Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 7.2021
2021.02.15— 2021.02.21
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Launch of BRICS 2021 Website (Запуск веб-сайта БРИКС-2021) / India, February, 2021
Keywords: chairmanship, summit

External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar launched India's BRICS 2021 website at the BRICS Secretariat at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan.

India assumed the BRICS Chairship in 2021, at a time when BRICS is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Under the theme BRICS@15: Intra-BRICS Cooperation, India's approach is focused on strengthening collaboration through Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus. The priorities for BRICS during the year include Reform of the Multilateral System, Counter Terrorism Cooperation, Technological and Digital solutions for Sustainable Development Goals and Enhancing P2P Cooperation.

The dedicated website will maintain an updated and dynamic information repository and will display all relevant information for BRICS, along with documents, press releases and media gallery and registration platform for the events planned over the year.
China backs India hosting this year's BRICS summit: Official (Китай поддерживает Индию, принимающую саммит БРИКС в этом году) / India, February, 2021
Keywords: summit, cooperation

China on Monday expressed its support for India in hosting this year's BRICS summit and said it will work with New Delhi to strengthen the cooperation among the five-member grouping of emerging economies.

India has assumed the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Chairmanship for 2021 and is set to hold this year's summit.

On February 19, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar launched India's BRICS 2021 website at the BRICS Secretariat at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan in New Delhi.

Asked about India assuming the BRICS Chairmanship this year, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here that Beijing backs New Delhi in hosting the summit. "The BRICS is a cooperation mechanism with global influence consisting of emerging economies and developing countries. In recent years, it has seen greater solidarity and deeper practical cooperation and greater influence, Wang said.

BRICS is now a positive, stable and constructive force in international affairs, he said, adding that China attaches importance to this mechanism.

"We are committed to deepening strategic partnership within it to consolidate solidarity and cooperation, Wang said.

"We support India hosting this year's meeting and will work with it and other members to strengthen communication dialogue and consolidate the three-pillar cooperation, expand BRICS plus cooperation and work for greater progress under BRICS and also help the world to defeat COVID-19, resume economic growth and improve global governance, he said.

Wang, however, did not specify whether Chinese President Xi Jinping would attend the summit expected to be held later this year.

Xi has attended all the annual summits of the five-member bloc in the past, including the one last year hosted by Russia in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi took part.

China's announcement backing India to host the BRICS summit came as the armies of the two countries began disengagement of troops locked in over eight-month-long standoff in eastern Ladakh.

Both countries have reached a mutual agreement for disengagement of troops from the most contentious area of North and South Pangong Lake.

Military commanders of both the armies held the 10th round of talks on the Chinese side of the Moldo/Chushul border meeting point on February 20.

A joint statement issued at the end of a lengthy round of talks said the two sides positively appraised the smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area, noting that it was a significant step forward that provided a good basis for resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector.

BRICS promise still awaits 20 years on (Обещания БРИКС ждут исполнения 20 лет) / Australia, February, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion
Author: Jim O'Neill

The idea was initially more about good global governance than greater growth. Sadly, there's a lot of catching up to do as the group enters its third decade.

This November will mark the 20th anniversary of the BRIC acronym that I coined to capture the economic potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Many commentators will be revisiting the concept and assessing each country's performance since 2001, so here are my own thoughts on the matter.

The BRICS brothers: from left, South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, India's Narendra Modi, China's Xi Jinping, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro at a 2019 BRICS summit in Brasilia. AP

First, and contrary to repeated suggestions, the main point of my original November 2001 paper, The World Needs Better Economic BRICs, was neither to forecast endless growth for these economies, nor to promote some new marketing concept for investment funds. As anyone who read that paper will know, the central argument was that these economies' probable growth in relative GDP would have important implications for global governance arrangements.

As 2001 was the third year since the introduction of the euro, I argued that large European countries – namely France, Germany, and Italy – should be represented collectively, rather than individually, at the G7, the International Monetary Fund, and other organisations, thereby making room for the world's rising economic powers.

I then outlined four different scenarios of what the global economy might look like in 2010, three of which conjectured that the four BRIC countries' share of global GDP would grow.

In the event, the 2000-10 decade turned out to be both absolutely and relatively better for each of the four than I had foreseen in any of my scenarios. But until the 2008 financial crisis, there was virtually no notable change of global governance structures. And while that upheaval did result in the creation of the G20 summits and some reforms within the IMF and the World Bank, it is troubling that an economic disaster was needed to effect even limited change.

Within a year of the initiation of G20 summits, the BRICS had added South Africa and formed their own geopolitical club. Yet while this development reinforced the original economic concept, it didn't seem to accomplish much beyond that. Worse, there has been very little progress on the global governance front since then, even in the face of a deadly pandemic.

Returning to the BRIC economic story, between 2003 and 2011 my colleagues and I came up with various projections for how each economy would do between then and 2050. This work, too, led to a few misperceptions, one being that we were offering a concrete forecast.

In fact, the title of our 2003 paper, Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050, made clear that we were imagining one possible, aspirational path, and we certainly didn't predict persistently strong growth rates across the board. For the 2021-30 decade, we assumed a real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth rate of less than 5 per cent a year for China, and suggested that only India would still be experiencing accelerating growth after 2020 (owing to its strong demographics).

It is still possible that the BRIC grouping could become as large as the G7 within the next generation.

We do not yet know the 2020 GDP numbers for major economies, but most countries' real and nominal GDP will certainly be smaller than in 2019, and probably significantly so in the case of Brazil, India and Russia. The exception will be China, whose GDP will probably have increased by 5 per cent or more in nominal (US dollar-denominated) terms, further increasing its share of global GDP.

The pandemic comes on the tail of a decade (2011-20) that was nowhere near as fruitful as the first one. Brazil and Russia's respective shares of global GDP are probably roughly back to their level in 2001. And while India has emerged as the world's fifth-largest economy, it has suffered several rocky years.

China alone enjoyed remarkable success during this period. With a nominal GDP of more than US$15 trillion, its economy is about 15 times bigger than it was in 2001, triple the size of Germany and Japan, and five times the size of the UK and India. Already about three-quarters the size of the United States, its economy is on track to become the largest this decade in nominal terms, having already achieved this threshold in purchasing power parity terms.

Despite a disappointing decade for Brazil and Russia, it is still possible that the BRICS grouping could become as large as the G7 within the next generation. If international trade, investment, and financial flows between the BRICS countries and the rest of the world continue, this level of growth would be good for everyone.

But that is a big if. Much will depend on whether we can muster the political leadership to strengthen international governance and the openness to which Western democracies have long aspired. In terms of these political questions, the BRICS' second decade has been tough. Relations between the West (the US and Europe) and China and Russia are as fraught as they have been in decades, though the recent conclusion of an EU-China investment agreement offers some good news.

One hopes that the arrival of US President Joe Biden's administration and Britain's chairing of the G7 will make up for lost time. There appears to be some momentum behind the idea of creating a larger Democratic Ten (D10) alliance comprising the G7 members and Australia, India, and South Korea.

From a Western perspective, this grouping would have obvious geopolitical and diplomatic advantages, and might help with the governance of cyberspace and technology; but it is unclear what purpose it would serve for the wider world.

Indeed, a D10 could raise more questions than it answers. Why not include other democracies that are already in the G20, such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico? Why would South Korea want to be in a group that excludes China, its huge economic neighbour, but includes Japan, with which it is often in diplomatic spats? How relevant could the D10 possibly be in efforts to address climate change, global economic stability and equality, and issues such as the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and antimicrobial resistance?

What the world really needs is what we called for back in 2001: genuinely representative global economic governance. Let us hope there is a renewed desire to take this path under the new US administration.

Project Syndicate
Why Structural Realists Are Wrong to Predict That Russia Will Help the US Against China (Почему структурные реалисты ошибаются, предсказывая, что Россия поможет США в борьбе с Китаем) / Pakistan, February, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

Globally renowned structural realism theorist Professor John Mearsheimer shared his predictions about what he believes is an inevitable New Cold War between China and the US in an hour-long interview earlier this week with Pakistani journalist Ejaz Haider. I responded to what I regard as his perspective's greatest shortcomings in my recent analysis for CGTN titled "A Respectful Rebuttal To Professor Mearsheimer's China Predictions" that should before this piece for the proper background arguments. In a nutshell, I argue that structural realism has its limitations because it importantly doesn't account for the Chinese leadership's neoliberal-influenced official outlook on International Relations, nor for why many Asia-Pacific states jointed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) instead of a US-led "balancing coalition" against China, among other examples.

I also rebutted his prediction that Russia will "switch sides" and "ally" with the US "against China", pointing out that these two Great Powers' close economic, military, and institutional (BRICS/SCO) cooperation contradicts his assessment that China is supposedly a greater threat to Russia than the US is. Since the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership is one of the primary axes of contemporary geopolitics, I felt it worthwhile to expand a bit more on why I disagree with his prediction. My purpose in doing so is to present an alternative outlook on the long-term prospects of their relations in order to generate a wider discussion about them. I hope that Pakistani and other academics, experts, media representatives, and civil society members will therefore be able to have a more comprehensive view of this topic in order to more confidently arrive at their own conclusions.

The relevant part of Professor Mearsheimer's interview can be listened to at the 51:20 mark of the hyperlinked video in the first paragraph. One of the bases for his prediction is that Russians have told him in private that they're very nervous about the influence of China's Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) in Central Asia. He then goes on to discuss why he feels that the US' current policy towards Russia is so unnecessary and counterproductive because it pushed Moscow closer to Beijing. Professor Mearsheimer doesn't expect this to change under Biden either, but if it eventually does over time, then he believes that his prediction of Russia "switching sides" to help the US "balance against China" will play out. Should that scenario transpire, then it would be truly be a game-changing development that would fundamentally alter the trajectory of the New Cold War.

