Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 10.2021
2021.03.08 — 2021.03.14
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
India-Russia Relations in a Post-Covid World (Отношения между Индией и Россией в пост-ковидном мире) / Russia, March, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

Authors: Nandan Unnikrishnan, Nivendita Kapoor

The current period of flux is exactly the time for the two sides to bank on their "special and privileged strategic partnership" to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy. The most important, critical takeaway from the relationship for both countries is the strategic space they provide each other to deal with the US, China and other great powers, write Nandan Unnikrishnan and Nivedita Kapoor. The article is published as part of the Valdai Club's Think Tank project, continuing the collaboration between Valdai and Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi).

As the world grapples with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reshaping of the international system has added to the uncertainty confronting nation-states at this historical juncture. While the US-China rivalry hardly comes as a surprise, its acceleration due to the pandemic has made this bipolar dynamic the pivot around which the new world order is likely to revolve.

India and Russia are both important players in their own right but neither of them will occupy the top two positions in the world order. However, their foreign policy choices will inevitably be affected by the ongoing changes in the balance of power. The impact will be far greater on the two countries because of the way their respective relations with the US and China have evolved.

While their bilateral relationship is free of active conflict, the repercussions of external factors can no longer be ignored or underestimated. Thus, it is pertinent to examine the effect of these developments on the long-standing "special and privileged partnership," as New Delhi and Moscow seek to position themselves amid the ongoing flux in global politics.

As the US-China rivalry threatens to disrupt the order of the day, India and Russia remain supporters of a multipolar world order, understanding the constraints that bipolarity would impose on their foreign policy choices. They emphasize independence in pursuit of foreign policy and eschew alliances. However, this does not mean that the two sides are in complete agreement about the world order, which remains in flux with neither an unambiguous bipolarity nor a clear multipolarity in sight. This results in more fluid relationships as the stakeholders hedge their bets and seek to define their positions while trying to preserve national interests.

Nowhere is this more visible than in Asia, which forms the base of the rising power of China and from where it seeks to challenge the established power. This geography is also critical for India and Russia. However, despite their cordial bilateral engagement, the two sides have struggled to significantly enhance cooperation in this area that is the centre of current global geopolitics.

Since 2014, China has emerged as Russia's key external partner, brought even closer due to their continued tensions with the US-led West. For Russia, a breakdown of ties with the West has not led to a successful "pivot to Asia" with diverse relations across the Asia-Pacific. And despite its emergence as a significant power, Moscow has been unable to build a strong "power centre" in Eurasia or demonstrate it has "enough resources" to establish itself as the key regional power.

On the other hand, India has witnessed a steady deterioration in relations with an increasingly aggressive China. This has made a turn to the US an inevitable policy choice to manage China's rise as New Delhi on its own has limited capacity to be a rule-setter versus Beijing. It is also important because the closeness of the Russia-China partnership is leading to the emergence of some conceptual differences on the emerging world order and how Beijing should be balanced. It is dealing with these challenges – of the US-China rivalry and their respective equations with India and Russia – that will require a deft navigation.

And there are already signs that this is going to be a complex undertaking, the "special and privileged ties" notwithstanding. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov's comments on India being an "object" of Western policy to engage it in "anti-China games by promoting Indo-Pacific strategies" led to a terse response from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, a rare public disapproval of a Russian position. While the Russian position on the issue might be informed by its own disagreements with the US, it carries the danger of glossing over the concerns of regional players in the Indo-Pacific – where Moscow has limited room to manoeuvre due to its yet weak linkages.

Even if Russia does not support the concept of the Indo-Pacific, the question it needs to ponder over is whether alienating partners like India aids its efforts towards becoming a stronger Eurasian power. The hubris associated with having been a superpower along with a revival of its influence in the 21st century must not be allowed to come in the way of nimble manoeuvring in an emerging world order. Stakeholders like India and ASEAN would welcome an independent power like Russia if it can demonstrate a balanced approach and is not perceived as a junior partner of China.

Given that Moscow remains antithetical to the idea of being subordinate to any power, there remains scope for bilateral cooperation in Indo-Pacific and beyond – including in Central Asia, West Asia and Afghanistan. In fact, the concepts of Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary they supplement each other.

