Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 09.2023
2023.02.27 — 2023.03.05
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Historic' Translocation of Cheetah to India a Measure of 'Goodwill' Between BRICS Partners (Исторический перенос гепардов в Индию как показатель «доброй воли» между партнерами БРИКС) / India, February, 2023
Keywords: cooperation, political_issues

The "historic" relocation of 12 cheetahs from South Africa to India is a measure of "goodwill" between the two BRICS partners to share the gene pool to ensure the survival of a species, senior officials from both countries have said.

India originally initiated plans to bring the cheetahs to the country by mid-2022, but a delay in finalising a Memorandum of Understanding between the two governments led to a postponement, with the animals continuing with their quarantine at a reserve in Limpopo province.

"This is a historic MoU. It is a transcontinental location from wild to wild. Normally animals do move, but this has been a challenge for both countries," said Dr Amit Mallick, Inspector-General of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

                About 20 countries now interested in joining BRICS despite Ukraine crisis (Около 20 стран сейчас заинтересованы в вступлении в БРИКС, несмотря на украинский кризис) / Russia, February, 2023
                Keywords: brics+, expert_opinion

                Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher

                Although the Western world alludes that Russia is internationally isolated after launching a special military operation in Ukraine over a year ago, the number of countries expressing an interest in joining BRICS continues to increase. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, there are around 20 countries wanting to join BRICS. Among them are Algeria, Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and number of African countries.

                "It's worth mentioning that over the past couple of years, including during the first year of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, the number of countries that want to join the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has increased dramatically. As of now, there are about twenty of them," Lavrov said during a meeting with the regional heads of office of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

                The Russian Foreign Minister also said that Moscow has managed to thwart the West's plans to isolate Russia by increasing cooperation with most other countries in the world.

                "Attempts by the West to impose its will on everyone else, to impose its so-called rules on which it wants to establish and maintain a pro-western order are totally futile and absolutely hopeless. The head of Russian diplomacy said that the updated version of Russia's Foreign Policy Concept should be approved by the country's president soon," he added.

                It is recalled that Lavrov visited South Africa on January 23 and engaged in a "most wonderful meeting", as his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor described it. As Pandor said, the meeting helped "strengthen the already good relations" between the two countries. Although it may be unsurprising that Lavrov received such a warm welcome, it cannot be overlooked that Pandor's comments were said in the context of Washington's attempts to contain Russian influence in Africa, particularly on policy regarding the war in Ukraine.

                South Africa is one of the most influential countries on the continent and quickly dismissed US pressure regarding its relations with Russia. Pandor even criticised Washington's use of "bullying tactics." She cited the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, which was considered by the US Congress last year, as one example of "bullying tactics". The bill did not eventuate, partly due to the objections of the South African-led 16-member Southern African Development Community, but its mere threat of existence was enough to deepen already existing suspicions against the US on the continent.

                This example demonstrates why 20 major regional countries around the world have expressed their interest in becoming members of BRICS and the SCO. Ordinarily, one would assume that Russia and South Africa have little in common, but their shared memberships in BRICS puts them in a partnership where they have mutual interests in defending their own sovereignty from Western pressure.

                BRICS will decide this year on whether to admit new member states into the bloc, which will surely see a name change since the current one is abbreviated from the current member states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It is likely that a mechanism for new members will be made, especially as there is great interest for an alternative political-economic force to American unipolarity, whose own influence is declining on the world stage.

                BRICS members are characterised as industrialised developing countries with large and emerging economies, in addition to accounting for over half of the world's population. The five-member bloc has a combined gross domestic product equivalent to $13.6 trillion and their total foreign exchange reserves are $4 trillion.

                Given the West's overuse of sanctions as an economic weapon, BRICS is establishing its own financial institutions to challenge the likes of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This is of significant interest to sanctioned countries, hence why Iran and Turkey have submitted their membership applications.