I personally believe that Professor Mearsheimer's prediction is inherently flawed. While it's true that there are growing power asymmetries between China and Russia that would at least superficially add credence to his structural realist prediction of an inevitable split between the two, this overlooks the influence of the constructivist theory of International Relations. This school of thought basically concerns the influence of occasionally changing perceptions (whether naturally occurring and/or due to foreign factors such as information warfare operations) on determining states' threat assessments of one another. It's imperfect, just like the realist and liberal schools of International Relations, but it nevertheless helps explain why pairs of states with growing power asymmetries such as China and Russia continue to cooperate and even enhance their ties.

At the present moment, structural realists and constructivists could interestingly argue that the US is both an objectively and subjectively determined threat respectively by those two Great Powers, the first being due to its incomparable military advantage and the second related to its publicly stated intent to leverage its capabilities towards containing them. Where the structural realist and constructivist interpretations diverge, however, is over the long-term prospects of what some in both camps regard as the current Russian-Chinese "marriage of convenience". Structural realists are confident that these growing power asymmetries in favor of China, coupled with a potential diplomatic breakthrough between Russia and the US, will inevitably lead to a Russian-Chinese split. Constructivists, however, aren't so confident since it remains to be seen how they'll perceive one another.

Although some Russians have privately shared their anxieties with Professor Mearsheimer about BRI's impact on Central Asia, that doesn't mean that they regard China as a traditional threat in the same way that structural realists generally define this term. After all, President Putin continues to call for increased cooperation with China, including as recently as earlier this month while commemorating Diplomatic Workers' Day in Russia. He said that

"Much credit goes to the Foreign Ministry for its active and consistent efforts to achieve stabilisation in several hot spots and ensure constructive cooperation with the majority of our foreign partners, primarily the member states of the EAEU, CSTO, CIS, SCO and BRICS." Putin also declared that "The deepening of Eurasian integration and its interface with other regional integration associations remain a priority goal."

Remembering that China is a key member of BRICS and the SCO, it's clear that Russia has no publicly stated intent of gradually disengaging from China contrary to Professor Mearsheimer's prediction. That said, this doesn't mean that Russia also isn't creatively "balancing" China either, though in as "friendly" of a manner as Moscow realistically can in order to avoid triggering a security dilemma with Beijing. Basically, India is Russia's preferred partner for "balancing" China due to their shared BRICS and SCO memberships.

Russian-Indian relations became unexpectedly complicated late last year after Indians overreacted to Foreign Minister Lavrov's condemnation of creeping American anti-Chinese influence over New Delhi, but the resulting scandal has since died down and everything seems to be back on track. Russia's concerns about US-Indian relations relate to Moscow's grand strategic goal of "balancing" Beijing in a "friendly" way through their joint institutional partner in New Delhi. The more that US-Indian ties take on a distinctly anti-Chinese nature (arguably driven to a large degree of shared threat assessments inspired by the structural realist school), the less that Russia can rely on its own relations with India to this "balancing" end without risking the scenario that Chinese suspicions are provoked (per the constructivst school of changing perceptions).

I elaborated more on Russia's envisioned means to this end in the academic article that I co-authored last year which was published by the official journal of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO, run by the Russian Foreign Ministry). Titled "The Prospects Of Russia And India Jointly Leading A New Non-Aligned Movement", it explained why this is the most reasonable grand strategic goal for Russia and outlined the ways that it could promote it in the coming future. Regrettably, last year's Chinese-Indian clashes along the vast Line of Actual Control (LAC) between them made it politically impossible for Russia to make progress on this front, though the latest synchronised disengagement agreement between those two Asian Great Powers' forces together with the Indian Foreign Secretary's visit to Moscow gave fresh impetus to this plan.

Unlike what Professor Mearsheimer predicts about Russia "switching sides" to "ally" with the US "against China" in accordance with his structural realist outlook, the vision that I've articulated doesn't directly concern the US, has less of a potential for military conflict between any of the three pertinent parties (Russia, China, India), and therefore isn't as likely to provoke a Russian-Chinese security dilemma. After all, Russia already arms India to the teeth despite military exports relatively declining in recent years, though this has yet to negatively impact their ties. A structural realist would presumably expect it to have already done so, as well as Russia's announcement late last year that it plans to sell jointly produced BrahMos supersonic missiles to the US' mutual defense ally in the Philippines. Both arms relationships pose conventional threats to Chinese national interests.

In fact, they're arguably more threatening from a structural realist perspective than China's purely economic influence in Central Asia since Moscow is literally arming potential foes on Beijing's doorstep with whom it has territorial disputes. Nevertheless, Russian-Chinese ties remain solid because neither Moscow nor Beijing want to provoke a security dilemma along their vast shared border that would distract them from objectively existing US-driven conventional military threats along their western and southern peripheries respectively. Apart from this shared interest, both aspire to complete the gradual pairing of the Russian-led Eurasian Union with China's BRI through the SCO. Russia and China also rely on one another as natural resource suppliers and customers respectively, as well as cooperate real closely on trans-Eurasian connectivity corridors.

These institutional and economic interests are more closely aligned with the neoliberal paradigm of International Relations and have at least thus far greatly mitigated the potential for any emerging security dilemma between them despite predictions to the contrary by Professor Mearsheimer and other structural realists. Russia and China still compete with one another, but it's mostly in the diplomatic realm and nowadays especially involves the kingmaker role of India. The South Asian state can decisively shift Eurasia's geostrategic trajectory depending on the interplay of its diplomatic interactions with the world's top three Great Powers: the US, China, and Russia. I wrote last month that "The Future Of US-Indian Relations Depends On New Delhi's S-400 Decision", which could see India moving away from the US and closer towards Russia.

That scenario, which seems the most likely at the moment considering the US' repeated threats to sanction India if it goes through with that air defense deal, would accelerate the earlier examined grand strategic vision of Russia and India jointly leading a new Non-Aligned Movement ("Neo-NAM"). Any movement in that direction might temporarily complicate China's relations with Russia and India, but since it wouldn't have much of a meaningful military component with respect to the third-party states in which those aforementioned two would cooperate to economic-connectivity ends (with the Philippines and perhaps also Vietnam being exceptions due to potential BrahMos sales), this "friendly" competition should be manageable by all. It might also peacefully restore the perceived (key word) loss of "balance" in Russian-Chinese relations with time too.

That outcome would basically result in the emergence of a third pole of influence in an increasingly bipolar world characterised by the US-Chinese New Cold War, which could in turn help stabilise International Relations while also importantly avoiding Professor Mearsheimer's dire prediction about another seemingly inevitable Russian-Chinese split. To put everything together in a theoretical way, structural realist factors are partly responsible for Russia and India cooperating to "balance" their mutual BRICS and SCO partner in a "friendly" way through neoliberal economically and institutionally driven means, with an emphasis on the "friendly" aspect in a nod towards constructivism's appreciation for perceptions so as not to inadvertently provoke a security dilemma with China. In other words, all three theories are pertinent to the bigger picture.

This leads to my concluding prediction, which is that Russia will indeed seek to "balance" China in the future and arguably already is, but that this will not take the structural realist form that Professor Mearsheimer expects. Instead, it will rely more on the precepts of neoliberalism with a deep appreciation for constructivism. It will also involve India, not the US. This will in turn help Russia avoid the worst-case scenario of a security crisis erupting with China which could then be exploited by the US to divide and rule these Great Powers in pursuit of its hegemonic ends. In the event that India is somehow courted back to the American side and thus more actively contributes to the aggressive containment of China, perhaps by Washington declining to sanction New Delhi for the S-400s, then Russia and China would move closer together to "balance" the US and India instead.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specialising in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China's One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare.

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

The Express Tribune

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and Togolese Abroad of the Togolese Republic Robert Dussey, St Petersburg, February 16, 2021 (Выступление и ответы на вопросы СМИ Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова в ходе совместной пресс-конференции по итогам переговоров с Министром иностранных дел, региональной интеграции и по делам тоголезцев за рубежом Тоголезской Республики Р.Дюссэ, Санкт-Петербург, 16 февраля 2021 года) / Russia, February, 2021
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech, foreign_ministers_meeting

Ladies and gentlemen,

The talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Togo Robert Dussey took place in a friendly, warm atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, as is always the case in our longstanding relations.

We have reaffirmed the fundamental agreements reached at the highest level, including on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in July 2018, where Russian President Vladimir Putin and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe held a bilateral meeting, as well as in October 2019, when Faure Gnassingbe participated in the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi.

We have a mutual interest in intensifying and deepening the entire scope of bilateral ties, including trade, the economy and investment. We have agreed to look for specific opportunities for joint projects in areas such as energy, natural resources, infrastructure, transport, and agriculture.

We have an understanding to develop humanitarian ties, including education opportunities at Russian institutions for Togolese people. We have offered to organise an internship for Togolese Foreign Ministry employees at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

We have discussed some key aspects of international affairs, above all the current situation on the African continent. The Russian Federation is consistently adamant that African problems (of which there are many) require African solutions, while outside interference never does any good.

We strongly support the African Union, the G5 Sahel, and the sub-regional organisations in Africa, in their efforts to resolve numerous local conflicts and crises. We specifically focus on supporting the fight against terrorism, which poses a real threat, including for our friends in Togo and other coastal countries in the region of the Gulf of Guinea.

We appreciate Togo's contribution to the peacekeeping mission in Mali – the largest contingent was sent by our friends from Togo. I expressed our condolences over the dead and wounded in three attacks by terrorists against Togolese peacekeepers during the past month. This is yet further evidence of the need to display international solidarity with our African colleagues.

We agreed to promote cooperation in the UN, where Togo supports many Russian initiatives, including the resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism. Togo is a co-author of our resolution. Togo also backs other Russian resolutions, including the one on preventing an arms race in space. We signed a joint statement by the governments of the Russian Federation and the Togolese Republic, emphasising our resolve to prevent an arms race in space and pledged not to be the first to begin it. This initiative has already acquired many supporters. The UN is adopting special resolutions to back this process.