The abovementioned challenges do not mean India and Russia must abandon their close engagement. Quite the opposite, this period of flux is exactly the time for the two sides to bank on their "special and privileged strategic partnership" to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy. The most important, critical takeaway from the relationship for both countries is the strategic space they provide each other to deal with the US, China and other great powers.

What would be the cost of an Indo-Russia rift? Russia that is already dealing with a breakdown of relations with the West will be left with no other major power but China as a strategic partner. This would mean a "threat to geopolitical equilibrium" for Russia in Eurasia, a rather dire prospect given its weaknesses. For India, a Russia-China alliance would bring about the dreaded prospect of an Asia dominated by China. In this scenario, India would feel compelled to contemplate a similar relationship with the West. This would entail moving away from its current willingness to engage with "different parties" despite not always having the "same interests," which would negatively impact its pursuit of a multipolar world order where it maintains strategic autonomy.

In order to prevent such a scenario, one key step would be to revitalize the bilateral India-Russia agenda. In this regard, an action like the quiet diplomatic effort by Russia last year to get India and China to the table during their border clashes is critical for building confidence and much more effective than public airing of differences. Equally important is the need to revive the economic agenda that is currently heavily dependent on cooperation in defence and energy sectors. While these two sectors will continue to form the bedrock of the ties, a more broad-based economic engagement is urgently needed.

A forward-looking economic agenda should include cooperation in the hi-tech sector, biotechnology, nanotechnology, AI, space, start-up and innovation, pharmaceuticals, healthcare etc. to harness the strengths of the two countries. Encouraging SMEs to engage in bilateral economic cooperation will also be an important step in this direction. Besides, furthering cooperation in the Russian Far East and the Arctic, both in bilateral and multilateral formats, would be beneficial.

In fact, the multilateral setting has been an area of sustained engagement for India and Russia, where the latter has supported the former on issues like permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council and entry into the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. The willingness towards continued cooperation is also visible in formats including BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union. Even the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) has been envisaged as a multilateral undertaking, with economic and geopolitical rationale intertwined in this connectivity project. Similar reasoning also guides the proposed Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor, where apart from improving trade ties with the Russian Far East, the Indian side hopes that the link will also act as a bridge between the Eurasian Union and open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific. It may also be useful to discuss reviving the cooperation between India, Iran and Russia on Afghanistan.

Neither India-China ties nor US-Russia ties are expected to improve in the short term; and the US and China will remain key partners for New Delhi and Moscow respectively. It might thus be prudent to intensify "free and frank" discussions on all issues as well as resolve to maintain neutrality on issues of core concern for each other while taking steps to strengthen the bilateral relationship.

This should ensure that at a time of uncertainty in a changing world, India's and Russia's engagement with other powers does not come at the expense of their bilateral partnership; while giving the two sides space to strengthen their political, economic, defence and cultural ties in the coming years.

India seeking courtship with Quad a negative asset of BRICS, SCO (Индия ищет ухаживания с Quad - негативным активом БРИКС и ШОС) / China, March, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as "Quad," comprising of the US, Japan, India and Australia, will hold its first leaders-level meeting on Friday. India will host the BRICS summit in 2021. But it has been moving closer to the US and the US-led Quad in recent years, worsening India-China and India-Russia relations and affecting the development of some China-led or Russia-led groupings or mechanisms that India takes part in, such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

With India moving closer to the US, as well as its own anti-China stance in recent years, it's fair to say that BRICS and the SCO have fallen into stagnation since the Doklam standoff in 2017. India has clear demands in the SCO and BRICS. One is anti-terrorism; the other is to use the financial platforms of these groupings, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank, to win as much financial support as possible. But in other respects, India has basically adopted a non-cooperative attitude, which has greatly restricted these groupings' development in recent years.

India has become a negative asset of these groupings. China in February said it is backing India to host the 2021 BRICS summit. It seems India has failed to understand China's goodwill. India takes all support from China for granted. It is, in fact, carrying out a kind of strategic blackmail against China.

On the other hand, India has attached more importance to Quad, and is very sure about its core demands of the US' Indo-Pacific Strategy - to counterbalance, contain and deter China. India fears China will become the dominant force in Asia, and it does not want to see this happen. However, India cannot compete with China on its own, and thus it hopes to contain China together with like-minded countries.

