization. Moreover, building a new pattern of development is necessary for China to comprehensively deepen reform and open even wider to the outside world in the new era, he said.

Huang also called on all parties to work together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, promote economic recovery and development as well as strengthen exchanges and pragmatic cooperation in areas including governance, culture, sports, art and film.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa make up the five BRICS countries.

Ivan Melnikov, first deputy chairman of the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to governance systems worldwide and also demonstrated weak points in global governance. So far, BRICS countries have responded well to the pandemic and China's success in curbing the spread of the virus has also offered the world a good example.

Melnikov said that the response to COVID-19 requires global cooperation and coordination. He shared measures that Russia has taken to contain the virus, including asking people to work from home and offering tax exemptions. He called on BRICS countries to learn from each other's experiences and implement efficient and swift responses to the pandemic.

BRICS countries should also deepen their cooperative partnership to promote economic recovery as well as prepare for the post-pandemic era, he added.

More than 150 participants from BRICS countries participated in the seminar and forum, which was co-organized by the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration, Guangming Daily, Rossiyskaya Gazeta and the Russia-China Friendship Association.

BRICS media leaders meet for post-COVID-19 exchanges, cooperation (Лидеры СМИ БРИКС встретились для обмена мнениями и сотрудничества после COVID-19) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: media, cooperation, covid-19, top_level_meeting

The fifth presidium meeting of the BRICS Media Forum was held via video link Monday, with members pledging joint efforts to improve the forum mechanism and step up post-COVID-19 exchanges and cooperation among BRICS media.

In the fight against COVID-19, media organizations from BRICS countries have actively fulfilled their social responsibilities, chronicling BRICS' joint fight against the pandemic and facilitating the mutual assistance and support between peoples of BRICS countries, said He Ping, executive chairman of the BRICS Media Forum.

Amid momentous changes never seen in the last hundred years, BRICS media outlets should grasp the trend of history and act as "facilitators" for peaceful development, said He, also president and editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Agency.

Executive chairman of the BRICS Media Forum He Ping, also president and editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Agency, presides over the fifth presidium meeting of the BRICS Media Forum in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 30, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)

He urged BRICS media outlets to be aware of the general trend of global development and be "narrators" of the BRICS story, follow the evolution trends of media and be "leaders" in innovative development, and give full play to the advantages of BRICS collaboration and be "pursuers" of pragmatic cooperation.

Xinhua is willing to strengthen cooperation with media from other countries to provide spiritual impetus for defeating the pandemic, reviving the economy and building a community with a shared future, He added.

Jose Juan Sanchez, president of Brazil's CMA Group; Sergey Kochetkov, first deputy editor-in-chief of Russia's Rossiya Segodnya; Narasimhan Ram, director of The Hindu Publishing Group of India; and Iqbal Surve, executive chairman of Independent Media of South Africa, attended the event as co-chairpersons of the forum. In their speeches, they expressed the hope to further deepen the cooperation among BRICS media, to facilitate the development of the relations among BRICS countries and to help build a better world.

The BRICS Media Forum was proposed by Xinhua News Agency and jointly initiated with mainstream media outlets from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, with the forum presidium as its top decision-making body.
BRICS Leaders Synchronize Watches On Major International Issues – Analysis (Лидеры БРИКС синхронизируют взгляды на основные международные проблемы - анализ) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, summit, political_issues

Commenting on the results of the XII BRICS Summit, Lak Chansok, Lecturer and Research Fellow, Department of International Studies, Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) in Cambodia, Expert at Democracy Promotion Center, Ritsumeikan Center for Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan APU in Japan, called the summit successful.

"This joint declaration mainly emphasizes the advancement of 'strategic partnership' among the BRICS countries in the three main pillars: policy and security, economy and finance, culture and people-to-people exchanges. To achieve the first pillar, the BRICS countries are committed to enhancing their security cooperation and supporting an equitable, inclusive and representative multipolar world system. This declaration also focuses more on the ongoing security issues in the US-engaged countries including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The BRICS countries also expressed their concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the rising tension in the Korean Peninsula," the expert said.

He also drew attention to the fact that the BRICS member states are also committed to multilateral institutions, such as UN, World Bank, IMF, WTO, WHO and G20 to promote the global public health and tackle the global economic recession posted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In this connection, the BRICS New Development Bank provides loans to combat against the COVID-19 epidemic and its adverse socio-economic impact. The BRICS countries also extend the 'Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership' to accelerate the BRICS economic cooperation in such areas as trade, investment, finance, digital economy and sustainable development in the fourth industrial revolution," Lak Chansok explained.

He noted that the BRICS expressed their political commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement on global climate change and to further promotion of the people-to-people ties for mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation.

"The BRICS remains relevant and becomes more significant for all member countries at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. First, this organization is one of the important multilateral organizations to promote economic cooperation and stimulate growth in the face of the global economic turndown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, it remains a vital alternative for the member states to identity issues of common political-security interests and address these issues. Thus, the 2020 BRICS Summit could contribute to confidence building among the five countries, especially between China and India as a consequence of their long-standing territorial disputes," the analyst said.

"The BRICS countries' continued support of multipolar system and multilateral institutions to tackle the COVID-19 and its negative impact on socio-economic wellbeing of the vulnerable countries can leverage the importance of this organization to promote and enhance the global governance. In the post-COVID-19 era, despite their anticipated political-security divergence, the BRICS countries still find the organization increasingly important to promote robust economic growth especially in the areas of infrastructure finance through the BRICS New Development Bank and e-commerce," Lak Chansok added.