We are interested in developing the resolutions of the Russia-Africa summit. We spoke in detail about the implementation of these agreements. The coronavirus pandemic has required adjustments. Nevertheless, the results on implementing the Sochi agreements are obvious. This year we will actively continue these efforts.

My colleague has kindly invited me to visit Togo. I am grateful to him for this invitation and will use it by all means. Thank you.

Question: Robert Dussey, Togo's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and Togolese Abroad, praised the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. What about the development of bilateral COVID-19 diplomacy? When is Togo planning to register this vaccine? Is Russia going to supply Togo with medical equipment to help it counter the coronavirus?

Sergey Lavrov: It is very important to observe the necessary procedures on legislative regulations in this respect. I believe we have supplied almost 30 African countries with equipment, test kits and individual protective gear at their requests. We are willing to do this in the future, too, including at the request of our Togolese friends.

As for the Sputnik V vaccine, it has already been registered in over 30 countries, including three African states: Algeria, Tunisia and the Republic of Guinea. Our Togolese colleagues have officially requested our cooperation is supplying this vaccine.

As Minister Dussey has said, it is necessary to complete some procedures in Togo. Once this is done we will be ready to discuss the practical steps.

As you know, the Sputnik V vaccine is being promoted in external markets by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). The African Union established the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team on acquiring COVID vaccines. Recently, the RDIF and this Task Team held a video conference whereby our friends from the African Union were provided with relevant information. During the video conference, fund representatives replied to questions on what must be done.

Let me repeat that the RDIF is dealing with the distribution of the export vaccines, and it has its delivery schedules. The sooner the vaccine is registered, the quicker we can decide on distribution.

Question: The next Russia-Africa summit is scheduled to be held in an African country in 2022. Do you know where exactly? The first summit in Sochi in October 2019 was dedicated to promoting peace and security. What will the next one focus on?

Sergey Lavrov: Preparations for the summit are underway. It will be held in 2022. It was decided in Sochi to hold it every three years. Our African friends will decide on the venue.

The Association for Economic Cooperation with the African States was created in Russia following the 2019 Sochi summit. It includes representatives from the related departments and major Russian companies. The Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, which is a political association, was created as well. Its secretariat is located at the Russian Foreign Ministry. We agreed to hold the forum's annual political meetings at the foreign minister level, from Russia and the African Union Troika that is comprised of its former, current and incoming chairpersons. In 2020, we held them via videoconference with the foreign ministers from South Africa, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hopefully, we'll be able to meet in person in 2021.

Russia and the African Union Troika will use the political meetings to draft the agenda for the 2022 Russia-Africa summit. I think it will be of a comprehensive nature and cover all aspects of our relations. The positions of the African Union, the African countries and Russia on key current issues overlap. We advocate full respect for international legal norms and principles, the UN Charter, non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries, the right of peoples to determine their future and the peaceful settlement of disputes through diplomatic and political means.

The participants in the 2022 Russia-Africa Summit will discuss combating terrorism and other threats of our time, drug trafficking and organised crime, as well as the economy and investment. We are still slightly behind other states, but trade between Russia and the African countries has been growing quite rapidly lately. I think we will soon make up for the time we lost in the years when, at the dawn of the new Russian statehood, we were too busy to maintain proper ties with Africa. A very strong foundation was laid in Soviet times, though. Our friends remember this. Many Africans have graduated from Soviet and Russian universities. We will continue to support the Russian Universities' Alumni World Association that is active in many countries. This is also a very important area of contact between the people. The agenda will cover all areas of our relations. There's no doubt about it.

Question: How do the Western countries feel about Russia getting closer to Africa?

Sergey Lavrov: Their approaches differ. Some are neutral, others, like the former US administration, are very negative about it. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Africa before the end of President Trump's term and publicly urged them not to cooperate with Russia and China in trade, because Moscow and Beijing are allegedly pursuing their own geopolitical interests and trying to benefit from these ties. The United States, though, is doing so out of the goodness of its heart. I will not comment on this.

It wasn't long ago that representatives of the new US administration said the Russian Sputnik V vaccine should be treated with suspicion, since it was another geopolitical plan from the Kremlin, and that one must be careful not to become dependent on Russia. It's sad if they have nothing else to say about normal and friendly relations between countries, and if this is the only thing that they have to say about this. We never make friends with other countries in order to oppose third countries. If Russia and its foreign partners are mutually attracted, we have every right to develop our relations as we see fit. I hope others will also learn their lessons and treat our ties with Africa with respect.

Support for India's hosting of BRICS summit shows China's strategic wisdom (Поддержка Индии в проведении саммита БРИКС демонстрирует стратегическую мудрость Китая) / China, February, 2021
Keywords: summit, political_issues, cooperation

India holds the rotating chairmanship of BRICS in 2021, and the country will hold the BRICS summit in the second half of the year.

"We support India hosting this year's BRICS meetings and stand ready to work together with it and other members to strengthen communication and cooperation in various fields," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Monday. The statement has attracted the attention of the Indian media.

China's attitude shows that with the rising uncertainty in the international community, emerging countries need to look to one another for development. BRICS countries are among the largest emerging markets worldwide. Expanding cooperation within the BRICS will not only bring additional development momentum to the five countries, but will also improve their strategic initiative.

What has attracted Indian media's attention is that despite the border disputes and challenges in China-India ties, Wang still made the above statement. This shows that China doesn't want to see bilateral disputes affect the cooperation mechanism among the BRICS countries. This is a strategic choice made by a responsible major country from the perspective of the whole picture.

China's efforts are clear to all in the two decades since the establishment of the BRICS mechanism, acting as an important driving force for the solidification of the mechanism. "Under the current changes worldwide and the COVID-19 pandemic, China will seek and expand common interests with other member states as always, and is still willing to develop together with other BRICS countries, including India," Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.

China and India have achieved a smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Tso area. The two countries also held the 10th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting on Saturday, and both agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders and push for a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues. "China still attaches great importance to China-India relations and India's important role in international and regional affairs," Qian said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, there is much room for cooperation among BRICS countries, including China and India. For example, during the 2020 BRICS summit, the five countries' leaders reached a consensus on cooperation on COVID-19 vaccines. This is an example of the BRICS countries' joint development amid rising uncertainties. In addition, China and India are the two largest economies in BRICS. In this context, India should also have the strategic wisdom to set aside bilateral disputes and stick to the BRICS cooperation framework.

"India regards BRICS as another important mechanism to enhance its status as a major power and participate in global governance. As India has actively embraced the QUAD framework in recent years, the BRICS is a platform for India to maintain its status as an emerging market and to better balance the country's diplomacy," Qian said.

India should meet China halfway and downplay geopolitical issues and China-India disputes under the BRICS framework. New Delhi should not prevent member countries from reaching a consensus. After all, this is also what India should do as the country has assumed the chairmanship. China-India disputes should not affect the BRICS framework. If India fails to see this, it will be an irresponsible act for the development of the country and the other four members.
Visit of the Foreign Secretary to Russia (February 17-18, 2021) (Визит Министра иностранных дел в Россию (17-18 февраля 2021 г.)) / India, February, 2021
Keywords: mofa, foreign_ministers_meeting, sergey_lavrov

  • Foreign Secretary Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla is on an official visit to Moscow from 17-18 February 2021 for the India-Russia Foreign Office Consultations.
  • Foreign Secretary called on the Russian Foreign Minister H.E Mr. Sergey Lavrov yesterday. He handed over a letter of invitation from the External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S. Jaishankar to Foreign Minister Lavrov to visit India at a mutually convenient date. Foreign Minister Lavrov accepted the invitation and expressed his desire to visit India at an early date.
  • During consultations with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Igor Morgulov yesterday, the two sides reviewed important aspects of bilateral relations and also exchanged views on regional and international issues. Both sides agreed on a roadmap for high-level exchanges this year, including the Annual Bilateral Summit.
  • Foreign Secretary also had an in-depth exchange of views with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Sergey Ryabkov today on multilateral issues focused particularly on disarmament and non-proliferation matters.
  • During his interaction at the Russian Diplomatic Academy yesterday, Foreign Secretary highlighted the importance of the India-Russia partnership in the global context. Foreign Secretary also had an enriching exchange of views with experts from prominent Russian think tanks today on bilateral as well as topical global issues.
  • The visit of Foreign Secretary was preceded by Foreign Office Consultations on UN Security Council(UNSC) matters and policy planning at DG level between the two sides on 15 February 2021 in Moscow.
  • The visit has been useful in further strengthening the close, strategic, special and privileged partnership between India and Russia by identifying an intensive plan of action for bilateral relations this year; agreements on new drivers of our strategic relations, including Russia's keenness to invest in India under the 'Atmanirbhar' programme; as well as close coordination on the multilateral front in the context of India's current tenure as a non-permanent member in the UNSC and the BRICS Presidency.
Foreign Secretary's Speech at the Russian Diplomatic Academy, Moscow (Выступление министра иностранных дел в Российской дипломатической академии, Москва) / India, February, 2021
Keywords: speech, mofa

H.E. Mr. Alexander Yakovenko, Rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Other Ambassadors present here, Mr. Venkatesh Varma, Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is my pleasure to interact with the young diplomat-trainees of the renowned Russian Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, which is as I have just learned 150 years old, - a distinguished world-class institution which has trained generations of Russian diplomats for more than 80 years. It has produced world-class diplomats than anywhere in the world. I have interacted with diplomats here, I have been fortunate to meet and be friends with a very large number of diplomats, I know the calibre of the diplomats that your country produces. I am also aware of the fact that this program is being organised when there are so many restrictions. My special thanks to the Rector Ambassador Yakovenko for hosting this event, despite the difficulties associated with the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

I take this opportunity to convey my felicitations to the diplomatic fraternity of Russia on the 'Diplomats Day' that was recently celebrated on 10 February. The professional expertise and language skills of Russian diplomats are well known. We have a road in New Delhi named after the legendary Russian Ambassador to India, Late Alexander Kadakin, who was fluent in Hindi and other Indian languages. You talked about the many languages that Indian diplomats speak and Mr. Kadakin was one of them. I was very happy to see that a number of Russian diplomats at the Foreign Ministry were also fluent in hindi. I am very happy to see that they have given so much importance to our language. We also celebrate diplomats day on 9 October. My address today in this august house is also provided for in the existing Agreement on Mutual Cooperation between the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service (New Delhi) and the Russian Diplomatic Academy.