                It is obvious that the wealth and power of BRICS members is increasing, and by admitting new members, the prestige and influence of the bloc will only grow and serve as an economic force for countries seeking independence from Western hegemony. To move this process forward, the New Development Bank was established by BRICS as a counterweight to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It already has several countries outside of BRICS involved, such as Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates, with other countries, such as Egypt and Uruguay, expected to join soon.

                Also, it is noteworthy that countries with regional rivalries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Turkey and Egypt, have all expressed interest in joining BRICS without finding a contradiction. It suggests that these countries perhaps find BRICS to be a medium to settle their differences and pursue common interests instead. It is through this idea that BRICS will continue to receive expressions of interest, well beyond the 20 already mentioned by Lavrov, and offer the world an alternative to Western hegemony.

                              Russia – Africa relations and the emerging new world order (Российско-африканские отношения и формирующийся новый мировой порядок) / Greece, February, 2023
                              Keywords: quotation, expert_opinion, political_issues

                              In this insightful interview conducted by our media executive Kester Kenn Klomegah with Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Research Director at the Valdai Discussion Club, and Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs journal, focused largely on Russia and Africa relations, and a few aspects of the emerging new world order. Lukyanov also discussed, at length, Russia's engagement with Africa as well as the expectations from Africa. Here are the interview excerpts:

                              During late October Valdai gathering, Vladimir Putin's speech underscored the fact that Russia was looking for its Soviet-era allies and "non-Western friends" for creating a new world order. What are the implications, from historical perspectives, relating to Africa?

                              Lukyanov: The role of Africa in international affairs is growing, no one can deny it. Russian credit record in relationship with Africa is not easy – from very tight contacts in the decolonization era and period when African countries were building their statehood through the bumpy road in 1990s when Russia suffered a huge economic and geopolitical setback and was forced to the emergency survival to the slow, but steady re-establishment of ties in 21st century. It should be noted that renaissance of Russian interest vis-à-vis Africa started much earlier than Russia – West relations collapsed due to Ukrainian war. And it was result of the realization that Africa will be increasingly important in decades to come.

                              As far as the Russian vision of the world order is concerned, it should be a polycentric and pretty complicated constellation of countries or group of countries (regional groupings) with a permanently shifting balance and steady work on adjustment of different interests. Not easy, but a vaccine against anybody's hegemony and opportunity to be flexible in pursuing own needs. Africa as a big group of countries with interests which are both intertwining and contradicting can serve both as a model of the future global picture and a strong unit in this world, if needed. Notwithstanding all that, Africa has its own strengths and weaknesses based on history, but the balance is positive in this new world. Most of potential success depends on African countries themselves and their ability to build up relations with outside powers on rational and calculated basis.

                              Soviet Union, of course, enormously supported Africa's liberation struggle to attain political independence in the 60s. African leaders are looking for external players with funds to invest, transform its economy. What could be Russia's role, in practical terms, to fight what is frequently referred to as "neocolonialism" in Africa?

                              Lukyanov: Unlike former colonial powers and to some extent China, it is quite clear that Russia doesn't envisage an exclusive or an ultimately leading role in Africa. There are no political disadvantages associated with Russian relations with Africa. The practical input could be huge, in case Russia will make its homework. Russian resources to invest massively are not comparable with what China or Western states can do. But, Russia has a lot of services which are on the highest international level, while much more cost effective, and they can be offered to African partners. Russia has, for example, developed one of the best systems of digital state services in the world, Russian tax authorities are better equipped with modern technology than most of developed countries. Russian experience in raw material sector is unique, as many technological solutions are independent from other great powers, which is getting more and more important now. As I said, Russian problem is to complete its homework – to list all we can offer and manage those offers in a transparent way, and understandable for partners. It will be done soon, because now it gets very vital for Russian development.

                              Do you think Russia is much critical about United States and European Union's hegemony in Africa? How can we interpret African elites feeling (after the first 2019 summit) about Russia's renewed economic interests in Africa?

                              Lukyanov: Russia is much critical about the US hegemony where ever it exists, Africa is not an exemption. Russian economic and political focus on Africa is obvious, and skills to implement it in the contemporary way acceptable for partners will increase now.