Leonardo Ramos, Department of International Relations, the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC) Minas in Brazil, shared the opinion about the success of the summit.

"In a global context of pandemic, the maintenance of the BRICS summit – distinct from the 2020 G7 summit, for example, is something very important. More than that, the fact that the summit brought some innovative discussions over their economic cooperation for the next years is something very interesting, and attention must be given to it in the next years," he stressed.

From his point of view, NDB agenda and COVID-19 were important elements of the summit.

"NDB increasing operation, opening regional offices in the last years and intending to be an important development bank to emerging countries calls attention to possible ways that the BRICS outreach process could take in the next years. The bank can be also an important mechanism to BRICS action over financing COVID-19 treatments, vaccine production and acquisition," Leonardo Ramos said.

At the same time, despite the above-mentioned advances, it is important to notice some problems regarding the relations of the BRICS members, he said.

"Particularly, these are the relations between India and China, whose current tensions could impact on the BRICS. In this process, Russia can be a key mediator, for the good sake of countries cooperation; second, Brazil-China. Brazilian president has repeated an anti-China position, closing relations with Trump since the beginning of his government. With Biden's victory in US elections, Brazil will have to change something in its foreign policy strategies, and maybe it could be good to its relation with BRICS countries," Leonardo Ramos suggested. In turn, Varaprasad Dolla, Professor in Chinese Studies, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, drew attention to the need for the BRICS member states to join forces to prevent future pandemics like COVID-19.

"One of the outcomes of the 2020 BRICS Summit […] is the further consolidation of cooperation among the member countries in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic," the analyst stressed.

At the same time, he said that the Summit was held under the shadow of the growing conflict on the border between India and China.

"The member countries must not be oblivious to the bilateral dimension while promoting multilateral forums. Both are deeply intertwined. Any further bilateral escalation can sound death knell to BRICS initiative. There can never be a bifurcation and separation of the multilateral from bilateral framework. Both must go hand in hand," Varaprasad Dolla noted.

Alissa Wang, Co-chair of Summit Studies, BRICS Research Group, University of Toronto, called the virtual BRICS summit "an important meeting for international cooperation at a time of mounting global crises."

"The BRICS leaders recognized the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and responded with a series of important politically binding, future-oriented commitments. In their final declaration, the BRICS made a total of 45 such commitments. Of these commitments, 10 were under the theme of international cooperation, demonstrating the cooperative spirit between BRICS members. The second most important area of decision making was regional security, with a total of 7 commitments," the analyst said.

"The third most important issue area of decision-making, understandably, was health, where four critical commitments were made. Specifically, the BRICS committed to work together towards the fair, equitable and affordable dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccine, to support the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, to explore ways to facilitate the movement of people in a way that does not impede efforts to protect public health, and more broadly, to enhance BRICS cooperation in developing joint responses to the spread of major diseases and infections with a pandemic potential," Alissa Wang said.

Additionally, in her opinion, another important initiative of the BRICS countries was the commitment that addressed the readiness to develop further cooperation with Africa with the aim of strengthening the response to the health, economic and social effects of COVID-19.

"As such, the BRICS demonstrated, through their summit commitments, their will to respond cooperatively to the pandemic in a multidimensional and comprehensive way, with particular attention to developing countries and the equitable distribution of global vaccines, and has thus set a solid foundation for productive action," the expert concluded.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
The Digital Transactions Currency for the BRICS (Валюта цифровых транзакций для БРИКС) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges, research

Abstract. The article deals with the circulation of a digital currency as a worldwide problem. The topic has theoretical and practical significance because price stability, economic growth and development and market equilibrium depend on the quality of this circulation. Currency digitization has become a particularly acute issue with the outbreak of COVID-19, which made central banks to think about contactless means of payment. The research identified the significance of the most important macroeconomic indicators which may characterise the hypothetical shared digital currency for the BRICS, namely, a shared interest rate and the quantity of digital money in circulation needed for the international use. The exchange rate of the BRICS digital currency, if it ever goes into being, is going to heavily depend on the amount of the interest rate of the hypothetical creditor of last resort. This problem is quite significant, since for the international circulation it is very important to know the proportions in which the digital currency is to be exchanged for the currencies of other countries. The theoretical significance of the article is the development of a model's basis to find the exchange rate of the digital currency. The practical significance of the paper is that it contains recommendations for foreign-exchange-market players to optimise their investment portfolios as well as for monetary authorities in the emerging economies to make some policy choices.
Chinese touch lifts infrastructure (Китайский подход поднимает инфраструктуру) / China, November, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges

Using imaginative business models and high-tech, CR20G lands overseas projects

A Chinese consortium led by China Railway 20th Bureau Group Corp (CR20G) and China Communications Construction Co will build a sea-crossing cable-stayed bridge to connect the city of Salvador, capital of Bahia, the northeastern state of Brazil, and the island of Itaparica in the same state.

The concession area will span 46.8 kilometers, including a 12.4 kilometer-long sea-crossing bridge. The main length will be a cable-stayed bridge whose key tower will rise 205 meters with a maximum span of 450 meters, and undersea depth of up to 60 meters.

As the largest bridge invested by a Chinese company in Latin America under the public-private partnership, or PPP, mode, the project entails a 30-year concession to operate and maintain it.

The bridge will take five years to finish, Bahia officials said. Upon completion, it would be the longest sea-crossing cable-stayed bridge in Latin America.

The PPP model involves a service or venture funded and operated through a partnership between a government and the private sector. After more than two years of discussions, the technical solutions provided by Chinese companies will bring the Brazilian state unprecedented advanced technology, said Rui Costa, Bahia state's governor.