Given the significance we attach to the India-Russia Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership, it is only fitting that Moscow is the destination for my first visit abroad in 2021. I have not travelled much during Covid times, restricted only to essential ones, to only neibouring countries. This visit is very important from our point of view. It is very critical that we work on maintaining our relations, notwithstanding the impediments of Covid 19. In this context, I recall that the only outgoing Ministerial level visits from India during March-September 2020, while the Covid-19 pandemic raged and disrupted everyday life, were those of our External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister had travelled twice to Moscow last year on two occasions.

Earlier today, I had excellent meetings at the Russian Foreign Ministry, with Mr. Morgulov, where we reviewed our bilateral relations, including forthcoming high level exchanges. We also discussed India-Russia cooperation in multilateral forums and exchanged views on issues of regional and international importance. I just called on Mr. Lavrov and it was an opportunity to listen to him. He spoke on Russia India relations, that it is very close, very special, very privileged, and strategic, so these were his words and for me this was very instructive to listen to a personality like him. I did tell him that I was in the United Nations, I was Minister Council in our delegation when he was in the PR, and it was a very high point in our relationship between delegations in the UN, in cooperation within UNSC, where India currently is non-permanent member for a two year term.

The year 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the India-Russia Strategic Partnership and the 10th anniversary of its elevation to a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. As described by Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov recently, the India-Russia relationship is truly "very close, very strategic, very special, and very privileged". It is almost unique in the annals of diplomacy. Notwithstanding radical changes in the global geo-political landscape, our long-standing and time-tested partnership has grown from strength to strength.

Since 2014, President Putin and Prime Minister Modi have met each other 19 times. Last year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic situation. This itself shows that importance that we attach to our relationship. The long-term convergence of interests, sensitivity to each other's core concerns, mutual respect and trust shared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin and growing people-to-people contacts are key drivers of our bilateral partnership. Defence, energy, space and civil nuclear cooperation have been its traditional pillars. Our political ties have been bolstered by regular annual summits at the level of our leaders. Prime Minister Modi and President Putin had 4 telephone conversations.

Our two countries have exhibited tremendous resilience following the Covid-19 outbreak. The pandemic has taught us that such challenges can be addressed only through common efforts and of course India and Russia are already cooperating in this direction on not only technical issues but also collaboration is also in the area of vaccines. The Sputnik V is currently undergoing tests in India. It has three testing levels and I think the authorisation is at the earliest possible stage after which we will jointly manufacture this vaccine and distribute it in different parts of the world. Russia has very successfully introduced the vaccination program. India has to ramp up our level of vaccination but we have also made vaccine avialable to different countries, to Latin America, to Gulf countries, Carribean this is the commitment of India's PM that vaccines are accessible and affordable to whole humanity.

Covid 19 has been a major impediment in economic growth. economies all over the world have been very adversely affected by the crisis by the pandemic. But I am happy to say that we are looking at very significant recovery. According to the IMF the Indian economy will grow over 10 per cent this year. We expect India to regain the status of the fastest growing large economy in the world. As I have already mentioned regarding vaccine, India is home to a robust vaccine industry, with 60% of the world's vaccines made in India.

In terms of security and defence ties, we have strong military and military-technical cooperation. We see increasing interest of Russia to get into joint production, joint R&D, joint manufacturing, with Indian companies and a lot of this is evident in the defence sector as well as in the civilian sector. I will speak more on that.

If we speak of military cooperation, even though we had Covid restrictions we had on 24 June 2020, a 75-member Indian contingent took part in the military parade in Moscow to mark the very important 75th anniversary of victory in World War-II.

In terms of joint manufacturing, one of main areas is technical collaboration, we have seen Russian steel in India, production of high quality lamps for use of municipalities and we see a lot of interest in railways, in waterways sector. the two countries are cooperating in manufacture of the "BrahMos" missile system and licensed production in India of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks are standout examples of our cooperation with Russia. In our January 26 parade this year, a lot of exhibits were Russian made. that is the measure of cooperation that we have in defence sector. We also plan to begin the manufacturing of AK-203 rifles, through an India-Russia joint venture in India, involving full technology transfer.

India-Russia trade, amounting to US$ 10.11 bn in FY 2019-2020, is far below the potential. Last year there was a slump but we are finding ways of reviving it. Both countries have set the bilateral trade target at US$ 30 billion by 2025. One of the steps taken to enhance trade is the commencement of negotiations in August 2020 for the India-EAEU Free Trade Agreement. The operationalisation of a "Green Corridor" and a Bilateral Investment Protection Arrangement are likely to encourage bilateral trade and investment, respectively. Use of national currencies in bilateral trade settlements will also reduce cost and time as well as risk of held-up payments.

The oil and gas sector has been a flagship sector of our commercial cooperation. We have been looking out for ways how we can diversify our economic exchanges going beyond the traditional areas and this is one of the important sectors is development of the Russian Far East. Our PM had visited Far East in 2019 and had announced 1 billion dollar credit line and it is one of the main areas of our cooperation. India is looking at investment in new areas such as coking coal, timber, LNG, there is a huge potential there. We have already started a shipping line between Vladivostok and Chennai, is the Eastern sea board of India. We are looking at a significant trade route which was never there, a new route between our two countries. Earlier today, when I called on Lavrov, we spoke on how we can expand this. We of course have a Consulate in Vladivostok but since it is an important area of our friendship we will have to see how to make it larger and more effective that can take care of interests of both countries.

Indian companies have significantly invested in Russia. India's investment in the Sakhalin-1 project was one of our earliest public sector investments abroad. Till date, Indian oil and gas companies have acquired stakes in 5 Russian companies/projects at a value of about US$ 15 bn. Rosneft was the leader of a consortium of investors that, in 2017, acquired a 98% stake in India's Essar Oil at a cost of US$ 12.9 bn. We are seriously into process of privatizing many of our oil majors and some are having very serious discussions with Russian companies to see if some of these stakes can be acquired by Russian companies. We are looking at long-term arrangements for the supply of coking coal from Russia for Indian steel plants. An "India Energy Centre" will be opened in Moscow next month.

It is important to diversify and expand the India-Russia trade basket. There is interest in taking forward cooperation in railways, transport and logistics, civilian ship building and repair, inland waterways, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, minerals, steel, chemicals, including petrochemicals, ceramics, agro-industry, timber, high technology and scientific research. Our companies are actively exploring investments in Russia in energy, minerals, infrastructure and healthcare. As diplomats we should not be looking at what is traditional but try to do which is new, which adds momentum to the relationship.

The Covid-19 pandemic revealed several choke-points and vulnerabilities in global supply chains. In the case of our two countries, this has allowed us to analyse where India and Russia can stand together to overcome over-dependence and over-reliance on certain economies. While Covid-19 presented its physical connectivity challenges, we organised more than 40 sector-specific business engagements in the video-conference format in 2020. We should continue our efforts to overcome traditional barriers to trade while also exploring new areas of economic engagement.

We have prioritised the International North-South Transport Corridor and the Eastern Maritime (Chennai-Vladivostok) Corridor as alternatives to the limited and expensive traditional routes. These will help overcome the logistical challenges posed by geographical distance.We are also exploring trilateral contact with partner countries like Japan and the first Track-II Dialogue on "India-Japan-Russia Cooperation in the Russian Far East" was held In January 2021 in the virtual format. It has identified potential areas for trilateral cooperation.

As an observer country in the Arctic Council, India is also interested in greater engagement with Russia in the Arctic region. We are active particpants in the "International Arctic Forum" being organised by Russia and look forward to Russia's chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021.

From earth, I now turn to space – a frontier in the exploration of which India and Russia have worked closely and meaningfully for over five decades. The launch of India's first two satellites, "Aryabhata" and "Bhaskara-1", from Russian soil remains a legacy of our friendship. Sqn. Ldr. Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian to travel to outer space on board the Soyuz T-11 spacecraft in 1984. Currently, 4 astronauts and 2 flight surgeons from India are undergoing training in Russia as part of "Gaganyaan", India's human space flight programme expected to be launched in 2022.

Cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is an important aspect of our strategic partnership, and the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) is a cherished joint project. We have agreed to commission 12 Russian-designed nuclear reactors in India in the coming years.

No geopolitical discussion today can be complete without a mention of "Indo-Pacific". Indo-Pacific signifies the seamless interface of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. For India, it is the vast maritime space stretching from the western coast of North America to the eastern shores of Africa. We see this as a free, open, inclusive region, which embraces us all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. We would like to work closely with Russia under ASEAN and East Asia Summit, of which both are members. Over 50% of global trade traverses this maritime domain. It is also home to over 60% of the world's population and the global GDP and hence the security, stability, peace and prosperity of Indo-Pacific region is vital for the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018 described our Indo-Pacific vision in one word "SAGAR" (Ocean)- an acronym for "Security and Growth for All in the Region". In 2019, at the East Asia Summit in Bangkok, Prime Minister Modi took the idea of SAGAR further and announced the "Indo-Pacific Oceans' Initiative" to support the building of a rules-based regional architecture resting on 7 pillars: maritime security; maritime ecology; maritime resources; capacity building/resource sharing; disaster risk reduction and management; science, technology and academic cooperation; and trade connectivity/ transport.