                              What are your views about Russia's public outreach diplomacy with Africa? How would you evaluate Russia's engagement, particularly in sustainable development in Africa?

                              Lukyanov: Russia was not very advanced in the diplomatic outreach to Africa until certain moment, situation started to improve in 2010s, now we have entered a new stage. Minister Sergey Lavrov's activity all over the continent is very telling. As for sustainable development, this concept is a product of a particular political period, I would call it an advanced liberal globalization. This period is over, we are moving towards something else. Frankly, I don't believe that Russia will be much interested in current circumstances to be part of international efforts to promote sustainable development as understood by international organizations and bureaucracy. But Russia will certainly be eager to work together with particular countries on particular projects.

                              Geopolitical confrontation, rivalry and competition in Africa. For now, Russia has too many initiatives and bilateral agreements with African countries. What are your suggestions here for strengthening Russia and African relations especially in the economic directions?

                              Lukyanov: You are right, optimization is needed. Less projects and initiatives, more practical outcome. That is what I mentioned earlier as a necessity to do homework. Combination of very well calibrated regional initiatives and bilateral projects where Russia has clear competitive advantage – be it technology, security or food – should be priorities. And they should be numbered, not endless. Africa is certainly not the main topic for BRICS agenda, those countries prefer to focus on global issues, where they don't have any major differences (if any), while regional level is more controversial. Anyway there is no intention to build unified front against US and EU. BRICS is by default not confrontational, there is no goal to counterwork the West, rather to bypass it.

                              In Africa, each BRICS member will have its own agenda, no coordination expected. But then, Africa is represented in BRICS by South Africa. And I would suggest that it would be natural task for South Africa to promote African agenda in this group. Of course, each BRICS state has it own hierarchy of interests, this is normal. But as BRICS aspires greater international role and Africa is growing in significance as an essential part of the world, I see field for common interests. As far as confrontation with the West is concerned, there is no such goal for most of BRICS countries indeed. But if we look at international trends and the speed with which the previous international system collapses and overall competition spreads, I would not be so sure to predict how international situation and stance of BRICS will evolve in years to come.

                              For more information, look for the latest Geopolitical Handbook titled "Putin's African Dream and The New Dawn" (Part 2) devoted to the second Russia-Africa Summit 2023.

                                            Investment and Finance
                                            Investment and finance in BRICS
                                            S&P Affirms Long-term Credit Rating on New Development Bank at 'AA+' (S&P подтвердило долгосрочный кредитный рейтинг Нового банка развития на уровне «AA+») / Russia, February, 2023
                                            Keywords: ndb, rating

                                            S&P Global Ratings has affirmed its long-term credit rating on the Shanghai-headquartered New Development Bank (NDB) founded by BRICS nations at 'AA+' with stable outlook, according to a statement released by the rating agency.

                                            "On February 27, 2023, S&P Global Ratings affirmed its 'AA+' long-term and 'A-1+' short-term foreign currency issuer credit ratings on New Development Bank (NDB). The outlook on the long-term rating remains stable," the statement reads.

                                            "The affirmed ratings reflect our opinion that NDB will establish itself as a catalyst to reduce the infrastructure deficits faced by its BRICS members. At the same time, we expect the bank to continue to instill sound governance and risk management principles across its operations. This expectation supports our assessment of NDB's very strong enterprise risk profile and extremely strong financial risk profile," the agency explained.

                                            The agreement on setting up the New Development Bank by BRICS countries was reached on July 15, 2014, in Brazil's Fortaleza. The bank's starting capital was set at $100 bln. The Shanghai bank was established to finance infrastructure projects and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other developing countries.

                                                          Fostering Partnerships with BRICS Energy Investors (Развитие партнерских отношений с энергетическими инвесторами БРИКС) / South Africa, March, 2023
                                                          Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion
                                                          South Africa

                                                          South Africa took over as Chair of BRICS on 1 January 2023 in a difficult national and global economic environment.