India also hopes to win more support from the US, Japan and Australia. It does not want Quad to only focus on military cooperation, but also economic and financial ones. New Delhi wants Western countries to provide it with funding and technology and help it to build value and industry chains that can replace China. After the COVID-19 outbreak, India has been actively negotiating this with the other three Quad members. One of the focuses of this upcoming Quad summit is reportedly to announce financing to boost India's vaccine output.

India has been very proactive both bilaterally and multilaterally to promote the development of Quad. In 2019, it upgraded its engagement with Quad to ministerial level, which can be seen as a major move of India. In 2020, India signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for geo-spatial cooperation with the US, included Australia in the Malabar military exercise and signed a mutual logistics support arrangement with Japan. However, these moves have worsened India's relations with China and Russia. In 2020, the India-Russia annual summit was postponed for the first time ever after Moscow expressed severe reservations on New Delhi joining Quad.

India may still want to maintain a swaying state and a balance between the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia. However, the so-called balance does not exist anymore. India is now very inclined toward the US' Indo-Pacific Strategy. India is now gradually breaking the balance. If it goes further down this road, it will eventually lose strategic autonomy, completely become the US' hatchet man against China in the Indo-Pacific region, or even cannon fodder.

Biden upgraded Quad to the leaders' level not long after he assumed office. It's expected the US will continue to strengthen the four-country grouping in the future. India is considered by the US as the most important Quad member. The US' strategic goal is to use India to counterbalance and contain China. Quad is likely to expand in the future. No matter how it expands, the regional security structure it wants to establish is exclusive to China and Russia.

India now has moved three major steps forward, tilting toward Quad. It supported the resumption of Quad dialogue at the official level in 2017, upgraded its engagement to ministerial level in 2019 and now to the leaders' level, most recently. It's time to stop and pay more attention to the reactions from China and Russia.

India is moving too close to the US, and a de facto alliance has been formed. If it continues to seek courtship with the US and Quad so proactively, it will yield negative results and completely tie itself to the US' chariot. New Delhi needs to take a more cautious attitude and think twice. China showed its goodwill by expressing support for India to host the BRICS summit. There have been many areas where China and India could tap cooperation. India shouldn't play with fire, or it will end up burning itself.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Yu Jincui based on an interview with Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, and a distinguished fellow of the China (Kunming) South Asia & Southeast Asia Institute.
BRICS Vs QUAD: Can India Afford To Opt For US-Led 'Anti-China' QUAD Over The BRICS Bloc?(БРИКС против QUAD: может ли Индия позволить себе "антикитайский" QUAD под руководством США вместо блока БРИКС?) / India, March, 2021
Keywords: political_issues, expert_opinion

As India gets ready for the first-ever QUAD summit scheduled for Friday, the Modi government may have to make a tough choice between the US-led anti-China bloc and the BRICS grouping.

For the first time since its inception, the leaders of the QUAD group of countries are getting together to hold a virtual summit on March 12, 2021. Being organized by the US, the Summit will also give an opportunity to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to interact with the new US president Joe Biden for the first time.

According to a statement, the QUAD countries – the US, Australia, India, and Japan – will focus on global and regional issues of shared interest and discuss cooperation on maintaining a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific. The issue of challenges on resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, and climate change will also remain high on the agenda.

Importantly, the US administration intends to announce "financing agreements to support an increase in manufacturing capacity for coronavirus vaccines in India," Reuters quoted a senior US administration official as saying. The financing will focus on "companies and institutions in India manufacturing vaccines for American drugmakers Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson," the report added.

The summit is expected to evolve a joint commitment on enhanced vaccine production to address the COVID-19 challenge. Besides the QUAD countries, the aim will be to accelerate vaccination campaigns in Southeast Asian countries, according to the Reuters report.

In addition, the QUAD meeting on Friday is likely to focus on the emerging threat of Chinese expansionism. All the members of the group have suffered the consequences of China's aggressive posture, on both military and commercial fronts, with particularly India, in its crosshairs.

