Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 23.2021
2021.06.07 — 2021.06.13
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS opposes exceptionalism: China (БРИКС выступает против исключительности: Китай) / India, June, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

China on Monday sought to frame a joint statement from the Foreign Ministers of the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] countries, who met virtually last week, as standing in opposition to what Beijing has increasingly hit out at "bloc politics" from the United States and the West.

The BRICS Foreign Ministers, at a virtual meet last week, put out a joint statement on multilateralism, in addition to the usual Ministers' press statement. China's Foreign Ministry on Monday said the idea behind the statement was to forge a common understanding among the BRICS countries when there were "so many different interpretations and definitions of multilateralism in the world".

Ironically, among the targets of Beijing's recent attacks on what it calls "selective multilateralism" is the India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Quad grouping, which Chinese officials have repeatedly criticised. India, which is the BRICS chair this year and will host this year's leaders summit, which may also take place virtually, finds itself in a curious position of being described by Beijing as both a partner and a target in its recent emphasis on the importance of "multilateralism" and its criticism of calls for a "rules-based order", voiced not only by the U.S. but also by the Quad.

Multilateral system

On the "different interpretations" of multilateralism, the "BRICS countries, as representatives of emerging markets and developing countries, have tackled the problem head-on and given their answer", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

"The BRICS Joint Statement on Strengthening and Reforming the Multilateral System laid out the following principles," he added. "First, it should make global governance more inclusive, representative and participatory to facilitate greater and more meaningful participation of developing and least developed countries. Second, it should be based on inclusive consultation and collaboration for the benefit of all. Third, it should make multilateral organisations more responsive, action-oriented and solution-oriented based on the norms and principles of international law and the spirit of mutual respect, justice, equality, mutual beneficial cooperation. Fourth, it should use innovative and inclusive solutions, including digital and technological tools. Fifth, it should strengthen capacities of individual States and international organizations. Sixth, it should promote people-centered international cooperation at the core. This is the answer given by the BRICS."

He added that the BRICS countries were "indeed different from a few developed countries in their attitude towards multilateralism and multilateral cooperation." "The BRICS countries stress the need to observe the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and oppose exceptionalism and double standard," he said. "We are committed to extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and oppose hegemonic bullying and zero-sum games. We pursue openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and reject bloc politics and ideological confrontation."

Russia and India: Natural Partners in Building a Digital World (Россия и Индия: естественные партнеры в построении цифрового мира) / Greece, June, 2021
Keywords: digital, expert_opinion

By Lidia Kulik

Much as for today's Russia, digital transformation has been one of the priorities for India's government, its entrepreneurs and the civil society. Despite the turmoil caused by the pandemic, the changes on the path of digitization taking place in Russia and India open up new opportunities for cooperation between the two countries and pose new problems.

Given that forecasts of India's economic growth are again—as it happened a year ago—downgraded, and the footage of today's tragic situation in the country dominates TV screens, it is difficult to believe that a significant part of the positive transformations of recent years in India has to be attributed to the technological progress of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the expansion of knowledge economy and a rapid digitization. However, this remains the case, and a study published recently by the SKOLKOVO Institute for Emerging Markets Studies in cooperation with the Indian School of Business focuses on the digitization aspect of the profound transformation that extends to the Indian economy and society as a whole.

The research report "India Goes Digital. From a local phenomenon to a global influencer" examines the main distinctive features that, as the authors argue, make India's digitisation profile unique. They include both fairly well-known aspects, such as the system of biometric identification of citizens operational in India, as well as less familiar features, including a close partnership between the state and private businesses in designing and implementing digitization programmes, their impact on the increasing financial inclusion as well as the boom of entrepreneurship, which is also largely associated with the rapid proliferation of digital technologies in India.

The study also examines the impact of digitization on the education sector, critical to India's development. It explores the great potential that India's educational companies have; after all, as of today, they are the fastest growing in their segment on a global scale, seeking international expansion, which makes quality education more accessible and effective for both developing and developed countries.

The study provides insights into the companies, institutions and entrepreneurs that make up the emerging digital India. In the segment of the study concerning Russian-Indian cooperation, the authors analyze the experience of Russian businesses in India and argue that it is necessary to strengthen the technological segment within the strategic partnership between Russia and India, which is not only dictated by the present-day requirements but also has a very significant potential.