The Chinese consortium bid for and won the project through Bahia's global tender. The bridge will be designed and built under both Brazilian and US standards, said Deng Yong, chairman of CR20G, a subsidiary of State-owned China Railway Construction Corp Ltd, or CRCC.

"It will add new impetus to the economy, to employment and to the quality of life of Brazil's northeast region," he said, adding the bridge will offer a 25-minute alternative ride to the hour-long ferry that now connects Salvador to Itaparica, one of Brazil's scenic spots. The current land route is a bit of detour requiring travel across 200 km. The bridge will directly benefit 45 cities and 4.4 million residents.

He said construction will present challenges rarely seen globally, especially in building the deep-water foundation and the 30-centimeter thin-wall hollow pier for the shuttle-shaped main tower.

Itaparica's development had been stunted for a certain period. So, the new bridge is expected to transform the island into a transportation center connecting northern and southern parts of Bahia. It will also usher in new development opportunities in the fields of transportation, tourism development and civil engineering construction, said Wang Wenzhong, CRCC's vice-president.

Wang said the group would make use of different investment models including PPP, build-operate-transfer, equity participation, and mergers and acquisitions, to further compete with its established rivals in other parts of the world, in particular the economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative and BRICS countries.

BRICS is an acronym for five major emerging economies-Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa-that represent about 42 percent of the global population, 23 percent of global GDP, 30 percent of world territory and 18 percent of global trade, according to the BRICS Business Council.

"Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to see the efforts of the BRICS countries in promoting investment cooperation, policy transparency and efficiency," said Thun Lee, head of China operations at TMF Group, the Netherlands-headquartered provider of administrative support services for international business expansion.

He said the BRICS strategy for economic partnership until 2025 will enhance the five countries' investment attractiveness to each other in the coming years. The 2025 target is a key guideline for further enhancing business cooperation. It was approved at the end of the 12th BRICS Summit this month.

Supported by over 18,400 employees, Xi'an-headquartered CR20G is engaged in the design and construction of transportation infrastructure. Its business scope is wide-ranging, and includes real estate development, industrial manufacturing, logistics and trade, railway transportation, environmental protection ecology, engineering project inspection, design consulting, education and training.

Apart from developing businesses in the home market, CR20G has established overseas operations management centers in countries across the world-Angola, Mongolia, Mozambique, Pakistan and Algeria. It has also enriched its overseas experience in areas like foreign staff training, and project and risk management.

China's new round of reform and opening-up policies, and high-standard international trade platforms such as the China International Import Expo will build a comprehensive mechanism for Chinese companies to expand cooperation with global companies in areas from equipment procurement to production capacity cooperation in third-party markets, in particular Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, said Ke Liangdong, vice-chairman of the Beijing-headquartered China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

In the first 10 months of this year, China added $14.1 billion in non-financial outbound direct investment in BRI countries, up more than 23 percent year-on-year. The figure accounts for more than 16 percent of all ODI during the period, up 3.6 percentage points year-on-year, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Commerce.

Some 590 newly signed overseas projects had contract value exceeding $50 million each, among which 331 have contract value above $100 million, four more than the same period last year, said the ministry.

Some sectors have seen robust growth in terms of the contract value of their overseas projects. The total value of newly signed contracts for general construction projects stood at $40.48 billion, surging nearly 37 percent year-on-year, while the value of new contracts for electric power projects rose almost 11 percent to $39.24 billion.

At the opening ceremony of the China-Middle East and North Africa (Morocco) International Trade Digital Expo via video link held in Beijing earlier this month, Ke said the country's strong commitment to opening-up and vast domestic demand will bring more growth and cooperation opportunities to global businesses, including Chinese companies as well as those in the Middle East and North Africa.

The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade will continue to leverage its unique advantages in linking up with the governments and companies, and communicating with internal and external parties, as well as working with all parties to create a better platform for Chinese companies to carry out trade and investment activities in various global markets.

To prevent infection risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese government and business associations have urged companies operating overseas such as CR20G to prepare enough protective materials and make emergency plans, as well as maintain close communication with host countries, according to information released by the Beijing-based China International Contractors Association.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Virtual Lecture by Minister GNM Pandor on the "BRICS Approach to the Post-COVID-19 Recovery", on 1 December 2020 at 17h00 (Виртуальная лекция министра Г. Н. Пандора «Подход БРИКС к восстановлению после COVID-19», 1 декабря 2020 г., 17:00) / South Africa, December, 2020
Keywords: speech, covid-19
South Africa

Honourable Chairperson of the South African BRICS Think Tank (SABTT), Prof. Siphamandla Zondi,

Distinguished delegates of the SABTT and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS),

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, allow me to thank the South African BRICS Think Tank as well as the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences for providing this platform for engagement between academia, civil society and government on key current affairs. It is a great honour for me to be invited to give a lecture on the BRICS Approach to the Post-COVID-19 Recovery.

South Africa's participation in BRICS continues to emphasise cooperation that contributes directly and indirectly to the priorities of a better South Africa, a better Africa, and a better world through synchronising programmes adopted in regional and international fora, such as the AU's Agenda 2063, with those pursued in BRICS. BRICS also provides a strategic platform to articulate and pursue key domestic and foreign policy objectives at the national, regional, South-South, and global levels. It is important to state at this introductory point that while for South Africa BRICS constitutes a forum that could be a catalyst for the promotion of a progressive global agenda there isn't a constant common and shared perspective on all issues. Nonetheless it is a critical forum.