In fact, the QUAD was conceived to increase the naval capability and cooperation between member states against China, but the agenda is expected to significantly expand during this summit. India is expected to decide during the summit whether it wants to continue the confrontation with China or talk about improving relations with it. India is also considered an indispensable member of the QUAD, whose effectiveness will depend a lot on how far the country is prepared to go against China.

Interestingly, India is a member of another significant bloc — BRICS — in which ironically, China plays an incremental role. Apart from India and China, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa are also members of the BRICS forum. To add to Modi's dilemma, China last month said it supported India's chairmanship of the BRICS summit this year, a platform where India could hope to de-escalate border tensions with the former.

To become a member of an anti-China military alliance while remaining a part of an important bloc involving China, India finds itself in a difficult situation where it may be forced to choose its side. Now that it has gone too far with the US by signing the BECA agreement, which essentially meant that India was militarily aligning with the country, New Delhi will have something to lose whichever bloc it chooses to stand with, the experts say.

How Prime Minister Modi pulls the country out of this predicament will be interesting to watch, although the experts strongly suggest his future strategy will be to ease tensions with China, as has been suggested by the events of the last few months, which witnessed de-escalation at the border and the green signal to the Chinese investments in India last week.

Established 15 years ago, when India and China enjoyed relatively better relations, the BRICS nations are expected to dominate the economy by 2050. Being the world's fastest-growing nations, the BRICS dream represents the rise of a new Asia, supposed to replace the West as the global center of power. The leaders from BRICS nations regularly attended summits together, taking unanimous decisions on critical issues that benefited each member country.

However, that spirit was undermined after last year's confrontation between the main member nations of the BRICS bloc, India and China. New Delhi forging a military alliance with Washington made matters worse, with India abdicating its tremendous trade ties with China. The US, Australia, and Japan also saw their relations deteriorating with China.

Being the neighbor of China, and sharing a border of 4,500 km with the country, India will have to tread carefully, and it's no surprise it's sailing in both boats, aspiring for a role in both BRICS and QUAD camp. Experts, however, caution that this will be a precarious choice for Modi and it will be interesting to see how he manages to counterbalance China.

BBC quotes sources in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs as saying there is no question of deteriorating the balance in India's involvement in both the QUAD and BRICS, adding that India would want to sit "on a high table" on every international stage.

Prime Minister Modi has been emphatic about his stand from the beginning about India playing an incremental role in global affairs. However, how he positions India in both BRICS and the QUAD grouping will be the real test of his statesmanship, experts argue.

'India will become cannon fodder for US': Chinese media on Quad summit ('Индия станет пушечным мясом для США': китайские СМИ на саммите Quad) / India, March, 2021
Keywords: political_issues, media, expert_opinion

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Friday evening joins his counterparts from the US, Australia and Japan for a meeting of heads of government of the Indo-Pacific grouping, referred to as the 'Quad'.

The Quad grouping has emerged in recent years as a response to increasing assertiveness and economic expansionism of China.

Not surprisingly, Beijing has been unhappy about the Quad grouping and has repeatedly warned India about it.

On Friday, the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, alleged India had taken China's support for granted.

The Global Times article referred to China's backing for India being the host of this year's summit of the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) grouping.

The Global Times article argued, "It seems India has failed to understand China's goodwill. India takes all support from China for granted. It is, in fact, carrying out a kind of strategic blackmail against China."

The article also referred to India's membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and claimed India's increasing proximity to the US and tension with Beijing had affected efficacy of these groupings.

"BRICS and the SCO have fallen into stagnation since the Doklam standoff in 2017. India has clear demands in the SCO and BRICS. One is anti-terrorism; the other is to use the financial platforms of these groupings, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank, to win as much financial support as possible. But in other respects, India has basically adopted a non-cooperative attitude, which has greatly restricted these groupings' development in recent years. India has become a negative asset of these groupings," Global Times claimed.

The Global Times noted, "India has attached more importance to Quad, and is very sure about its core demands of the US' Indo-Pacific Strategy—to counterbalance, contain and deter China. India fears China will become the dominant force in Asia, and it does not want to see this happen." The article claimed India's growing proximity to the US had "worsened India's relations with China and Russia".

The Global Times claimed India had a place of importance in the Quad. "India is considered by the US as the most important Quad member. The US' strategic goal is to use India to counterbalance and contain China. Quad is likely to expand in the future. No matter how it expands, the regional security structure it wants to establish is exclusive to China and Russia."