The Russian-Indian partnership in the era of digital transformation In 2020, Russia and India celebrated 20 years since the Declaration on Strategic Partnership was signed in New Delhi by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Vladimir Putin in October 2000. In December 2010, the India-Russia partnership was upgraded to the level of a special and privileged strategic partnership. In April 2019, President Putin signed an executive order, awarding Prime Minister N. Modi the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle the First-Called for his distinguished contribution to the privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India and fostering friendly ties between the Russian and Indian peoples. The strategic status of relations is not exclusive for both countries; however, a profound mutual understanding on most of the issues on the contemporary and historical agendas is a unique feature of the Russian-Indian relations. The annual meeting of the leaders of the two countries did not take place in 2020; however, the next face-to-face summit is reportedly planned for 2021. The views of Moscow and New Delhi on the geopolitical situation in the two most important macroregions—Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific—where both Russia and India play an important role and where the two countries seek to smooth out the emerging divergence in approaches to their future deserve a separate analysis.

In April 2021, it was announced that a "two + two" dialogue with the participation of foreign and defense ministers would be established between Russia and India. India is already working with the United States, Japan and Australia in the same format.

In addition to the strong political ties, traditional cooperation in the energy sector, as well as military-technical partnership, is particularly prominent and important for both India and Russia. In September 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest at the 5th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. The Russian Far East, a vast territory designed to become Russia's new gateway to Asia, is open for Indian business, striving to become one of the new engines for the development of the Russian-Indian ties.

The planned Vladivostok-Chennai maritime corridor will become an important new transport link connecting the Russian Arctic and the Far East with India. In this regard, the energy bridge between the two countries, which implies trade and investment in oil and gas, LNG, nuclear energy, coal mining and processing, will certainly expand, given the natural complementarity of the economies of the two countries. Cooperation in the field of renewable energy, on which India puts a clear premium, and in the hydrogen economy, are also under discussion. The co-production of COVID-19 vaccines is an important recent addition to the list of priority areas for bilateral collaboration.

Besides, Moscow and Delhi intend to expand military-technical cooperation using the advantages of localization within the framework of the "Make in India" and AtmaNirbhar Bharat ("Self-Reliant India") programmes that are actively promoted by the Indian government and personally by PM N. Modi.

However, for various reasons, as is well-known, economic cooperation between Russia and India lags behind the level of their expanded political partnership. In 2019, Russian-Indian trade turnover amounted to $11.16 billion (while Russian exports to India amounted to $7.24 billion, India's exports to Russia amounted to $3.92 billion). Before the pandemic, the governments of the two countries set a goal to triple their trade turnover to $30 billion and to increase bilateral investments from $30 to $50 billion by 2025. N. Modi and V. Putin identified the intensification of trade and economic relations as a priority area of bilateral cooperation. The establishment of a free trade zone between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is being considered.

Governments of India and Russia were tasked with identifying and removing the bottlenecks and obstacles to expanding economic ties. Russia's Ministry of Economic Development and India's Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion have launched fast-track, single-window mechanisms to facilitate smooth investments by Russian and Indian companies. "Invest India," an investment promotion and facilitation agency, established a special Russia desk to provide Russian businesses with a convenient platform for support and advice on investment issues. The Far East Investment and Export Agency, the Russian Export Center, Delovaya Rossiya, as well as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and other organizations promote direct contacts between Indian and Russian business communities. Two rounds of strategic economic dialogue took place between India and Russia: in St. Petersburg in 2018 and in New Delhi in 2019.

2020 was the year of Russia's BRICS chairmanship, and despite the fact that the BRICS summit, like all other work, had to be held remotely, Russia tried to make the content of this work most up-to-date and relevant to today's requirements. Thus, the topic of cooperation between the BRICS nations in digitalization-related areas was reflected in the 12th BRICS Summit Moscow Declaration adopted at the meeting. In the new Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025, one of the three main directions identified was—for the first time—cooperation in digital economy. 2021 is the year of India's chairmanship in BRICS, meaning that the topic of digitalization, which is very close to India, will undoubtedly find further reflection in the work of the grouping. In recent years, India has made tangible progress in promoting Internet penetration, digital literacy, e-government, financial technology, e-commerce and so on.

Digitalization as Russia's top priority

Digital transformation is now one of the top priorities for Russia as well. This was reflected in the appointment of Mikhail Mishustin as Prime Minister of the country in January 2020. Speaking at the State Duma in 2020, M. Mishustin noted: "Digital is the oil, gold and platinum of the 21st century. If we do not get digital, digital will get us." Prior to his appointment as Prime Minister, M. Mishustin headed the Federal Tax Service of Russia, where he managed to overhaul the work of this department on a completely new digital foundation and in a rather short time span. Russia has developed the National Technological Initiative (NTI), a long-term programme aimed at ensuring the leadership of Russian companies on new high-tech markets that will emerge in the global economy during the next 15-20 years.