The BRICS approach to post-COVID recovery is framed within the context of the shared principles and values that brought the BRICS formation together, including the principles of mutual respect, sovereign equality, democracy, inclusiveness and strengthened collaboration. The BRICS formation has been a major global force, even before the pandemic, in defending multilateralism and working towards a more representative, democratic, equitable, fair and just international political and economic order. It is against this backdrop that BRICS has positioned itself to respond to the pandemic in a holistic and comprehensive manner, based on building a global consensus around collaboration. Indeed, BRICS continues to support multilateralism and the central role of the United Nations in its response. BRICS is not a forum for political point-scoring or a race to profit off the pandemic. Instead we seek collaboration aimed at ensuring benefits flow to all, including Africa and the poorest of the poor.

The inclusive approach of BRICS is reflected in the broad nature of the response as well. All tracks of the BRICS cooperation have been utilised to address the impacts of COVID, including addressing the health, economic and social devastation of the pandemic. This comes out strongly in the Moscow Declaration where equal attention is paid to strengthening the three-pillars of our cooperation in the areas of economy and finance, peace and security and social and people-to-people exchanges. All the institutions of BRICS have also played their part in responding to the pandemic.

The BRICS Think-Tank Council and Academic Forum are important Track II institutional mechanisms that enable interaction with key stakeholders in civil society and academia to support our work, particularly in terms of socio-economic development and addressing the triple challenges we face. These fora could play a critical role in ensuring broader societal appreciation of the contribution an energised we co-ordinated BRICS could make to advancing a modern inclusive international agenda of development.

All of us can appreciate the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves, as we battle the devastating impact of COVID-19 in all facets of our lives. The pandemic has significantly impacted on the ambitious agenda across all three pillars of BRICS that Russia announced at the beginning of 2020. We have had to find creative ways of conducting our work, moving away from in-person conferences and negotiations to largely virtual formats.

Having said that, there have been significant achievements, as you will have seen from the 12th BRICS Summit held virtually on Tuesday last week. For example, the Summit adopted the renewed BRICS Strategy for Economic Partnership (2020-2025) and the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and launched the BRICS Women's Business Alliance and the first projects under the Energy Research Platform. The Moscow Declaration reflects a significant array of decisions across a wide spectrum of endeavours. I recommend that you read the Declaration, as it contains a number of paragraphs dealing with the topic of today's interaction.

Naturally, the pandemic has helped to highlight the importance of our BRICS work in a several key areas, such as health technology; the Fourth Industrial Revolution (under the Partnership for the New Industrial Revolution); action plans for the Science, Technology and Innovation sector; cyber-security; the New Development Bank; and the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre.

The Summit was held under the theme "BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth". South Africa's participation at the Summit, led by President Ramaphosa, was guided by the following priorities:

  • Reaffirming South Africa's support for multilateralism and respect for international law in the international system;
  • Reaffirming South Africa's support for the restructuring of the global political, economic, and financial architecture to be more equitable and balanced;
  • Adopting the review of the BRICS Strategy for Economic Partnership 2025;
  • Welcoming the ongoing cooperation in all pillars of the BRICS partnership, particularly the tangible benefits for South Africa through science, technology and innovation cooperation, health and education cooperation, trade, investment and tourism cooperation, as well as through BRICS financing for infrastructure development, capacity building, research, educational and skilling opportunities.
  • Welcoming the ongoing contribution of the New Development Bank to address the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Noting the progress made towards the expansion of the New Development Bank to include key African member states, amongst other prospective members;
  • Strengthening the relationship between the government track and the BRICS Business Council, BRICS Women's' Business Alliance, the New Development Bank and the Interbank Cooperation Mechanism, as well as the BRICS Think Tank Council, BRICS Academic Forum and the BRICS Civil Forum; and
  • Reaffirming South Africa's support for the engagement with non-BRICS member states through the BRICS Outreach and BRICS Plus in future Summits.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

BRICS countries have been impacted by the virus in diverse ways. China was able to respond with strict measures speedily and contain the virus. Russia was hard hit but has the capacity to focus on science.

The impact of COVID-19 on the lives and livelihoods of our people requires a range of approaches for Brazil and South Africa. We have to focus on finding a vaccine and also on economic recovery and addressing our triple challenges of poverty inequality and low employment.

On the health front, this pandemic reminded us about the importance of research and innovation in the development of a vaccine and the need to ensure affordable access to quality and effective healthcare and diagnostic tools. Africa lacks much of this capacity and we have argues for it to be focus as we focus on post-COVID recovery.

South Africa remains committed to the establishment of the Vaccine Research and Development Centre in South Africa, in line with the 2018 BRICS Johannesburg Declaration.

We recognise that research and development of new vaccines and diagnostic tools will now need to integrate other co-infections and co-morbidities. To this end, we are encouraged by the ongoing cooperation among BRICS experts to share best practices, as well as the work on the initiative for integrating digital technologies to improve the monitoring of cases. Our presence in BRICS must support the creation of capacity so that South Africa and Africa are able to freely act in response to future pandemics.

The health sector under BRICS has registered satisfactory progress in terms of cooperation at both public and private sector levels. To this end, the BRICS Ministers of Health recently exchanged country-level information on the situation related to the spread of COVID-19 and best practices in fighting it, in order to collect and exchange data, as well as analyse statistical information to find the best ways to stop diseases.

In line with our commitment to ensuring public health quality and access, the BRICS Ministers of Health affirmed the importance of ensuring the right to universal and equal access to health technologies through sharing of knowledge, intellectual property and data necessary for COVID-19 detection, prevention, treatment and response.