I have, so far, outlined India-Russia cooperation in three strategic geographies – Eurasia, Indo-Pacific and the Russian Far East, and the Arctic. These are key emerging theatres of geopolitics that all of you, as young diplomats, will be engaged with through your careers. Russia is crucial to all three regions, and India and Russia will agree much more than they will disagree on the strategic direction, the inherent and necessary multi-polarity, and the security and prosperity of these regions. In fact, a multipolar world and multipolar Asia are not possible without India and Russia.

An issue in our neighbourhood that merits our close attention and coordination is the situation in Afghanistan, which is curently going through a critical phase. Our two countries closely cooperate on Afghanistan both bilaterally and also within the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and other formats.

India and Afghanistan share millenia old relations. India has a multi-sectoral development policy under which we support the building of dams, transmission lines, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, etc in Afghanistan. India has so far, committed more than US$ 3 billion in Afghanistan and our developmental projects are spread across all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

India welcomes and supports all efforts aimed at an early and inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-controlled and Afghan-owned reconciliation in Afghanistan, one that preserves the gains of the last 2 decades and ensures the welfare and well-being of Afghanistan and of other countries in the region. The rise in violence and targeted killings of Afghan activists is not conducive to the ongoing peace process. We have advocated immediate and comprehensive ceasefire since talks and violence cannot go hand in hand.

India and Russia have a long history of working together in international and multilateral organisations, including the UN, SCO, BRICS and G20. We share a deep convergence of interests in multilateral organisations, marked by respect for each other's sensitivities. As India takes on the chairmanship of BRICS and RIC this year, we look forward to fruitful cooperation with Russia.

Our two countries regard the establishment of the multi-polar global order in international relations as a reflection of natural and inevitable process of evolution of inter-state relations in the 21st century. We believe that there is a need to reform the United Nations and in particular, the United Nations Security Council to make it more representative of contemporary realities and to respond more effectively to emerging challenges and threats. Covid 19 is right time to see at the emerging challenges now. we dont have traditional challenges, we have now new challenges, epidemics, natural disasters. We are thankful for Russia's strong support to India's candidature for a permanent seat in a reformed United Nations Security Council. This year, India joined the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the 8th time. We would like to thank Russia for its support to India's election. we have been working in the UNSC in close coordination with Russia.

India and Russia maintain intensive counter-terrorism cooperation in bilateral and multilateral formats. We strongly believe that there can be no justification whatsoever for any acts of terrorism, whether based upon ideological, religious, political, racial, ethnic or any other reasons. We are convinced that the unprecedented spread of this threat requires decisive collective response on part of the entire global community, without double standards and selectivity, in accordance with international law and the UN Charter. All countries should work together to disrupt cross-border terrorist networks and their financing. We call for early conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to strengthen the global counter-terrorism normative and legal framework to combat this scourge of terrorism.

India recognises that a holistic approach is required to tackle climate change. Rapid expansion of renewable energy resources is at the centre of our climate strategy. Our PM attaches great importance to climate change. We expect to install 220 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, which will exceed our target of 175 GW. The Ujala scheme – a national drive to use LED lamps – is reducing CO2 emissions by 38.5 million tonnes every year. Our Smart Cities Mission is working to help 100 cities in India to become more sustainable and adaptable to the challenges of climate change. We are also building next-generation infrastructure such as mass transit systems, green highways and waterways.

At the global stage, we have co-founded mechanisms like the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) that are working on creating global low-carbon pathways. The ISA provides a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar-resource-rich countries to help achieve the common goal of increasing the use and quality of solar energy. The CDRI is a partnership of national governments, UN agencies and programmes, multilateral development banks and financing mechanisms, the private sector, and knowledge institutions that aims to promote the resilience of new and existing infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risks. India would be happy to welcome Russia into the ISA and CDRI families.

Perhaps the most important bonds of friendship, however, are the people-to-people contacts between our two countries. The strong political will to have closer relations is equally matched by a strong public sentiment in both countries. More than 15,000 Indian students are enrolled in various technical institutions in Russia, particularly for the study of medicine. Different aspects of Indian culture, including yoga, Ayurveda, Indian cuisine, dance forms, cinema etc., continue to remain popular in Russia. With growing affinity between the two countries, there is a renewed interest in Indology in Russia. A new India and a new Russia are rediscovering each other through initiatives such as the Ganga-Volga Dialogue of Civilization held in New Delhi in January 2020. There was active support from our Russian friends for events organised as part of the celebration of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, including President Putin's contribution to a special volume of tributes by world leaders.

The philosophical traditions of India and Russia have impacted each other for centuries. The exchange of letters between Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy on non-violence, truth and the human spirit continue to inspire us even today and are a subject of academic discourse in both countries. In line with our emphasis on greater engagement with Russia, we intend to have an agreement on the exchange of 5 diplomats per year between India and Russia for short-term training courses. We also intend to step up our cooperation through Buddhist centres of learning and philosophy.

My very best wishes to our young friends and colleagues present here today. You are entering the world of diplomacy at a critical stage in international politics. This is a time of great dynamism as well as great uncertainty, with a trend towards multi-polarity and global re-balancing. Russia will definitely play its traditional and destined role as a major power and strategic actor. You are embarking on a long and exciting journey; one which India will walk in step with you.

I would once again thank Rector Yakovenko for his invitation to address the Diplomatic Academy. I would like to wish success to the alumni of this great and prestigious institution in further strengthening the India-Russia Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.

Spaseeba Bolshoi (Thank you very much) For the full speech as delivered, please see the link:
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS Bank & Bangladesh's Development (Банк БРИКС и развитие Бангладеш) / Bangladesh, February, 2021
Keywords: ndb, investments

It is good news that Bangladesh is going to be member of the New Development Bank (NDB). The NDB was established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) in July 2015. The birth of the NDB is an alternative to the US-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Bangladesh in 2014 placed proposal to the NDB to become founding member. But, the efforts did not see any green signal then. Very recently, the NDB has modified its maiden plan. As part of membership expansionary policy, the NDB will include more 15 economies. Bangladesh is one of them. Bangladesh after so many years got proposal for membership from the NDB due to its decent economic growth rate. The talks regarding NDB membership was held recently between the NDB president and finance minister- AHM Mustafa Kamal. In the hours-long meeting Bangladesh was offered nearly 0.76 percent share in NDB initially. If the UN member countries join the bank, the share of Bangladesh would reach 0.42 percent. The New Development Bank's purpose is to support infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies.

It is important to note that Bangladesh will have to pay $382 million in the next seven years for becoming NDB member as part of terms and conditions. The need for joining the NDB is a must considering speedy implementation of projects and programmes drafted by the government. Besides, After LDC graduation, there would be no chance of getting foreign loans on easy terms. The bank could be a new funding source to implement 8th Five Year Plan, attain the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs) and Vision 2041, implement the Delta Plan and cope with post pandemic challenges. According to the 8th Five Year Plan, external borrowings require $12 billion, per annum. Another $9.46 billion annually will be required to implement the SDGs. For SDG purpose , the country needs $ 1.0 trillion in 15 years or 20 percent of GDP annually. The total spending on delta- related projects requires 2,5 percent of gross domestic product per annum by 2030. The investment plan of Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, prepared by World Bank, consists of 80 projects and its investment cost is $ 37 billion until 2030. The current mobilization trend of foreign resources ranges from $7 to $8 billion. So, to address the need , there is a need to be a member of the NDB. There is a must say that the NDB lending rate is expected to be tolerable. In, 2016, the bank disbursed around Tk $1.5 billion in infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS. In 2018, the bank so far approved 17 projects worth $ 4.7 billion. The number of projects approved in 2019 stands at 22 with $ 7.2 billion. The NDB has also cumulatively approved 72 projects worth $ 25.7 billion. Notably, 27 percent of the Bank's project approvals are denominated in the local currencies of the respective borrowing members instead of USD. Since 2016, the NDB has provided $1.5 billion in loans to BRICS member states for infrastructure and sustainable development. What should be noted that the NDB stepped in and committed to a $10 billion Emergency Assistance Program to help BRICS countries tackle immediate health impacts and economic recovery concerns; The NDB member countries account for 42 per cent of the world's population and contribute more than 20 per cent of global GDP.

The Agreement on the NDB was signed during the BRICS Summit held in Fortaleza on July 15, 2014. Following ratification by all five founding members, the Agreement entered into force on July 3, 2015. At the March 2012 New Delhi Summit, the leaders of BRICS countries directed their finance ministers to examine the feasibility and viability of setting up a new development bank that would support economic growth in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries. One year later, in the Durban Summit in March 2013, BRICS leaders announced the start of formal negotiations to establish NDB. The inaugural meeting of the Board of Governors of NDB was held in Moscow on July 7, 2015. The NDB began its journey with $ 100 billion of initial authorized capital. The initial subscribed capital of the NDB is $50 billion.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Iqbal Survé: Greater co-operation with BRICS countries will help SA navigate Covid-19 storm (Икбал Сурве: более тесное сотрудничество со странами БРИКС поможет ЮАР преодолеть шторм Covid-19) / South Africa, February, 2021
Keywords: speech, social_issues, covid-19
South Africa

Cape Town - The ongoing setbacks in South Africa's vaccine programme to fight the Covid-19 pandemic underscores the urgent need for government to have a multi-pronged strategy.

In the aftermath of last week's announcement by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and some of the country's top scientists that the recently acquired Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in South Africa will not be effective in combating the new variant of Covid-19, scepticism and frustration are mounting over government's vaccine strategy.

Following months of secrecy regarding its strategy, the ensuing outrage after last week's announcement is not surprising.

Increasingly, questions are being raised over what exactly is behind this secrecy.

What is, however, becoming increasingly clear is that ordinary citizens are paying a heavy price for the one-track approach adopted by government.

Following months of over-reliance on the delivery of a so-called "silver bullet" from AstraZeneca, the emphasis has now shifted to the delivery this week of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which some of our scientists are claiming is the new "silver bullet".