Like India, Russia is now preparing to test and deploy 5G networks. The national "Digital Economy" programme (planned up to the year 2030) is currently under implementation. NTI and Russia's other efforts in the technological field can be coordinated with the strategic plans of India in similar areas.

Complementarity and new cooperation avenues

So far, India's experience with digitalization is not well-known in Russia. With some exceptions, Russian businesses are largely unfamiliar with the changes taking place in India. Although Russian and Indian IT-industries have evolved differently, new complementarities and new opportunities for collaboration between them are emerging. It is noteworthy that the Russian Association of Software Development Companies RUSSOFT, founded in 1999, was created following the example of the Indian National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM). Today, companies, such as MaximaTelecom (solutions for digital cities and businesses), Lighting Technologies (lighting systems for smart cities), Technonicol (advanced building materials), Zyfra (artificial intelligence and industrial solutions based on the Internet of Things), Tactise Group (advanced solutions in the field of labour protection and industrial safety), as well as state giants such as Rosatom (India's key partner in the nuclear industry), are actively involved in India's innovative development path.

However, there exists great potential for expanding this list. Despite severe competition with both Indian and international players, solutions from Russia are in demand, Indian businesses and the national government are willing to work with Russian companies in their own interests, regardless of possible pressure from the outside. Several investment funds of Russian origin are also working with India, building bridges and striving to blend Russian, Indian and international experience. These include Sistema Asia Capital, RTP Global, DST Global. These are experienced tech-savvy investors, representing "smart money", equipped with the knowledge of working with complex markets, such as India.

The two countries have the potential for cooperation in deep technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data and analytics, machine learning, smart energy infrastructure, smart logistics, photonics and new materials, microelectronics and semiconductors, as well as blockchain and financial technologies. An important element of support from the governments on both sides could be the establishment of so-called regulatory sandboxes—so that experimental legal regimes could facilitate cross-pollination and testing of ideas between technology companies and start-ups from India and Russia.

Amid today's realities, India cannot be solely viewed as a potential sales market. It is necessary to work with India as a valuable partner. India welcomes foreign businesses that help address its challenges without aggravating the country's problems (in particular, unemployment and environmental degradation). India offers incentives to localize production and has unique experience in scaling low-margin products and services. Importantly, Indian businesses are going global very actively and can serve as a springboard for Russian solutions to enter international markets.

Another potentially important area of cooperation between India and Russia is cybersecurity. In the rapidly unfolding digital world, the environment where people and businesses operate is becoming increasingly permeable, while the space that needs protection is more and more difficult to delineate with a security perimeter. Securing critical infrastructure will require new approaches and principles that may be based on quantum technologies and quantum cryptography. Currently, a national cybersecurity strategy is under development in India, and the country is facing regular cyber-attacks on its infrastructure, which Indian regulators, knowing the complexity and ambiguity of this topic, rightly avoid attributing to any specific groups of cybercriminals or naming their origins. At the same time, India's Western partners rush to attribute these attacks to China or North Korea.

Against the backdrop of the global pandemic crisis, the dangers associated with high technology seem to have receded into the background. However, there is no doubt that the pandemic has significantly accelerated digitalization; and in the new digital world, national independence and sovereignty of countries are becoming more dependent on technology than ever before.

Over the years, Russia has consistently advocated for a broad international consensus under the auspices of the UN to work out the principles of international law to govern cyberspace. Meanwhile, in response to growing digital threats and in the absence of comprehensive international regulation, cyberspace is becoming increasingly regional. In a newly evolving international environment, there are likely to be several technology clusters, each with their own security principles. It is in the interests of both Russia and India to agree on these principles at an early stage, so as not to find themselves on different technological continents in the near future.

Given the constant and consistent striving of both countries for sovereignty and adherence to international law and the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, Russia and India are natural partners in the formation of a new digital world, and if their efforts are intensified, this will stand to benefit not only the two countries but also the international community as a whole.

In line with global trends and reflecting the accelerating technological transformation within India, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced in 2020 the creation of the New and Emerging Strategic Technologies (NEST) department that will deal with technology diplomacy, foreign policy and international legal aspects of the new technologies. This is expected to enable India to become more involved in the global debate on technology governance and to better advocate for the country's national interests in this context.

Lidia Kulik - Ph.D. in History, Head of India Studies at the SKOLKOVO Institute for Emerging Markets, Research Fellow at RAS Institute of Oriental Studies, RIAC Expert.