As a further response to the pandemic, the Ministers took note of the Russian proposal for an Integrated Early Warning System for preventing mass infectious disease risks, in accordance with International Health Regulations; while welcoming the publication of the consolidated document "BRICS Countries measures taken in the field of healthcare to counter the spread of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)".

As South Africa, we fully support the initiative by the WHO together with many governments, non-profit organisations and industry leaders to speed up the development and production of vaccines and therapeutics, and to ensure that they are distributed quickly, equitably and affordably across the globe. This was emphasised by the BRICS Leaders at the Summit.

South Africa cautions against vaccine nationalism. South Africa has stated that vaccines must be made global public goods, accessible to all countries that require them on an equitable and affordable basis. For its part, South Africa is participating in several research initiatives with continental and international partners including the global effort to develop, manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

The South African Department of Science and Innovation has established an Indigenous Knowledge-Based COVID-19 Research Team. The team is comprised of African Medicines Practitioners, Universities, Science Councils, and relevant Government Departments. The focus of the team is on interfacing with healers, conducting agronomy studies, phyto-chemistry, in-vitro and in-vivo work, pre-clinical and clinical research, product development and manufacturing. The South African team chairs a Regional Expert Committee of the World Health Organisation – African Regional Office, on COVID-19 and other African Medicines. With the leadership of South Africa, the WHO-AFRO has developed Master-Protocols for Evaluations of Phase 3 Clinical Trials.

On the economic front, BRICS countries have committed to strengthening cooperation through, among others, the adoption and implementation of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership (2020-2025); BRICS Mutual Customs Assistance Agreement; Review of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Competition Law and Policy; and Launch of the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform.

Trade diversification remains a priority for South Africa and multiple opportunities exist for South African trade with BRICS. Supporting diversification of our domestic industry will unlock multiple new opportunities for trade, notably in the production of machinery, plastic products, and electrical components. Furthermore, a more comprehensive account of non-tariff barriers is needed, potentially with monitoring on an ongoing basis.

The New Development Bank (NDB) of BRICS continues to play a critical role in contributing to the ongoing efforts of BRICS countries to address the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including by way of an Emergency Assistance Facility of up to US$10 billion, as well as the approval of loans to the BRICS states of US$4 billion, including an Emergency Assistance Programme of $1billion to South Africa, with a second package possible.

Distinguished Delegates,

The role of the BRICS Think Tank Council and BRICS Academic Forum in strengthening expert dialogue and exchanges among the academic community to promote future-oriented research policy analysis and knowledge-sharing was commended by the BRICS Leaders. Further in Paragraph 95 of the Moscow Declaration, the Leaders called on the BRICS Think Tank Council to continue to improve its internal mechanism and strengthen its connection with BRICS governmental sectors and other institutions, including the NDB and the BRICS Business Council.

Therefore, I trust that the South African BRICS Think Tank will continue to engage us as government to exchange knowledge and provide feedback and recommendations to improve on our engagements within BRICS.

In conclusion, BRICS remains critical to our post-COVID economic and social recovery and, in this regard, I wish to reiterate South Africa and BRICS commitment to spare no effort to mitigate the devastating effects of the pandemic and to address the ongoing challenges of our people.

I thank you.


OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road

World of Work
Cabinet approves Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of Physical Culture and Sport among BRICS Countries (Кабмин утвердил Меморандум о взаимопонимании по сотрудничеству в области физической культуры и спорта между странами БРИКС) / India, November, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, concluded_agreements

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi was apprised of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the field of Physical Culture and Sport signed among BRICS Countries.

Cooperation in the field of sports among the five countries will help in expanding knowledge and expertise in the area of sports science, sports medicine, coaching techniques etc, which would result in improvement in performance of our sportspersons in international tournaments and strengthening of bilateral relations with BRICS member countries.

Benefits arising from cooperation in the field of sports among the five countries would be equally applicable to all sportspersons irrespective of their caste, creed, region, religion and gender.

The biggest threat faced by the world today is poverty, not terrorism (Самая большая угроза, с которой сталкивается мир сегодня, - это бедность, а не терроризм) / South Africa, December, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, expert_opinion, covid-19
South Africa

At the recent 12th BRICS Summit on November 17 this year, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed that in his view and that of his populous country, the biggest threat faced by the world today is terrorism.

The summit, sometimes referred to as the 2020 BRICS Summit, was held virtually and chaired by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Modi thanked graciously for Moscow's assistance to BRICS' counter-terrorism strategy.

Now, Modi is a leader who has exhibited a desire and commitment to the success of BRICS, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. His contribution to the thought leadership of BRICS as a bloc of influential regional powerhouses is immense. However, despite my expressed acknowledgement of the man, I take umbrage against Modi's standpoint that terrorism is the world's biggest challenge at this juncture.

It is my considered opinion that poverty, and not terrorism, is the singe most contributory factor to the wars on our planet.

The Earth's plentiful resources have been literally stolen by a minority of heartless and greedy socio-economic elites who have somehow managed to co-opt the political aristocracy all over the world.

Everywhere in the world, wherever one looks, the poor are, to borrow from Thomas Hardy, the Madding Crowd.

They are homeless, empty-bellied, hopeless and miserable. But then again, all these are the building blocks of anger. No single hungry person goes about their daily business filled with admiration for the deceitful, double-dealing current world order. The advent of Covid-19 has further exposed the treachery of our unequal and unsurprisingly divided world.

Take for instance a point Social Scientists have hurried to highlight, which is that although the Coronavirus knows neither colour nor creed, it is more generous to the haves and most ravaging among the have-nots. The US, the world's only remaining superpower in a post-Cold War era, has offered academics the world over the best case study of effects of a pandemic in a class society. The bulk of Covid-19 victims in the US continue to be African-Americans and to a certain extent the Hispanics where white people, by design and nature overtly affluent, are proportionally out of harm's way.