Throughout the entire process of considering and securing vaccines, it is somewhat confounding that South Africa has not thought it prudent to engage its BRICS partners from the outset, on the possible rollout of China's Sinovac and/or Sinopharm and Russia's Sputnik V vaccines.

It also remains a mystery as to why the South African government chose to bypass a direct engagement with the Indian government and concluded its negotiations with third parties for the acquisition of the AstraZeneca vaccine - at a premium price.

Following the intense heat on government in the wake of the shocking announcement of the temporary halting of the AstraZeneca programme, Mkhize belatedly announced that both the Chinese and Russian vaccines are also now being considered as alternatives.

In January 2020, Sinopharm announced that it was developing a vaccine against Covid-19 and in December of the same year, the Chinese pharmaceutical giant announced that its vaccine had an efficacy rate of 79,34% leading to approval from the Chinese government.

In between this, countries like the UAE, Egypt, Morocco and Peru, conducted phase three trials of the vaccine with the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain giving emergency approval for its use.

Writing in prestigious medical journal Lancet on 2 February 2021, Professors Ian Jones and Polly Roy penned a review titled "Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine candidate appears safe and effective" elaborating on the efficacy of the Russian vaccine.

They conclude their insightful article with the following pronouncement: "The development of the Sputnik V vaccine has been criticised for unseemly haste, corner cutting, and an absence of transparency. But the outcome reported here is clear and the scientific principle of vaccination is demonstrated, which means another vaccine for South Africa can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of Covid-19."

I reiterate then, that as a member of the BRICS bloc, it is a great mystery as to why our government has chosen to ignore a more detailed engagement with Russia and China from the outset regarding the use of the Sinovac, Sinopharm or Sputnik V vaccines in South Africa.

The lack of transparency around the decisions made by government relating to its vaccine programme, can only lead to speculation over the reasoning behind the lack of engagement with China and Russia.

Given the current delays in rolling out a comprehensive vaccine programme and the ongoing controversy around the AstraZeneca project, embracing the interventions of China and Russia might have saved this country a lot of pain, and time.

As it stands, many developing countries across the globe have acted decisively and embraced multiple vaccine options, including the Chinese and Russian alternatives. The latest being our immediate neighbour, Zimbabwe.

Against the background of the abhorrent vaccine nationalism stance adopted by developed countries, South Africa's one-track strategy has come back to haunt us a nation.

The tensions between South Africa, India and the Serum Institute over the expiry conundrum related to the one million doses of the AztraZeneca vaccine already delivered, further exacerbates an already volatile situation.

In the wake of the AstraZeneca debacle, there were high expectations that President Cyril Ramaphosa would have given the nation greater clarity in his State of the Nation Address on the country's vaccine acquisition programme. This failed to materalise. Rather, his promises for a mass vaccination programme were simply premised on a strategy, which to date, has failed abysmally.

Government has a moral obligation to explore all options at its disposal to prevent the current situation from further spiralling out of control. Such options must include a strategic engagement with its BRICS partners Russia and China regarding the use of their respective vaccines in this country. Naturally, the use of these vaccines, and for that matter, any other vaccine, must be subjected to the country's stringent regulatory protocols and testing. Until such testing occurs, we will remain in the dark as to whether or not these vaccines will work in South Africa.

There is no doubt that the current indecisiveness has proven to be a major setback to protecting the health of the nation, and our economy.

Warnings by government's own experts that multiple waves of infection must be expected as the country approaches its winter season, have all the ingredients for a perfect storm.

Right now, it seems that government is floundering in its efforts to prepare for the storm, let alone navigate it should it arrive.

In the short term, a partnership between our own scientists and their counterparts from countries like Russia, China and India, could establish a platform for the development of a vaccine for South Africa that is more resistant to the current variant and future ones.

In the long-term, such a partnership could evolve into a comprehensive vaccine development project that will serve the interests of the country, the continent and other developing countries around the world.

My own engagements with counterparts in the BRICS Business Council have revealed genuine concerns over the South African government's reluctance to engage meaningfully with BRICS countries over South Africa's vaccine strategy.

Taking into account that BRICS countries are home to just over three billion people (42% of the global population), one would imagine that South Africa would harness the benefits of being a member of this powerful bloc, including an intensive engagement on a joint vaccine development strategy.

Notwithstanding this reluctance, these countries continue to be committed to extricating South Africa from its current predicament.

With the storm fast approaching, it will take all hands-on deck to navigate a clear passage and way forward. A multi-pronged co-operative strategy is what is required, not a single-minded solo navigation of the problem at hand.

* Iqbal Survé is a former BRICS Business Council Chairperson.

Firmly Uphold and Practice Multilateralism and Build a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind (Твердо поддерживайте и практикуйте многосторонность и создавайте сообщество с общим будущим для человечества) / China, February, 2021
Keywords: speech

The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated shifts in the international landscape. The world has entered a period of turbulence and transformation. Meanwhile, peace and development remain the underlying trend of our times. People across the world have an even stronger desire for peace, development, cooperation and common progress. With the direction of global development and the future of humanity in mind, General Secretary Xi Jinping has put forward the vision to build a community with a shared future for mankind and foster a new type of international relations. This vision has broadened and deepened the concept and practice of multilateralism in the new era, and gained high acclaim and wide support from the international community. China is a staunch supporter of multilateralism. China is committed to the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law. While remaining strong in its determination to safeguard its national interests and dignity, China is steadfast in promoting the development of multilateralism in the right direction. Under current circumstances, to firmly uphold and practice multilateralism has taken on special and far-reaching significance for world peace and development.

I. The history of evolution of multilateralism

Multilateralism has gone through a historical process of continuous evolution. The end of World War II saw the birth of the United Nations, whose Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 and entered into force on 24 October 1945. The UN Charter, which serves as an important guide for promoting world peace and development, marks an important new start in the development of multilateralism. In the 1950s and 1960s, with the unfolding of national independence movements against imperialism and colonialism across Asia, Africa and Latin America, a large number of developing countries gained independence and joined the UN. This lent a strong boost to the development and progress of multilateralism. On 25 October 1971, the 26th session of the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2758 with an overwhelming majority to restore all the lawful rights and interests of the People's Republic of China at the UN. The restoration of China's lawful seat at the UN and the entry of a great number of developing countries are of great historic significance to the development of multilateralism. Over time, the UN has grown into the most universal, representative and authoritative inter-governmental organization. Multilateralism has increasingly gained strength as a symbol for justice, progress and people's well-being. The end of the Cold War ushered in a period of accelerated advancement toward a multi-polar world, economic globalization, IT application and cultural diversity. A growing number of international mechanisms have been established and steadily improved. Multilateralism has become a clear policy choice of countries across the world. In response to the 2008 global financial crisis, the G20 Summit came into being and has since become a major platform for discussions on global economic governance, allowing emerging markets and developing countries to participate on an equal footing in the decision making on global economic governance. In the past several years, though, certain countries, driven by misguided unilateral and protectionist policies, chose to withdraw from international organizations and agreements one after another. Multilateralism suffered a serious setback. In response, members of the international community overwhelmingly voiced opposition and called for efforts to uphold multilateralism and maintain international cooperation.

Multilateralism, which is underpinned by the UN Charter, represents humanity's historical progress from war to peace, from privilege to equality, and from monopoly to consultation. As General Secretary Xi Jinping noted in his special address at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, "Multilateralism is about having international affairs addressed through consultation and the future of the world decided by everyone working together." Countries in the world, bound by a shared future, need to share responsibilities as well as benefits, and all must come together in the trying moments of ours. Such belief is deeply rooted in the traditional Chinese culture, and is reflective of the popular aspiration of people across the world. The multilateralism that China champions is grounded in the UN-centered international system. It is consistent with the vision for a multi-polar world and for a community with a shared future for mankind. To build a community with a shared future for mankind points to the direction and provides guidance for upholding and practicing multilateralism, while the practice of multilateralism brings about global institutional guarantee for building such a community. The call for multilateralism reflects the progress of our times. It serves the interests of all countries and peoples, and sets the right direction for a world undergoing major changes and transition.

II. China's historic and pioneering contribution to the theory and practice of multilateralism in the new era

China is a founding member of the United Nations and a permanent member of its Security Council, and is the first country to put its signature on the UN Charter. Over the decades, China has stood firmly with fellow developing countries in practicing the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. China has actively participated in UN-centered multilateral activities, joined an extensive range of multilateral treaties and international conventions, and made an important contribution to upholding world peace, promoting common development, strengthening human rights protection, advancing people-to-people exchanges, conducting counter-terrorism cooperation, and addressing climate change. China has called for building a new international political and economic order that is just and reasonable, and has endeavored to advance the building of a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. All these have gained wide support and acclaim from the global community.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping has, based on his in-depth observation and keen insight of the evolving global landscape and international order, has laid out a series of overarching, strategic and direction-setting plans and arrangements in the multilateral field. The core ideas and whole set of propositions have been expounded for the development of multilateralism in the new era. The objective is to build a community with a shared future for mankind and to foster a new type of international relations. The direction is to promote a multi-polar world and bring about greater democracy in international relations. The centerpiece is to uphold the authority of the UN as well as the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. The guiding principle is extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in global governance. And the pathway is high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation. On such a basis, we may actively guide the reform and development of the global governance system, and promote the building of an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity. The Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy provides primary guidance for China's diplomacy in the new era. It builds on and further develops the theories on international relations, and opens new vistas for the development of multilateralism both in theory and in practice. Speaking at various major international fora, General Secretary Xi Jinping outlined China's vision on the international order and on global governance, as well as the new concepts on security and development, and the concepts on human rights, on ecological preservation and on civilization. These important propositions explain China's stance and position, and are a strong rebuff to unilateralism and acts of bullying. They effectively counter talks of "clash of civilizations" and of the superiority of one race over another. Clearly, they point the way forward for the transformation of the global governance system and the international order.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping has hosted a series of major international events in China, including the G20 Hangzhou Summit, the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China International Import Expo, and the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations. These events have yielded a host of important breakthroughs and injected strong impetus to global governance and international cooperation, thus gaining extensive recognition and support from the international community.