The Global Times warned India against moving closer to the US, noting "India may still want to maintain a swaying state and a balance between the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia. However, the so-called balance does not exist anymore. India is now very inclined toward the US' Indo-Pacific strategy. India is now gradually breaking the balance. If it goes further down this road, it will eventually lose strategic autonomy, completely become the US' hatchet man against China in the Indo-Pacific region, or even cannon fodder."

The article concluded by noting, "There have been many areas where China and India could tap cooperation. India shouldn't play with fire, or it will end up burning itself."

Return of 'Pink Tide' in Brazil. Viva BRICS! (Возвращение «Розового прилива» в Бразилию. Да здравствует БРИКС!) / India, March, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

Brazil's former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has hit the political turf running. He was catapulted back on to the frontline of Brazilian politics only on Monday by the surprise decision of the country's Supreme Court to declare that the anti-corruption operation that scuppered Lula's bid to reclaim presidency in the 2018 presidential election was "the greatest judicial scandal" in the country's history.

By Wednesday, Lula had delivered a stirring and potentially historic address widely seen as the start of a bid to wrestle the presidency back. Lula excoriated the far-right incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro's "moronic" and bungling response to the coronavirus pandemic. Brazilian politics is in turmoil already following Bolsonaro's ineptitude and denialism for the scale of a Covid crisis which has killed nearly 270,000 people.

A poll result last weekend showed that 50% of Brazilians might or would definitely vote for Lula at the next election compared with just 38% for Bolsonaro. To be sure, Lula's rehabilitation electrifies the 2022 election and a titanic clash between the so-called "Pink Tide" and toxic right-wing populism is on the cards. (The manifestations of a broader Latin American shift to the left have been labeled the "Pink Tide" to contrast the more moderate policies of governments with the hemisphere's historically hard-line or "red" leftist movements.)

Clearly, Lula remains a much-loved figure revered for his crusade against poverty. The halcyon days of economic boom that Brazil witnessed during his 8-year stewardship as president is viewed with nostalgia. Lula turned away from the extremes and toward more pragmatic approaches to the persistent challenges of poverty, inequality and economic development in his country.

Brazil's emergence as the regional lynchpin in the western hemisphere would have remained incomplete without Lula's magnificent contribution to navigating the country's economy towards record growth, which, in turn, helped fund the social investments that halved extreme wealth inequality in the country. Between 2003 and 2013, Brazil's gross domestic product grew 64% and the percentage of the population living in poverty was halved. In addition, social spending grew significantly, the minimum wage increased by 75% in real terms and millions of new formal jobs were created every year.

The icon of the left in US politics, Senator Bernie Sanders has effusively welcomed Lula's return to active politics. He tweeted on Wednesday, "As President, Lula did incredible work to lower poverty in Brazil and to stand up for workers. It is great news that his highly suspect conviction has been annulled. This is an important victory for democracy and justice in Brazil."

Sanders' commendation shows no trace of apprehension that a veteran leftist is likely to return to power in Brazil and that might put the three biggest and most influential countries in Latin America — Brazil, Argentina and Mexico — under the "Pink Tide." It speaks something of the kind of diplomacy and politics that Lula can be expected to pursue alongside presidents Alberto Fernández (Argentina) and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico).

Yet unlike Fernández and Obrador, who are accomplished intellectuals, Lula had little formal education. He did not learn to read until he was ten years old, and quit school after the second grade to work and help his family. His first job at age 12 was as shoeshiner and street vendor. By 14 he had a formal job in a warehouse.

Lula's rose in politics as a trade union leader with solid working class background, but he, typically, made up for his inadequacies, if any, while founding the Workers' Party — a left-wing party with progressive ideas created in the midst of Brazil's military government in 1980 — with a collegium of union leaders and a group of academics and intellectuals at its party's helm.

Lula as president provided a firewall against the US-led efforts to destabilise the more radical processes taking place in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, although they were not quite travelling on his ideological trajectory. The initiatives such as the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, that sought the greater integration of the region, enjoyed his backing. This, along with his brand of socialism, connoted a foreign-policy shift on his watch that had anti-imperialist overtones and earned the US establishment's antipathy toward his movement but he was never overtly anti-American. Lula was acutely conscious that Brazil needed trade and investment with the West, especially access to the US market.