                                                          Globally, the conflict in Ukraine and the West's unilateral sanctions, have battered economies that were struggling to recover from the covid pandemic. With Russia being the world's third-largest oil producer, second-largest natural gas producer and a top producer of steel and wheat, the conflict has led to substantial increases in food and energy prices that have disproportionately impacted us in the global South. Nationally, loadshedding is worsening the situation with devastating impact on the economy, closing many businesses and worsening disruptions to the rail and logistics networks that should be supporting the trading economies, particularly in KZN.

                                                          As government, we have the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan with detailed interventions to address our energy crisis with the aim of fixing Eskom, fundamentally transforming the electricity sector to achieve long-term energy security and enabling and accelerating investment in the energy sector.

                                                          It is clear that we cannot do this alone. At the January Lekgotla, President Cyril Ramaphosa called on our BRICS partners to assist South Africa in our recovery. This is line with our principled position to advance in partnership with others and is the central part of our theme as Chair of BRICS for 2023, namely "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism."
                                                          Our theme reflects our vision of BRICS as a partnership of leading developing countries providing leadership, momentum and solutions for global growth, sustainable development, and inclusion of the global South in the world system.

                                                          The theme and priorities were developed through an inclusive national consultation process that included government departments and the South African chapters of the BRICS Business Council, BRICS Women's Business Alliance, BRICS Think Tanks Council and BRICS Civil Forum in order to align our BRICS priorities with South Africa's national interests.

                                                          Our first priority responds to the significant transformational changes we are making in our economy, particularly in the energy sector. We therefore aim to "Develop a partnership towards an equitable Just Transition" This priority aims to find solutions to transformational energy change which will also improve people's lives and livelihoods in the sectors that supported the old economy, such as mining.

                                                          Strengthening Multilateralism, including Working Toward Real Reform of Global Governance Institutions and Strengthening the Meaningful Participation of Women in Peace Processes.

                                                          BRICS countries are uniquely positioned to support South Africa's energy recovery. BRICS countries contain almost half the world's population and account for approximately 40% of the world's energy consumption. As BRICS we are responsible for 48% of the world's coal consumption, 22% of the world's oil consumption and 13.5% of the world's natural gas consumption.

                                                          BRICS countries are not only consumers of energy, as all members have substantial fossil fuels and available renewable energy resources. BRICS members account for 40% of the world's coal reserves, 25% of the world's natural gas reserves and 8% of the world's oil reserves. In the renewable energy sector, solar power from South Africa, Brazil and India, wind power from Russia and China, as well as biomass from Brazil, all enjoy substantial resource advantages.

                                                          Within BRICS, China is the world's largest coal producer with 50% of the world's output in 2020 and India 10%. Russia produced 12% of the world's oil and 16% of the world's natural gas. Brazil is rich in biomass energy and its output for 25% of the world's total biomass energy in 2020.

                                                          With our natural resources, BRICS countries are major role players in the global supply of energy and its dynamics. BRICS countries have developed similar energy policies to manage energy risks. BRICS countries have both expertise and technologies to use their energy resources to enhance energy security and cooperation.

                                                          BRICS recognised these complementarities and in 2020, BRICS adopted a Road Map for BRICS Energy Cooperation up to 2025 aimed at building a strategic partnership in energy cooperation. The Road Map is being implemented in phases.

                                                          The first phase is the research phase which started under South Africa's Chairship of BRICS in 2018 with the establishment of the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform. The platform brings together experts, companies and research institutes to coordinate common interests of BRICS in research and development of innovative technology and policies, with seven studies being released to date at BRICS Ministers of Energy meetings. Last year, China presented an additional study on the development of renewable energy and smart grids in the BRICS countries. This year, Russia is leading a study on energy security. The roadmap also established the publication of the annual BRICS Energy Report.

                                                          During the second phase, BRICS countries will identify the needs and challenges to energy security and find areas where BRICS cooperation can provide solutions. The third phase aims at advancing mutually beneficial cooperation including exchange of best practice, use of BRICS advanced technology, as well as opportunities for trade and investment in each other's economies. Of course, we are not waiting for this third phase before we work with our BRICS partners on energy solutions.