China has played an active part in strengthening a global response to global challenges. In January 2021, at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a special address titled "Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light up Humanity's Way Forward". In the speech, General Secretary Xi called on the international community to jointly address the four major tasks of our times, and noted that the way out of the problems we face is through upholding multilateralism and building a community with a shared future for mankind. He underscored the need to stay committed to openness and inclusiveness instead of closeness and exclusion, to international law and international rules instead of seeking one's own supremacy, to consultation and cooperation instead of conflict and confrontation, and to keeping up with the times instead of rejecting change. He pointed out that to build small circles or to create isolation and estrangement will only push the world into division and confrontation. We cannot tackle the common challenges facing humanity in a divided world. Humanity has learned lessons the hard way, and we must not return to the old path of the past. General Secretary Xi's important remarks addressed the well-being of the entire humanity. They resonated strongly with the international community, as they pointed the way for overcoming global challenges during the pandemic, lent impetus to international solidarity in challenging times, and made a strong call for upholding and practicing multilateralism in the new era.

In 2020, General Secretary Xi Jinping attended the G20 Extraordinary Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 and the virtual opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly, and chaired the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19. In the important remarks delivered on those occasions, General Secretary Xi announced major cooperation measures to fight the coronavirus and called for the building of a global community of health for all. He spelt out China's goals for peaking carbon dioxide emissions and achieving carbon neutrality at the General Debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, and announced new measures for nationally determined contributions at the Climate Ambition Summit, thus leading the way to reinvigorated global response to climate change. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, under the initiative and guidance of General Secretary Xi Jinping, Belt and Road cooperation has been translated from vision to reality, and is serving as a key platform for building a community with a shared future for mankind.

While striving to promote world peace and development in multilateral institutions, China has stood firm in safeguarding its sovereignty and security, its development interests and national dignity. We actively facilitated the peaceful settlement of key regional issues, including the Korean Peninsula issue, the Iranian nuclear issue and the Afghanistan issue. We have also been deeply involved in rules making in such arenas as the deep sea, the polar region, outer space and the fight against corruption, as well as in international anti-terrorism cooperation. By championing the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the BRICS New Development Bank, and the Silk Road Fund, China has created a precedent for the initiation of multilateral financial institutions by developing countries. By setting up the China-UN Peace and Development Fund, the South-South Cooperation Fund, and the Climate Change South-South Cooperation Fund, China has given strong support to other developing countries in peacekeeping, poverty reduction and climate change. Following a targeted approach to development cooperation and foreign assistance, China is helping other developing countries achieve better development. China is committed to enhancing international cooperation and exchanges to support all countries in restoring economic and social development while responding to COVID-19 more effectively.

In recent months, under the personal direction and commitment of General Secretary Xi Jinping, China has made new, major achievements in multilateral diplomacy. In November 2020, China signed with other participants the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, which is the most significant outcome of East Asian economic integration in nearly two decades. In December 2020, General Secretary Xi announced with leaders of Germany, France and the EU conclusion of the negotiations on the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment as scheduled, a move widely hailed as a new milestone in China-EU relations. In February 2021, General Secretary Xi chaired the Summit of China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) and delivered a keynote speech. He spelt out principles for China-CEEC cooperation and shared four thoughts of suggestion for moving China-CEEC cooperation forward under new circumstances. His remarks helped build further consensus and add new impetus to China-CEEC cooperation going forward. All the above achievements will contribute significantly to international and regional cooperation and economic recovery in the world.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, more and more Chinese initiatives have become global consensus and turned into concrete actions. This is unprecedented in China's multilateral diplomacy, and marks a major contribution of China to world peace and development. It comes as the result of active and hard work under the direct leadership and guidance of General Secretary Xi Jinping. The important visions and major practices spearheaded by General Secretary Xi Jinping are an integral part of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, as they are an integral part of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. They also represent China's major contribution to the innovation of the theory and practice of multilateralism.

III. The current features and future trends of multilateralism

First, despite the serious impact of unilateralism on the existing international system, multilateralism remains the call of the people and the trend of our times. In recent years, certain countries attempted to put unilateralism and bullying practices above the basic norms of international relations, including the norms of sovereign equality, peaceful resolution of disputes and non-interference in internal affairs. They also blatantly put their own interests first and seriously undermined the current international system with the UN at its core. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of countries support the idea and practice of multilateralism, and oppose any single country's attempt to dominate international affairs, dictate the future of others or monopolize the right to development. Multilateralism still enjoys solid foundation and strong impetus.

Second, despite the new complications facing multilateralism, cooperation still holds solid ground and broad perspective. Although countries may have different views on the meaning and priorities of multilateralism, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter remain the greatest consensus of the international community. As the raging COVID-19 pandemic poses serious challenges to all countries, the international community are more determined than ever to fight the coronavirus together. Although populism and de-globalization thoughts are rising, economic globalization remains the overriding trend, and most countries hope to achieve globalization that is more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all. No country can stay immune from global challenges like the pandemic, economic recession or climate change. For the international community, cooperation is the most powerful weapon, and the path of multilateralism is the only right choice.

Third, despite a rising clamor for ideological confrontation, the global call for greater solidarity to rise above differences is even stronger. Clinging to a zero-sum mentality, some forces are obsessed with playing up differences in ideology and political system. They seek to create divisions by forming small circles and interfere in others' internal affairs in the name of human rights or democracy. Such attempts have been widely rejected by the international community. To build a new type of international relations, we must choose mutual respect over self-conceit, fairness and justice over narrow self-interest, and win-win cooperation over a beggar-thy-neighbor approach. A prevailing view shared by the international community is that countries should pursue a development path suited to their own national conditions and run their own affairs well before anything else. No country should scapegoat others for its own malaise or draw lines on an ideological basis. It is the shared aspiration of the overwhelming majority of countries to strengthen global governance based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and to work together to reduce the serious deficit in governance, trust, peace and development and promote multilateralism and a global governance system that features greater openness and inclusiveness, fairness and justice, green and sustainable development, and cooperation for win-win results.

IV. This year, China will start a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country and will celebrate the centenary of the CPC. To conduct multilateral diplomacy, we must follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. We need to take into account both the domestic and international imperatives and work on development and security as two priorities. We need to stay focused on the overarching goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind, rally more forces for good in the international community, and contribute more to fully building a modern socialist country and to promoting world peace and development.

First, we will follow the strategic guidance of leaders' summits and use "home-ground diplomacy" as major platforms to seek progress in both the theory and practice of multilateralism in the new era. We need to fully expound the significance to the world today of General Secretary Xi Jinping's special address at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, and contribute China's wisdom, visions and solutions in addressing the major issues of our times. Facing the major task of global economic recovery, the G20 must act as the premier platform for international economic cooperation and promote macroeconomic policy coordination among major economies to restore global growth through concerted efforts. It is important to enhance solidarity and cooperation with fellow BRICS countries and jointly support multilateralism. Taking the opportunity of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this year, we support the SCO in continuing to play its important role in maintaining regional stability and strengthening practical cooperation. We encourage APEC to act on the vision of building an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future and work to deepen economic cooperation in the region. We are making solid preparations for hosting the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference around the time of its 20th anniversary, the COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the second UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference in a bid to expanding cooperation in relevant areas.

Second, we will hold high the banner of building a community with a shared future for mankind and firmly uphold the authority of the United Nations.

To build a community with a shared future for mankind serves the interests of all countries and the well-being of humanity. With this goal in mind, we will expand and deepen cooperation with all countries in the world. In so doing, we shall follow the principles of mutual respect, equal consultation, fairness and justice, win-win cooperation and seeking common ground while shelving differences, and strive to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world of lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity. We will firmly uphold the international system centered on the UN, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic principles of international law and basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We will vigorously promote multilateralism and greater democracy in international relations. We oppose hegemony and power politics, and oppose any practice of unilateralism in the name of multilateralism. We see all countries as equal members of the international community, regardless of their size, strength and wealth. We firmly oppose drawing ideological lines. We choose solidarity over division, cooperation over confrontation, and positive-sum over zero-sum practices. We want the world to be a big family, and not divided into small circles.

Third, we will step up coordination and cooperation with other parties within multilateral frameworks to steer forward the reform and development of the global governance system. We are prepared to deepen dialogue with other parties on supporting multilateralism, strengthening global governance and promoting international cooperation, enhance communication and collaboration on COVID-19 response, economic recovery, climate change, environmental protection, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, global security, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, law enforcement and fighting corruption, and work with other parties to promote more dialogue and cooperation within such multilateral mechanisms as the UN, the G20, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, BRICS, the SCO and APEC. We will take an active part in the revision of existing international rules and the formulation of new ones in new frontiers. We will support the WHO in playing a leadership role and work with other countries to build a global community of health for all. We will further boost global cooperation against COVID-19, carry out effective vaccine collaboration, prioritize the needs of developing countries for vaccines, and firmly reject politicization and stigmatization of the virus. We will take an active part in the WTO reform, support the multilateral trading regime, and uphold China's developing country status. We will encourage the IMF to complete its quota reform on schedule, and urge the World Bank to conclude a new round of shareholding review. We will support the development of the AIIB, the New Development Bank and other new institutions, and deepen practical cooperation among their members.

Fourth, we will advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation for win-win outcomes. Following the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, the philosophy of open, green and clean cooperation, and a high-standard, people-centered and sustainable approach, we will continue to improve the mechanisms of Belt and Road cooperation, and advance Belt and Road cooperation through a combination of online and offline meetings and forums. We will actively develop the Silk Road for Health. We will minimize the impact of COVID-19 to keep trade unclogged for countries along the route, and join hands with them to defeat the virus and promote economic recovery.