What probably irritated Washington most was that Lula's Brazil was an active participant in the BRICS group of nations. The idea that BRICS was conceived as an alternative economic and political pole to the G7 nations held great appeal for Lula personally. However, from Washington's viewpoint, BRICS was (and it still is) a pernicious idea, given the challenge it posed to the international order led by the US with its supply chains, divisions of labour, and, of course, the dominance of the American dollar.

The outgoing US Secretary of State Pompeo, in fact, didn't forget to say a toast to Lula's ouster from politics in one of his last messages while retiring from the state department. On January 19, Pompeo tweeted with a barely-disguised sense of triumphalism that with Bolsonaro leading Brazil and Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading India, BRICS had become comatose, implying that the two statesmen could be counted upon to smother any anti-American whiff within the grouping at the behest of Russia and/or China:

Remember BRICS? Well, thanks to @jairbolsonaro and @narendramodi the B and the I both get that the C and the R are threats to their people.

Viva BRICS! Pompeo's dream lies shattered. And Modi is due to host BRICS Summit 2021.

Suffice to say, although Lula was not a Marxist or an anti-American demagogue, his comeback to Brazilian politics could potentially become a major setback for Washington's designs to restore its hegemony in the region at a juncture when the conservative wave that followed the "Pink Tide" is steadily ebbing in the hemisphere and the US' global strategy has turned to countering China and Russia everywhere, anywhere, globally, especially in America's backyard.

Without doubt, if Lula gets elected as president next year, that would re-energise the BRICS. Moscow and Beijing would view Lula as an ally with rooted conviction in the raison d'etre of the bloc as an institution that would more genuinely support development and build the foundations for a multipolar world.

How the Joe Biden Administration adapts itself to such a geopolitical reality remains to be seen. Bolsonaro had forged close ties with the Trump administration, and the brash Brazilian leader is likely to face hostility from Biden. (Bolsonaro is often called the "Tropical Trump" by his countrymen.)

On Nov 7, Lula said the world was "breathing a sigh of relief" at Biden's victory while Bolsonaro, a fervent Trump backer, remained conspicuously silent. Lula tweeted: "I welcome Biden's victory and express my hope that he will be guided by the humanist values that marked his campaign, not only domestically but in his relations with Latin America and the world."

When Biden said in his first debate with Trump that the US needed to push Brazil to better protect the Amazon rainforest, Bolsonaro fired back that the statement was "disastrous and unnecessary". Indeed, some Brazilian media reports, citing government sources, had said the Bolsonaro administration did not plan to recognise Biden's win until the various legal challenges Trump had threatened to wage played out in court. Today, indeed, if Biden wants to push back against right-wing populism in Brazil, he won't have to look past Lula.

1st Meeting of the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues held (Состоялось 1-е заседание Контактной группы БРИКС по торгово-экономическим вопросам) / India, March, 2021
Keywords: top_level_meeting, economic_challenges

The BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI) leads held their first meeting under India's Chairship from 9-11 March 2021. The theme of BRICS this year is -"BRICS@15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation, and Consensus".

India, under its Chairship in 2021, presented the calendar of events for BRICS CGETI 2021, which included the priority areas for deliverables, schedule and scope of the MSME roundtable conference workshop on Services Statistics, and the BRICS Trade Fair. This was followed by a series of presentations, scheduled in separate sessions, made by the concerned Departments of the Government of India on the proposed deliverables during India's Chairship under the BRICS CGETI track.

The deliverables proposed are on (i) Action plan based on the document "Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025" adopted during Russian Presidency in 2020 (ii) BRICS Cooperation on Multilateral Trading system including cooperation for the TRIPS Waiver proposal at WTO; (iii) Framework for Consumer Protection in E-Commerce; (iv) Non-Tariff Measures (NTM) Resolution Mechanism; (v) Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Working Mechanism; (vi) Co-operation framework for protection of Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge; (vii) BRICS Framework on Co-operation in Professional Services. Each of these sessions was followed by detailed feedback sessions.