China Says BRICS Countries Pursue Openness, Inclusiveness; Rejects Bloc Politics (Китай заявляет, что страны БРИКС стремятся к открытости и инклюзивности; Отклоняет политику блока) / India, June, 2021
Keywords: political_issues

China said that BRICS countries pursue openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and reject "bloc politics and ideological confrontation".

The BRICS countries, as emerging markets and developing countries, are indeed different from a few developed countries in their attitude towards multilateralism and multilateral cooperation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here.

He was replying to a question on why the recent BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Foreign Ministers meeting released an extra statement on multilateralism and whether there are any differences between BRICS attitude towards multilateralism and multilateral cooperation and the general understanding of the international community, especially the proposition of developed countries.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar hosted a virtual meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers via video link on June 1.

The meeting was attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Minister of International Relations of South Africa Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor and Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto Franco.

At the end of the meeting two statements were issued on the "Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations" and another on "BRICS Joint Statement on Strengthening and Reforming the Multilateral System".

Wang Wenbin said since China put forward the proposal during its rotating presidency of BRICS in 2017, the five countries' foreign ministers have held separate formal meetings for five consecutive years.

"Since then, we've developed a tradition of elaborating on our consensus on the current international landscape and prominent issues in the form of press statements with good effects," he said.

The BRICS countries, as emerging markets and developing countries, are indeed different from a few developed countries in their attitude towards multilateralism and multilateral cooperation, he said.

"The BRICS countries stress the need to observe the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and oppose exceptionalism and double standard," he said.

"We are committed to extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and oppose hegemonic bullying and zero-sum games. We pursue openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and reject bloc politics and ideological confrontation", he said.

China opposes formation of the Quad grouping

China has vehemently opposed the formation of the Quad grouping amongst the US, India, Australia and Japan with the Chinese foreign ministry emphasising that exchanges and cooperation between countries should help expand mutual understanding and trust, instead of targeting or harming the interests of third parties.

The Quad member countries have resolved to uphold a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the strategically vital region.

"China has every confidence that the contents of this statement will stand the scrutiny of practice and the test of history and will surely win more and more international recognition and support," he said.

Russia must not wall itself off from global dialogue on AI, Medvedev believes (Медведев считает, что Россия не должна отгородиться от глобального диалога по ИИ.) / Russia, June, 2021
Keywords: quotation, innovations

According to Medvedev, "it is necessary that all executive authorities and all leading companies working on this topic pool their efforts to promote Russia's approaches on these and other platforms"

MOSCOW, June 8. /TASS/. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev called on Russia to significantly step up its participation in international discussions on artificial intelligence (AI).

"We must beef up our participation in international discussions on the issues of artificial intelligence. I believe we definitely should not insulate ourselves in this regard, despite the fact that we do not have the easiest relations with a number of countries and international institutions," Medvedev said during a Tuesday meeting. Moscow "still must have discussions in the Council of Europe - at least while we are still there — and in UNESCO, BRICS, the OSCE, and in the G20," the official noted.

According to Medvedev, "it is necessary that all executive authorities and all leading companies working on this topic pool their efforts to promote Russia's approaches on these and other platforms."

He noted that attention should be paid to Asian forums and platforms that are no less important.

"In general, this will contribute to shaping our image as an active participant of the global discussion on artificial intelligence. That being said, we will also be enriched by the information that generally surrounds such discussions," Medvedev explained.

According to the deputy chairman, "the cooperation within the BRICS framework, which includes countries with a high level of AI development, namely China, is very promising."

"We must think about putting together some document for BRICS member states on cooperation in this field, which could eventually include a reference to model laws that regulate issues relevant to all countries. [This would include] unmanned transport, intellectual development, and the introduction of AI into healthcare," Medvedev believes. He underscored that the "European countries are working on this rather energetically" but have not invited Russia to discuss these issues. Therefore, Medvedev believes such issues could be discussed within the BRICS platform.

BRICS Organisation and Covid-19 Vaccine Geopolitics (Организация БРИКС и геополитика вакцины против Covid-19) / India, June, 2021
Keywords: covid-19, political_issues

The debate on international geopolitical forces gains new strength in the current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a fact that the pandemic highlighted a crisis of globalization and global governance, intensifying international disputes, while consolidating China as a global power and demonstrating to the world Russia's remaining importance.