                                                          India is already South Africa's biggest coal export market and brings in almost half of our total coal revenue. China is reopening opportunities for imports from South Africa, following its political fallout with Australia, previously an important coal source for them. China has substantial oil and gas trade with Russia, oil and gas cooperation with Brazil, a joint natural gas pipeline project with India as well as renewable energy trade with South Africa. South Africa is a pioneer in area of clean coal, in which India and China have an interest. The Russian state energy company Rosatom has signed an agreement with South Africa to construct small hydropower plants in Mpumalanga as a key component of South Africa's energy security strategy.

                                                          Part of South Africa's response to the energy crisis involves implementing a just transition to a low carbon economy. Climate change poses its own risks and constraints to economic growth in South Africa. We are among the most water-scarce countries in the world, and recent events here in KZN have shown that extreme weather events such as floods are occurring more often.

                                                          South Africa's Integrated Resource Plan which drives our energy policy envisions that in the next 10 years, coal, which currently accounts for 85% of South Africa's electricity will drop below 60% by 2030. By that stage, solar energy is expected to be almost 20% and wind a further 8%, bringing the total contribution of renewables to around 25% in less than a decade.

                                                          South Africa's Just Transition Plan aims to significantly lower emissions of greenhouse gases and harnesses investments in new energy technologies, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient appliances. Most importantly, it aims to ensure that communities tied to high-emitting energy industries are not left behind and are provided with new skills and new economic and employment opportunities.

                                                          During South Africa's Chairship of BRICS in 2013, we established the BRICS Business Council to strengthen and promote economic, trade, business and investment ties among the business communities of the BRICS countries. The BRICS Business Council also identifies problems and bottlenecks and recommends solutions to BRICS.

                                                          This year, under South Africa's Chairship, the Council's Energy and Green Economy Working Group is focused on concrete outputs on the Just Transition. The Council has developed an energy skills roadmap for South Africa which will be rolled out to the other BRICS countries. The skills roadmap identifies the skills available as well as the skills necessary and identifies training programmes as well as sponsors across the BRICS countries.

                                                          There are discussions on the possible establishment of a BRICS African Centre of Excellence on the Just Energy Transition which would support a network of researchers focused on technology, socio-economic, environmental, financial and other aspects of the Just Transition that would inform policy making in BRICS countries in collaboration with the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform.

                                                          The question is how to identify funding for investment in renewable energy. There is a lot of money available globally for renewable energy projects, with National Treasury estimating that there is 12 trillion dollars available from sources such as the Green Climate Fund. But developing countries struggle to access these funds because of the perceived risk of investing in a developing country. South Africa's policy uncertainty and regulatory challenges have been cited as obstacles to South African investment opportunities, with other funders also banning financing and investment in coal for energy, even if it is clean coal.

                                                          India and China are able to source their own international finance for renewable energy by offering their own-currency Green Bonds known as Green Masala Bonds and Green Panda Bonds. The Green Panda Bond is issued by the BRICS New Development Bank.

                                                          The NDB is a multilateral development bank established by BRICS countries to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects. Sustainability is fundamental to the founding principles of NDB and the Bank aims to deliver transformative impact to BRICS member countries with a target of 40% of all the Bank's loans funding projects mitigation and adaption for the effects of climate change by 2026.

                                                          South Africa and China have so far been the leading beneficiaries of sustainable financing from the NDB with respect to clean and renewable energy. South Africa is the beneficiary of 12 projects financed by the Bank to the value of 5.4 billion dollars. Five of these projects support the energy sector, with three of those funding renewable energy projects to the value of thirteen billion Rand.

                                                          The opportunities for BRICS to support transformative change in our economy are obvious. As Chair of BRICS in 2023, our strategic vision is to harness our existing mutually beneficial BRICS cooperation to address issues of national interest and national concern for South Africa in a holistic and multi-disciplinary way. The depth and strength of our BRICS partnership allows us to bring multiple BRICS solutions to the table, including financing, trade, investment, industrialisation, skills development and training, research, development and innovation, as well as partnership with African countries and leading countries of the global South.