The BRICS partners appreciated the activities planned by India, being timely and relevant in the current context and expressed their support for working together on the various initiatives proposed by India. From now on till September, 2021, inter sessional deliberations will be carried out to reach a consensus amongst the BRICS countries. The BRICS officers tasked with CGETI would continue the work for the 27th official level CGETI meeting, scheduled to be held in June 2021.
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
India briefs BRICS nations on its chairship priorities (Индия проинформировала страны БРИКС о приоритетах своего председательства) / India, March, 2021
Keywords: chairmanship

New Delhi, Mar 11 (PTI) India on Thursday briefed other BRICS nations about its chairship's priorities and agenda this year.

India's BRICS Sherpa Sanjay Bhattacharyya hosted the ambassadors of BRICS countries in India for lunch on Thursday and briefed them about Indian BRICS Chairship's priorities and calendar, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava tweeted.

Last month, BRICS Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas held their first meeting under India's chairship, during which the country presented its priorities in 2021 under the theme -- 'BRICS at 15'.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are part of BRICS. PTI ASK SMN SMN

World of Work
SEZs at Forefront of Brics Manufacturing Conference Agenda (ОЭЗ в авангарде повестки дня конференции БРИКС по производству) / South Africa, March, 2021
Keywords: economic_challenges, sustainable_development
South Africa

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) has explained why it has placed special economic zones (SEZs) at the heart of the inaugural Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) Manufacturing Conference to be hosted on March 26.

CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba emphasises that SEZs have the potential to create a significant number of entrepreneurship and employment opportunities, while they provide an avenue for governments to attract investments, increase exports and include local companies into global supply chains.

"If implemented correctly, SEZs can promote inclusive growth with long-term sustainability linked to both national and international supply chains. There have been several successful SEZ programmes that have already made a positive impact on the economy.

These include the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone in Gauteng, which Premier David Makhura said has seen the government's R3.3-billion infrastructure investment unlock billions of rands' worth of investment by suppliers, including R15.8-billion by Ford Motor Company – the biggest foreign direct investment since the 2010 World Cup," Nyatsumba highlights.

He adds that, in the Eastern Cape, the East London and Coega SEZ programmes have attracted more than R19-billion in investment into the province.

"The Brics Manufacturing Conference will not only share these success stories, but it will also provide insights into how local manufacturers can participate in SEZ programmes and ultimately expand their footprints into our Brics counterparts." Among the economic zones that will be showcased at the conference will be the Nkomazi SEZ, based in Mpumalanga, which is a priority project of the Brics Manufacturing Working Group.

The working group is the organiser of the conference – in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation.

RIAC and CASS Held a Round Table on Global Governance (РСМД и CASS провели круглый стол по глобальному управлению) / Russia, March, 2021
Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion

On March 4, 2021 the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) held a joint webinar "New Era of Globalization and Global Governance: Views from Russia and China".

Andrey Kortunov, RIAC Director General, and Sun Zhuangzhi, Director of the CASS Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies (IREECAS), delivered opening remarks.

The Russian side was represented by Yaroslav Lissovolik, Chief Managing Director of Sberbank, Head of the Analytical Department of Global Markets – Sberbank Investment Research, RIAC Member; Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and Editor-in-Chief of the "Russia in Global Affairs" Magazine, RIAC Member; and Mikhail Konarovsky, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation, Leading Research Fellow at the Center for East Asia and SCO Studies, MGIMO University, RIAC Member. Xu Poling, Head of the Russian Economy Department at the IREECAS CASS; Ren Lin, Leading Research Fellow at the CASS Institute of World Economics and Politics; and Liu Fenghua, Head of the Russian Foreign Policy Research Department at the IREECAS CASS presented the Chinese point of view.

The speakers drew attention of the audience to the opportunities arising for Russia and China from new multilateralism in the form of the BRICS+ project or improved connectivity between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and China's One Belt — One Road Initiative (OBOR), as well as to the challenges the countries are facing, in the bilateral relations as well as globally. They also emphasized changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and touched upon the U.S. foreign policy under Biden administration.