India's poverty is in itself legendary. The world's second most populous country after China is constantly at war to thwart the scourge of poverty throughout its sprawling slums. An erudite leader such as the honourable Prime Minister Modi ought to know that for millions of people in India and around the world, hunger and starvation is their enemy number one, not angry dangerously armed men who feel aggrieved by skewed economic and political landscapes.

It is my view that in the world of the plenty if every human being could get the slice of the cake peace and harmony would inevitably reign. People would be having equal access to food, opportunity and security of tenure. But when the wealth of a country such as say, South Africa, continues to be an exclusive preserve of a race-based minority that can unsurprisingly only breed nothing but sheer unadulterated contempt.

Too often people who argue from a standpoint of privilege look at life in general through rose coloured glasses. Very often they never seem to know, nor learn, that violence suit all those who have nothing to lose. When such crowds amplify, the world becomes less safe. Terrorism, which in my view is a by-product of the cardinal sin – poverty, takes root and become quite ubiquitous. This consequential eventuality is understandably vexatious to the Bourgeois. Just as was the case at the height of the Roman Empire, the proletariat possess the propensity to rise against injustice, perceived or real.

I fully concur, nonetheless, with Prime Minister Modi's call for the reformation of the UN Security Council (UNSC). As things stand, only five countries are permanent members of the UNSC since the end of the World War II in 1945. These are the UK, USA, France, China and Russia. Only these five possess each a Veto power, which means they can overturn any decision of the council that are unhappy with even if it could have been a majority decision.

The US has throughout history used its veto power to stop UNSC resolutions against Israel's much-maligned oppression of the Palestinian people, whose land is illegally occupied to this day.

I have previously argued that the rest of the BRICS member-states should turn China's and Russia's veto powers into a transferable commodity. Through BRICS connection, if any of the non-permanent UNSC members are aggrieved by a resolution, they showed "borrow" the veto power from either China or Russia and flaunt it to great effect.

After all, BRICS countries are collectively home to 42% of the world's population. Therefore whatever the decision of global impact the BRICS bloc makes it remains significantly representative of a notable population of the world.

In the past I have often argues that BRICS summits appear to be meetings where members meet to have drinks and take one resolution only – which is agreeing to meet again.

Lately things seem to be improving. Russia's President Putin has during the recent summit appealed for the establishment of a Centre for Development and Research of BRICS Vaccines. This is revolutionary. China and the rest of the members support the proposal. Vaccines cooperation, as China called it, is long overdue.

In the same way that BRICS members a while ago resolved to host annual BRICS games on a rotation basis, all forms of cooperation should be encouraged.

The BRICS Bank, which has previously been spoken about as ground-breaking and later went quite, need to come to the fore at this challenging Covid-19-induced economic hardships. Instead of members grovelling cap-in-hand to the World Bank and the IMF, BRICS members should find solace in their own self-funded development bank whose lending conditions are honeymoon compared to the hidden sting-in-the-tail lending conditions of the US-led IMF and World Bank.

The time for solidarity among BRICS member states is now or never. In a post-Covid-19 world order, BRICS would have to position itself as a force to reckon with or simply close shop.

Together, BRICS countries must hitherto thrash out collective economic recovery programs. This would be in acknowledgement that people from these emerging democracies don't live on political slogans, but rather on sound, sustainable economic initiatives that can feed nations from far and near.

The truth is, no one can completely eradicate poverty. Even the Bible quotes Jesus Christ as having said that "the poor will always be there". But with good, visionary and ethical leadership, the poor can be fed and secured. And when they feel a sense of security, anger among them will dissipate. And then, we will all live in a world where Prime Minister Modi et al find no reason to identify terrorism as the world' biggest challenge. I rest my case.

* Monare is a freelance journalist and social commentator.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.
Data Protection in the BRICS Countries: Enhanced Cooperation and Convergence towards Legal Interoperability (Защита данных в странах БРИКС: расширение сотрудничества и сближение в направлении правовой совместимости) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, cooperation

This paper stems from the research elaborated by CyberBRICS project, which is the first attempt to produce comparative analyses of digital policies in the BRICS countries – namely, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The project is hosted by Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, Rio de Janeiro, and developed in partnership with key academic partners in the BRICS area, and has three main objectives: 1) to map existing policies and regulations; 2) to identify good practices; and 3) to develop policy recommendations. This paper focuses on the ongoing development and increasing rapprochement of BRICS data protection frameworks. It highlights that the grouping can be considered as an example of enhanced cooperation on Internet governance and stresses the existence of a tendency towards convergence and legal interoperability of several aspects of their data protection policies. Lastly, it argues that BRICS should seize the opportunity to further enhance their cooperation on data protection, as the increased convergence and compatibility of their data protection frameworks may be beneficial for both individuals and businesses, implementing the BRICS Roadmap of Practical Cooperation on Ensuring Security in the Use of ICTs, and providing a useful opportunity to test for the new BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Architecture.

NON-FINAL DRAFT submitted in May 2020 to the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace Studies as a contribution to the 2020 World Internet Conference outcome publications. Please contact the author for a final version (to be published in Chinese and English).

This paper is the first part of a twoflod work to be completed by the upcoming BRICS Data Protection Good Practices, elaborated by Professor Luca Belli and Professor Danilo Doneda.