                                                          Professor Anil Sooklal, Ambassador-at-Large: Asia and BRICS Department of International Relations and Cooperation. This is a presentation delivered at the eThekwini Energy Transformation Summit at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban on March 1.
                                                                        Anglo-American duet against India's Modi (Англо-американский дуэт против индиского премьер-министра Моди) / Russia, March, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges

                                                                        One of the most critical economic partners of Russia amid the unprecedented Western economic sanctions from Washington and the EU over the Ukraine war has been the Indian government of BJP leader Narendra Modi, writes well-known international observer William Engdahl, a strategic risk consultant and lecturer, who holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics.

                                                                        In the past several years Modi, playing a delicate balancing act between alliances with Russia and also with the West, has emerged as a vital trade partner of Russia amid the sanctions. Despite repeated efforts by Biden Administration and UK officials, Modi has refused to join sanctions against Russian trade, above all oil trade.

                                                                        Now a series of suspiciously-timed and targeted events suggest that there is an Anglo-American destabilization being launched to topple Modi in the coming months.

                                                                        India is a vital ally of Russia through its participation among other things in the so-named BRICS group of nations. The BRICS is the acronym for an informal group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It is a loose gathering of five of the most dynamic states of the non-OECD nations, mostly of the South.

                                                                        India under BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly refused to join Washington in condemning Russia's Ukraine actions. It has defied US sanctions on Russian oil buying, despite repeated US threats of consequences. In addition to being a fellow BRICS member, India is also a major long-time buyer of Russian defense equipment.

                                                                        Modi is facing a national election in Spring 2024, and important regional ones this year, that will determine his future.

                                                                        A clear Anglo-American assault on Modi and his key financial backer was launched. A shadowy Wall Street financial firm, 'Hindenburg Research',.. targeted an Indian billionaire, Gautam Adani, head of the Adani Group and at the time reportedly the richest man in Asia. Adani also happens to be the major financial backer of Modi.

                                                                        At the same month that the suspiciously-timed 'Hindenburg' expose of Adani appeared, in January, 2023 the British government-owned BBC released a TV documentary alleging Modi's role two decades ago in 2002 in religious riots in Gujarat when he was governor there. The BBC report, which has been banned in India, was based on unpublished intelligence given to BBC by the UK Foreign Office.

                                                                        Refusing to join NATO sanctions against Russia, and maintaining a strict principle of neutrality as it has done since the Cold War era, Modi has taken advantage of availability of Russian crude oil that the US and EU now refuse.

                                                                        Russia is now the biggest supplier of crude oil to India overtaking Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In December, India bought 1.2 million barrels of crude from Russia every day – a whopping 33 times more than a year earlier. Ironically, some of that Russian oil is being refined in India and re-exported to the EU, which just banned Russian oil. According to energy analysts, "India is buying record amounts of severely discounted Russian crude, running its refiners above nameplate capacity, and capturing the economic rent of sky-high crack spreads and exporting gasoline and diesel to Europe."

                                                                        Before the start of the Ukraine war, India bought only 1% of Russia's crude. That figure went up to 28% in January… If we add imports of Russian fertilizers and sunflower oil and other products, India's imports from Russia climbed more than 400% in eight months to November from a year earlier.

                                                                        As further indication that Washington and London seek regime change in India, George Soros, speaking on February 17 at the annual Munich Security Conference, declared, ominously, that, in effect, Modi's days are numbered. The 92-year old Soros stated, "India is an interesting case. It's a democracy, but its leader Narendra Modi is no democrat."

                                                                        Soros has been involved in every Color Revolution since the 1980's including in Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Yeltsin's 1990s rape of Russia, in Iran, against Orban's Hungary, and countless other countries not playing by the free market "democracy" agenda of Washington. That is a matter of open record.

                                                                        Expect the coming months to signal a massive escalation of Western dirty trick operations to try to topple Modi and weaken the BRICS group of countries that are increasingly trying to oppose the dictates of Washington and Davos globalists, stresses William Engdahl.