Alexander Lomanov, Deputy Director for Scientific Work at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of RAS and RAS Professor; Anna Kireeva, Associate Professor of the Department of Asian and African Studies and Research Fellow at the Center for Comprehensive Chinese Studies and Regional Projects at MGIMO University; and Anastasia Pyatachkova, Deputy Head of the Asia Pacific Department at the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics, took part in the follow-up discussion. Ksenia Kuzmina, RIAC Program Manager, moderated the meeting.

Discussion Summary

Current state of global governance

  • The world is experiencing deglobalization and finds itself amidst a crisis of global governance, which poses a threat to both global security and development. Although there are some signs of hope, they cannot reverse the major negative trend.

  • The previous stage of globalization has had many negative consequences: widening gap between the rich and the poor, spread of populism, the new arms race, protectionism and unilateralism. These consequences have been aggravated by the pandemic. Although in the new era of globalization cooperation is likely to dominate, there are objective obstacles to it.

  • The main feature of the future system of global governance is that most states will have to put domestic policy first and prioritize national agenda over the global one. Using foreign policy for internal purposes and not vice versa may change the whole course of international processes, making them more pragmatic and less ideology-driven. The second feature is difficulties with persuading world leaders to focus collectively on solving global issues such as climate change. This poses a threat to collective actions as a phenomenon.

  • The current world order is characterized by stagnation, the destruction of several key cooperation mechanisms caused by protectionism and use of bilateral cooperation against third countries.

  • Isolationism caused by the pandemic is hindering the development of high technology worldwide.

  • International community faces two main tasks. They are managing deglobalization, including in the sphere of strategic stability, and preparing for a new wave of globalization through enhancing governance mechanisms, especially in terms of resources management.

Russia and China in the changing environment

  • Russia and China have two major tasks: managing deglobalization, including cost reduction and damage limitation of this process, and preparing a new stage of globalization, paying special attention to the IT and human resources areas.

  • Russia and China share a lot of goals both regionally and globally: combating security threats, developing neighboring regions, strengthening respective international authority, opposing unilateralism, strictly observing international law.

  • As Russia and China have common views on global problems, their differences concerning some regional problems do not impede the dialogue, which is extremely important after the pandemic.

  • China focuses on its national interests, but remains open to the world. China strictly observes international law, supports globalization as it is of vital importance for global development, condemns the policy of containment and develops the concept of the community with a shared future for mankind. China should improve existing market practices and find new ways of collective development of the world economy.

  • The US hegemonic practices of "selective multilateralism" directed against third countries, and the implementation of its own rules have a negative impact on the Russian and Chinese economies. Implementing sanctions against Russia contradicts free trade and cooperation principles.
Various formats of cooperation

  • Introduced by China in 2017, the "BRICS+" mechanism is likely to bring economic benefits and is therefore worth developing after the pandemic. The most promising areas of such cooperation are banking, investment, regional integration, digital economy.

  • The New Development Bank may benefit from new members – regional partners of BRICS countries or other developed countries. Inviting such partners is no threat to relations inside BRICS.

  • China should create and develop open and inclusive cooperation platforms based on mutual respect and dialogue, e.g. the Belt and Road Initiative, "BRICS+", cooperation with the ASEAN and the EU.

  • Although the SCO membership has expanded, Russia and China are still to remain pillars of the format.

  • The idea of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which was first mentioned by Vladimir Putin in 2016, has not fully developed yet, but it can probably include trade in goods and services, universal technological requirements, energy cooperation, equal partnership for countries with different levels of economic development, etc.

Climate Change Mitigation Law and Policy in the BRICS (Законодательство и политика по смягчению последствий изменения климата в БРИКС) / United Kingdom, March, 2021
Keywords: research, sustainable_development, ecology
United Kingdom

This chapter examines the climate change mitigation law and policy of five major developing countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (i.e., the BRICS). It will first analyze the case of Brazil, then India, China, Russia, and lastly South Africa. The chapter explores the main causes of Brazil's contribution to global climate change (namely deforestation, cattle ranching, agricultural expansion, and energy production). It then offers mitigation strategies for the case of India and makes the case for investing in cities, solar energy, hydropower, and electric vehicles. The chapter then explores China's position in the mitigation of climate change by analyzing key policies such as carbon pricing, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and fossil fuels. It then turns to Russia to examine its domestic policies to reduce carbon emissions. Lastly, it examines South Africa's climate change mitigation regime.
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