SA highlights need for youth volunteer exchange programmes (ЮАР подчеркивает необходимость программ обмена молодежными волонтерами) / South Africa, December, 2020
Keywords: summit, social_issues
South Africa

Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, has called for the introduction of volunteer exchange programmes for youth.

She called for the programmes to target young women, young diplomats, young academics and students.

"As we accelerate socio-economic empowerment of our youth, we must continue to foster the spirit of volunteerism between the youth of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) nations," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

The Minister was speaking at the 6th BRICS Meeting of Ministers and Heads of Executive Authorities Responsible for youth, held in Russia.

Russia as the current chair of BRICS Group, hosted the Summit and Ministers' meeting from 29 November to 01 December 2020 under the theme "BRICS: Challenges of the Time for the Youth."

The 2020 BRICS Youth Summit and the Ministers' meeting took place in a very unprecedented time for the world, as the whole world is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw millions of people infected and affected in many ways.

The summit aimed to create space for BRICS youth to engage on policies and programmes that seek to address young people's challenges and empower them; and to promote exchange of experiences, whilst enhancing solidarity between delegates and stakeholders.

The Ministers' meeting also intended to adopt the outcome document of the Summit and show political commitment on implementation of the resolutions.

The meeting was attended mainly by young delegates from diverse sectors, including the National Youth Development Agency CEO supported by staff members, and the Minister supported by staff members from the department.

South Africa's priorities for BRICS youth cooperation are:

  • Advancing skills revolution for our youth by promoting capabilities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) areas;
  • Creating employment in areas with high absorption capacity such as The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Ocean Economy, Green Economy, Mineral Resources and Energy, Tourism, Manufacturing etc;
  • Supporting young entrepreneurs;
  • Promoting market access as well as free and fair trade amongst the BRICS nations; and
  • Youth volunteer exchange promotion.
Among the issues discussed during the summit included the current state and prospects for the further development of BRICS youth in areas such as volunteering, creative industries, official and public diplomacy, youth energy cooperation, and youth entrepreneurship and innovations.

Some of the key resolutions taken emanated from the various discussions at the include enhancing cooperation amongst the BRICS countries by supporting the youth volunteer movement including corporate volunteering; fostering patriotism; strengthening friendly and cultural relations; and strengthening professional ties based on the principles of equality and mutual respect.

Establishment of BRICS Secretariat

In order to achieve all these, a Volunteer Council will be established and the support for establishment of the BRICS Secretariat proposed by South Africa was also reaffirmed.

The need to lobby for funding for youth owned enterprises, and education opportunities aimed at eradicating unemployment to youth from the New Development Bank was emphasized.

This is critical as the BRICS nations endeavour to accelerate implementation of recovery plans as a redress measure to advance empowerment of the general youth population, young women, adolescent, youth with disabilities, particularly those residing in rural areas.

The summit took place as the department concludes Disability Rights Awareness Month, and is currently observing 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. –

VI BRICS Youth Summit opens in Ulyanovsk (VI Молодежный саммит БРИКС открылся в Ульяновске) / Russia, November, 2020
Keywords: summit, social_issues

On 29 November, Ulyanovsk became the venue of the opening ceremony of the VI BRICS Youth Summit under the theme "BRICS: Challenges of the Time for Young People.", scheduled for 29 November - 2 December 2020.

Sergei Morozov, Governor of the Ulyanovsk Region, delivered a message of greetings to the participants and experts: "I am proud that the Ulyanovsk Region has been given the honour to host this annual Summit. This choice was not a coincidence. Our region has been proactively and fruitfully cooperating with over 30 countries around the world." He went on to wish the participants and experts every success in further strengthening cooperation among the BRICS countries.

The Heads of the BRICS Ministries and Line agencies for Youth Affairs, including Mr Alexandr Bugaev, Head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs of the Russian Federation, Ms Emilly Rayanne Coelho Silva, National Secretary for Youth Affairs of The Federative Republic Of Brazil, Mr Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports of the Republic of India, Mr Wu Gan, Acting Vice President of the All-China Youth Federation, Mr Waseem Carrim, Chief Executive Officer of the National Youth Development Agency of the Republic of South Africa, addressed the Summit participants and experts in their video messages.

"We hope that the projects that will be presented at the Summit will help solve the problems young people in our countries face," Emilli Coelho Silva said.

India's Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju noted the meaningful contribution of young people to resolving humanitarian issues: "I would like to thank millions of young people who left their comfort zones and have been fighting the global coronavirus pandemic with so much dedication. In these challenging times I call on the young people to take the leading role in decision-making processes and proactively contribute toit, as well as to shape their ideas and needs for better programs and policies across the world."

In his message to the Summit participants, Wu Gan, Acting Vice President of the All-China Youth Federation, said: "Facing new challenges, all countries must act in the spirit of partnership in order to counter these challenges and work together to foster progress. We seek to expand exchanges among BRICS youth institutions and organisations and create more cooperation platforms, as well as support youth volunteering and care and assist vulnerable social groups in order to establish the youth as the key driving force of social change."

Chief Executive Officer of the National Youth Development Agency of the Republic of South Africa Waseem Carrim made a special emphasis on the importance of volunteering: "We consider it necessary to continue the support for international youth exchanges, especially within the framework of youth volunteering."

More than 100 young people from Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa are taking part in the Ulyanovsk event. They will discuss the current state and prospects for the further development of BRICS youth cooperation in such areas as volunteering, creative industries, official and public diplomacy, youth energy cooperation, youth entrepreneurship and innovations.

The Summit will also include a Meeting of BRICS Ministers and Heads of Line Agencies Responsible for Youth Policy, to be held via videoconference.