A first overview of the situation concerns the type of cooperation undertaken by these countries in their participation in the international division of scientific work. It is noted that even though there are divergences within the BRICS and a certain slow progress when it comes to implementing initiatives, the North-South cooperation model, fundamental in the international context of the 1990s, continues to lose importance as the predominant model in the regions in development. South-South cooperation has grown and at the same time, other forms of cooperation have appeared, including South-North cooperation, such as China's support for Italy, and East-North cooperation, as in the shipment of Russian medical supplies to the United States.

In the international dispute for the vaccine, even though the traditional producers of science have been those who most increased their number of scientific publications in internationally indexed journals during the pandemic, Russia, India, China and, to a lesser extent, South Africa have been playing a role in the global immunization market.

These countries have had strong initiatives to develop vaccine technology and have substantially improved their national regulatory capacity.

Russia was the first country to announce the registration of a vaccine against COVID-19, in August 2020, naming it Sputnik, in reference to the first Russian space satellite, launched in 1957. Although some data from the Russian tests has not yet been made available by the Gamaleya Institute, responsible for vaccine research, in 2021, the British scientific journal The Lancet published research showing that the Russian vaccine is as effective as several Western vaccines, at 92%.

China, which is the country in the bloc with the most scientific publications on COVID-19, contacted heads of state from around the world seeking global coordination in managing the coronavirus outbreak. The country, with support from India, Russia and South Africa, has argued in international forums that the vaccine is a global public good.

Brazil, on the other hand, has preferred to adopt a posture aligned with developed countries. This posture differs from that adopted in the past together with India, at the time of the Doha Declaration (2001). The declaration recognizes the right of each country to obtain generic drugs without paying royalties charged by multinationals.

This is the first international crisis in which China is bolstering its soft power and actively assuming a global leadership role. This is the first international crisis in which China is bolstering its soft power and actively assuming a global leadership role.

The public health crisis is an opportunity for China to build confidence in the world, rebuild its international image and consolidate its place as a global power. In March 2020, it donated US$20m to WHO in the fight against the pandemic and in April, after the US president threatened to reduce the contribution paid to WHO, China pledged to donate another US$30m. The US contributed in 2019 US$550m/year to the WHO.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world in number of doses produced (1.5 billion doses/year, 80% are exported) and the company supplies about 20 vaccines to 165 countries at an average of US$ 0.50 per serving, one of the most affordable in the world. The Serum Institute, responsible for producing doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine imported by Brazil, delayed in March the shipment of new immunization agents to Brazil. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India informed that the delay occurred because India only started to release the doses after opening its own immunization campaign.

The agreement between India and the Brazilian Ministry of Health provides for the Serum Institute to send the country 10 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, according to Fiocruz, the public institution responsible for manufacturing the immunizing agent in Brazil. Two million doses were delivered to the country at the end of January. The current contract provides for the eight million doses to arrive in four shipments of two million each by July 2021.

The National Health Surveillance Agency of Brazil (Anvisa) decided to approve, conditionally and with restrictions, new requests for endorsement to import doses of vaccines against Covid Covaxin and Sputnik V. Among the conditions, is carrying out extra studies of effectiveness and delivery of new data by providers, before the distribution. Anvisa also says that the use of both vaccines can be suspended in case of new assessments by the agency or the WHO contrary to the current opinion.

Requests for the use of the Covaxin vaccine were made by the Ministry of Health and by six Brazilian states. Initially, the orders involved 20 million doses of Covaxin. However, imports equivalent to 1% of the population of the states and the country were authorized — the equivalent of 4 million doses, considering two doses.

This is the second time that the agency has met to evaluate requests for exceptional endorsement of imports from Covaxin. In March, Anvisa denied an import request for Covaxin made by the Ministry of Health of Brazil. Among the reasons was the lack of minimum data required for analysis and a certificate of good manufacturing practices.

Since January, SII's vaccine has been used in the Brazilian vaccination campaign against COVID-19. In addition to it, the country has been using a greater quantity of Coronavac, produced by the Chinese laboratory Sinovac in partnership with the Butantan Institute. With only two immunization agents available and problems with the production of inputs, the country has been vaccinating at a slow pace

The international strength of Russia and China seems to be expressed, in the geopolitics of the vaccine, through the choice of themes dealt with in cooperation with other BRICS countries and through their soft power in the international system, which gains new contours in the search for solutions of international organizations for the current situation. In the vacuum left by the rich countries, three BRICS countries present themselves with their own immunization agents and a desire to expand their influence in the international system: Russia, China and India. For Brazil, which has already played a major role in the BRICS, it could be an opportunity to use its experience in large-scale production and immunization.

The author is a Researcher at Universidade de Brasília

Made on