Fifth, we will advance international cooperation through the new development paradigm we are fostering at home and pursue opening-up in a larger scope, to wider areas and at deeper levels. As China embarks on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country, we will create much more space for global businesses to grow in our country. We will work with all parties to find new drivers of growth for the world economy and share the new opportunities emerging from China's development. We will work with relevant parties for the ratification and entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and actively foster an East Asian economic circulation to facilitate the larger international circulation. We will favorably consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). We will advance China-Japan-ROK cooperation and take China-ASEAN relations to a new height. We will firmly support the greater representation and voice of developing countries in global governance, and we call on the international community to take into due account the impact of COVID-19 and economic recession on developing countries. We will strengthen South-South cooperation in the UN, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Forum, the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement and other frameworks. We will work with the European Union on the follow-ups of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, and deliver the agreed outcomes of cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries. And we will expand and deepen practical cooperation with the United States, Europe, Japan and other parties in such areas as new energy and new technologies.

Sixth, we will firmly safeguard China's national interests in multilateral institutions and work for peaceful co-existence and common development of all countries. We will resolutely defend our national interests and dignity at multilateral fora when our core and major interests are at stake. We will both stand by principles and play a constructive part in the new round of reshaping of international rules. We will take greater initiative to speak up on multilateral platforms for what is right and just. We will better communicate our positions and propositions and tell a good China story. The Chinese people, closely rallied behind the CPC, are steadfast in pursuing socialism with Chinese characteristics. At the same time, we respect the choices of development path made by other people in the world. As General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, "Each country is unique with its own history, culture and social system, and none is superior to the other. The best criteria are whether a country's history, culture and social system fit its particular situation, enjoy people's support, serve to deliver political stability, social progress and better lives, and contribute to human progress." It is important that countries pursue peaceful co-existence and common development on the basis of mutual respect and expanding common ground while reserving differences. It is also important that countries promote an approach to different civilizations featuring equality, mutual learning, dialogue and mutual accommodation, and encourage more exchanges and mutual learning to inject strong impetus to the progress of human civilization.

China will continue to be a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China will firmly uphold and practice multilateralism and make new and still greater contribution to building a community with a shared future for mankind and promoting world peace and development.

The author is a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee.

World of Work
Seifsa to host inaugural Brics Manufacturing Conference in March (В марте Seifsa проведет первую конференцию БРИКС по промышленности) / South Africa, February, 2021
Keywords: cooperation, innovations
South Africa

The inaugural Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) Manufacturing Conference will take place in Sandton, on March 26.

The event was initially scheduled to take place last year before Covid-19 brought about restrictions.

The conference aims to assist South African manufacturers with identifying opportunities to take advantage of the country's relations with its Brics counterparts.

Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba says the manufacturing industry's contribution to the economy has been declining over the past two decades because of cheap imports from Asian economies and rising operational and input costs.

"With our local economy under strain, local manufacturers should consider seeking new markets beyond our borders to survive and grow, and we believe that our Brics counterparts provide a world of opportunities for those who understand their operating and policy environments.

"It is against this backdrop that we decided to host the conference that will seek to investigate how manufacturers can leverage the BBC Manufacturing Working Group (MWG) and discuss, among other topics, progress on MWG projects and how they will advance the course of manufacturing in the country," Nyatsumba notes.

Seifsa has invited Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel to deliver the conference's opening address.

Seifsa also expects various heads of special economic zones to attend and share their insights on how these designated industrial zones will advance the course of manufacturing in the country.

Other speakers who have been invited to participate in the conference's plenary sessions are Aspen Pharmacare Group senior executive Stavros Nicolaou, Manufacturing Circle CEO Phillipa Rodseth, National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa CEO Michael Mabasa, Industrial Development Corporation CEO Tshokolo Petrus Nchocho and Department of Trade, Industry and Competition deputy director-general Ilse Karg.

BRICS CCI Startup Series gives a push to young entrepreneurs (BRICS CCI Startup Series дает толчок молодым предпринимателям) / India, February, 2021
Keywords: social_issues, innovations

BRICS Chamber of Commerce & Industry in association with Start-Up India, a government of India initiative and Rising Bharat, a platform to encourage the startup ecosystem in India through mentorship and funding, organised the first BRICS CCI Startup Series event. The event commenced on 5 February 2021 at the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi.

With an aim to support and encourage young entrepreneurs, it gave an opportunity to 15 startups to present their pitches to the jury. The event is the brainchild of BRICS CCI vice chairman Sameep Shastri. The final startups were selected from a pool of over 250 startups who sent their pitches to the Chamber.

The panel of jury included Sameep Shastri; Avi Mittal, CEO & MD, Golden Ace Ventures; Akshay Aggarwal, Founder, Kafila Forge; Bibin Babu, Board Member, Innowork, BlocSpaze, Payiza; Dhruv Khanna, Co-Founder, Triton Foodworks; Pratham Mittal, Founder, Neta App; Dr Vinay Agrawal, Chancellor, ISBM University; Ruhail Ranjan, MD, Chandrika Power; and Aditi Banerjee, Co-Founder & CEO, Magic Billion.

Dr Neha Prakash (IAS), Special Secretary, IT & Electronics, Govt. Of UP; Sameep Shastri; Dr BBL Madhukar, DG, BRICS CCI; Ashok Kumar Singh and Jitin Bhasin, CEO, Savein; and Rana Sarkar joined as distinguished guests and esteemed speakers.

As part of the startup series, BRICS undertook a three-month process to identify budding startups which had novel ideas and drive to lead a change but required the investment, exposure and an added push for them to continue in their endeavour, lead innovations and pave the path towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

Speaking about the vision of the program and how it gradually evolved, Sameep said, "The initial thought-process began from 2016 as our Prime Minister has pushed towards startups, Aatmanirbhar Bharat is an ideology that we have been following. Being a young country, we have innovative minds and jugaad. The right platform was missing. What we are trying to do here is get the successfully settled young entrepreneurs who are in the top list of Forbes, they are all part of the chamber now and are not just ready to put in the funds but mentor the upcoming innovations and startups. This is the basic idea. We have tied up with one of my other initiatives Rising Bharat where we took it to tier 2 and tier 3 cities and funded more than 700 startups. I have continuously been associated with the startup community and what we have realised is mentoring is crucial. Everyone is able to acquire financial funding but the right kind of mentorship with the right kind of team is missing. This was the gap that we identified and this is how the entire program evolved. In future, we would like to have at least four more rounds in 2021. India is chairing BRICS this year so we are planning to make the best of it and give it the right platform, a global platform."

Neha expressed, "I would like to congratulate BRICS CCI for providing us with this platform to connect with the potential startups and entrepreneurs and to connect them with the potential investors. This is a noble vision. India is very conducive to the growth of startups because of our demographic, open economic culture and the psyche of jugaad, that is the impromptu innovation which is deeply embedded in the Indian psyche. As India provides this potential for the growth of startups, it is with this vision that BRICS CCI has organised this event to bring us all together and to further promote and nurture the budding entrepreneurs."

When asked about his experience as one of the jury members, Ruhail said, "With the vision of our Prime Minister, the startups are moving out. In 2014, the environment was not so conducive. Now, he has given us a few rules which are very easy on startups. I am looking forward to the next few years which is going to a very good growth story for India. With these startups, we are looking to handhold and mentor them. They have good ideas but need mentoring. When we started, we had no mentoring, nobody to go to, no knowledge about where to get money from, and the market was struggling. We want them to focus on growth rather than struggle. We want to incubate them and take them forward."

Dr Vinay shared, "Entrepreneurs like these are young minds. I always say that they are like damp clay. The way we shape it, the way we mentor them will help them to nurture themselves and their businesses. These people coming out of nowhere, having creative minds and beautiful ideas, can be nurtured and mentored in a way that their startups can grow into multi-billion-dollar organisations. For that, we heard several pitches today and made many investment commitments. The overall experience was wonderful. This is just the start and we will have many more events like these where young entrepreneurs can come and pitch their ideas." Jitin emphasised the need for proper mentorship to the budding entrepreneurs is as equally important as fundraising. He also congratulated the Chamber for its initiative.

Ms. Anastasia Bondarenko: 'It is gratifying that we are supported by the BRICS Youth Energy Agency, whose participants have expressed ideas for solving global problems' (Г-жа Анастасия Бондаренко: «Отрадно, что нас поддерживает Молодежное энергетическое агентство БРИКС, участники которого высказали идеи по решению глобальных проблем») / Russia, February, 2021
Keywords: cooperation, expert_opinion

On February 18, Nadezhnaya Smena Foundation, our partner organization in the Russian Federation, held the presentation of their Youth Global Energy Forecast. Junior specialists of the Russian energy companies who became winners of the project presented their innovative solutions at the online final to the leaders of the Russian Ministry of Energy, Federal Agency of Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh), energy companies and local universities.

BRICS Youth Energy Agency is a co-organizer of the project as an international coordinator. Our flagship BRICS Youth Energy Outlook has been co-funded by the Nadezhnaya Smena Foundation as part of this agreement.

Ms. Margarita Kuzmina, Head of Analytical Centre of the BRICS Youth Energy Agency, reported at the online event and talked about the impressive results of the BRICS Youth Energy Outlook 2020 and contributions of the talented young researchers from the BRICS countries, who were engaged in developing scenarios for one of the 19 promising challenges for the global energy. They analyzed unpredictable factors of the development of BRICS energy sectors through the story of the industry. 'Despite the variety of topics studied, said Ms. Kuzmina, the BRICS YEA's Analytical Centre identified that the youth believe in four major pathways: transition to green energy, digitalization and the use of renewable energy sources'.

Remarkably, the role of BRICS Youth Energy Agency has been highlighted by State Secretary/Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Ms. Anastasia Bondarenko: 'It is gratifying that we are supported by the BRICS Youth Energy Agency, whose participants have expressed ideas for solving global problems. I am convinced that the results of international cooperation among young people will have a positive effect on the development of our countries' economies'.

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