The approval of a Concept for the Development of Cooperation among BRICS Countries in Supporting the Youth Volunteer Movement and the decision to establish a Working Group to launch an International IT Valley in the Ulyanovsk Region are expected to become important outcomes of the Summit.

The Summit and the BRICS Ministerial meeting are organized by the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs and the Government of the Ulyanovsk Region.

BRICS media wrestle with disinformation challenge in COVID-19 fight (СМИ БРИКС борются с проблемой дезинформации в борьбе с COVID-19) / India, November, 2020
Keywords: media, expert_opinion, covid-19

News media around the world, especially newspapers and also other forms of media, have taken a big hit during pandemic: N. Ram

Representatives of media organisations from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) on Monday called for the five nations to work together to jointly combat the "virus of disinformation" in the pandemic era.

At the fifth BRICS Media Forum, held virtually to coincide with the recently concluded BRICS summit, media organisations discussed ways in which journalists from the grouping could collaborate more closely to tell stories, with the countries facing many similar challenges, from economic issues to public health, as they grapple with COVID-19.

Also read: Coronavirus | Fear factor combined with fake news creates new 'infodemic' on social media

N. Ram, Director of The Hindu Publishing Group and former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu Group of Publications, noted that India, Brazil and Russia were among the five in the world with the highest number of confirmed cases. "The news media around the world, especially daily newspapers, and also other forms of the media, have taken a big hit during the pandemic," he said.

"It is heartening that media organisations that come under the aegis of the BRICS Media Forum have done a commendable job in informing and educating readers, viewers, and listeners on the pandemic and its consequences for people's lives, health, livelihood, and well-being; on the tools and individual and social behaviours that can enable a country or a community to mount defences against this coronavirus; on the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines for COVID-19; and on the science behind all this," he stated. "I believe the mainstream media in our five countries have also helped by fielding well-informed discussions on how to strike a reasonable balance, tricky as it is, at the policy level between saving lives and health on the one hand and protecting work, livelihood, and the economy on the other."

Jose Juan Sanchez, President of Brazil's CMA Group that specialises in financial and agri-business news, said a common thread was a growing problem of disinformation or 'fake news'. "We need to come together to fight disinformation. It is important for news to be instantaneous, and it is equally important to remember that false news is dangerous. Transparent and reliable information is important more than ever," he asserted.

Coronavirus | Centre asks social media firms to remove false news on COVID-19

The forum was also attended by Sergey Kochetkov, Deputy Editor-in-chief of Rossiya Segodnya (Russia's state-owned news agency), whose subsidiaries include Sputnik and RIA Novosti; Iqbal Surve, Executive Chairman of Independent Media in South Africa; and He Ping, President and Editor-in-chief of China's Xinhua news agency, which came up with the idea of a BRICS Media Forum in 2015.

More cooperation

Mr. He said the pandemic had only reinforced the needs of the countries to step up, rather than shun, cooperation. "In times of crisis, no one can stand alone or stay immune," he pointed out. "As a Chinese saying goes, fire tests gold, and adversity reveals friendship."

Mr. Ram observed that disinformation that was being "transmitted globally at warp speed on the so-called technology platforms, notably Facebook, Twitter, Google, WhatsApp, and Instagram" was "a major threat not just to the mainstream media, but, more importantly, to the lives and well-being of tens of millions of people and the safety and integrity of society as a whole."

He said: "The BRICS Media Forum can make a real difference in the fight against motivated and harmful disinformation by promoting and strengthening relevant media exchanges, workshops, training of journalists, and interactions with technology companies that are willing to work with us to contain and end the menace.

"For example, rigorous fact-checking and investigation by well-trained teams of journalists and the new type of specialised fact-checking organisations can be supplemented by technological solutions, with the deployment of technologies like AI, in the fight against disinformation, especially large-scale online harms. BRICS countries have advantages in doing both things."

Further media cooperation crucial for BRICS (Дальнейшее сотрудничество со СМИ имеет решающее значение для БРИКС) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, media

The heads of five leading news organizations from BRICS countries jointly decided on Monday to push ahead with post-pandemic exchanges and cooperation, reaching agreement at a presidium meeting held via video link.

The pledge by the leading BRICS media outlets was natural, as they and others like them have demonstrated through their stories the tough battle against the pandemic and the mutual support between BRICS countries and their people.

As the chroniclers of the vicissitudes of the times, promoters of social progress and lookouts on the voyaging ship of history, BRICS media outlets should be more active in facilitating cooperation, especially in times of crisis such as the pandemic.

Despite the geographical distance between them and the challenges brought by the pandemic, BRICS media organizations need to adapt to the new conditions and convey the voice of objectivity and rationality.

Through their work, they can help enhance people-to-people understanding and support between their countries.

As it enters its second decade, BRICS cooperation has borne rich fruit, which cannot be achieved without the contribution of the media in the five countries.

Not long ago, leaders of the five countries discussed cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, exchanged views on the current international situation and reached broad-based consensus at the 12th BRICS summit, which was held via video link.

For BRICS media organizations, it is time to focus on telling the story of the inspiring spirit of developing countries and urging a more just and equitable international order at a time of global challenges.

BRICS media outlets shall stand on the right side of history and make the voice of developing countries heard.

Some Western countries and media outlets frequently distort or smear developing countries, leaving the world with protectionism, headwinds against globalization, and the Cold War mentality.

Under such circumstances, BRICS media outlets bear a special mission: to proactively show the BRICS commitment to multilateralism, and to better safeguard and intensify the international right of speech among developing countries.

Together, BRICS media organizations are ready to fulfill that mission.

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