                                                                        The American short-selling firm 'Hindenburg Research''s shocking allegations of stock manipulation and money laundering against the Adani Group of companies rocked India for close to a fortnight, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer. The matter has gone to India's Supreme Court via a public interest litigation seeking probe against Hindenburg "for exploiting innocent investors."

                                                                        Adani flagged that the 'Hindenburg' report was a "calculated attack on India, the independence, integrity and quality of Indian institutions, and the growth story and ambition of India." And they (the West) are returning to mercantilist foreign policies. Neo-mercantilist strategies — regime change, sanctions, brigandage, etc. — have roared back to the centerstage.

                                                                        Now, India refuses to be part of the Euro-Atlantic agenda in shaping the 21st century world order. The Euro-Atlantic world is upset about it. Financiers like George Soros feel like beached whales in the Indian conditions because a huge financial market is inaccessible for rapacious exploitation.

                                                                        Who else but Adani, a self-made man, would have the audacity to successfully bid for Haifa, Israel's largest port city? Simply put, Adani Group has established a strategic foothold for India in the Eastern Mediterranean.

                                                                        Adani's concession period in Haifa extends to 2054. His plans are to create a skyline for Haifa city, make it a hub for AI technology, and to expand India's Mediterranean footprint and foray into the European market.

                                                                        Haifa regularly hosts joint US-Israeli naval drills and visits from American vessels. With the decline of the US Sixth Fleet, US strategic interests demand forward-deployment of US Navy ships in Haifa port. No Indian corporate house every aspired to create an audacious global footprint of this kind.

                                                                        Make no mistake, Adani is already on a comeback trail. In a critical article, 'Haaretz' newspaper reported, "The United Arab Emirates, which has been a major backer of Adani's for the past several years… announced immediately after 'Hindenburg Research' released its report that it would pick up a $400 million stake in a since-cancelled Adani Enterprises' share sale — indicating that the Indian businessman enjoys support for his plans beyond Israel."

                                                                        …Again? Now Anglo-Saxons intend to change the policy of India and its elected leader at the same time. Should we wait for a serious response from Delhi?

                                                                                      Political Events
                                                                                      Political events in the public life of BRICS
                                                                                      Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks at a meeting with heads of the territorial bodies which represent the Foreign Ministry in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, Moscow, February 27, 2023 (Выступление Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова на совещании с главами территориальных органов – представителями МИД России в субъектах Федерации, Москва, 27 февраля 2023 года) / Russia, February, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech


                                                                                      It's been a while since we gathered in such a format. Through you I would like to extend my thanks to all employees of the Foreign Ministry's territorial bodies for their truly conscientious, dedicated and proactive work.

                                                                                      Let me highlight the fact that we have established collegial interaction which is a positive development. We serve in the same ministry, but, importantly, the vast majority of our representatives have established efficient and productive cooperation with the Presidential plenipotentiary envoy corps in the federal districts, regional administrations which accommodate your offices and territorial directorates of the federal executive bodies. We see and appreciate the fact that the offices operate effectively as they support the Foreign Ministry's coordinating role in pursuing, at the level of the constituent entities, the single foreign policy course set by the President. I urge you to keep up the good work which is particularly important given the circumstances.

                                                                                      The world has entered an era of pivotal and irreversible change. You are familiar with President Putin's Address to the Federal Assembly, which lays out all the assessments in great detail. The President emphasised the fact that we all share an enormous responsibility.

                                                                                      Notably, as President Vladimir Putin conveyed, the configuration of the future international order is being decided at this point in history, and it will determine Russia's place in the democratic, fair and polycentric system which is now taking shape and to which there is no and may be no alternative. To reiterate, we managed to not only thwart the collective West's plans to isolate or even dismember Russia, but to ensure ever expanding cooperation with the overwhelming majority of the international community members which we are now referring to as the Global Majority with which we are developing ever closer and more efficient communication.

                                                                                      The Global Majority countries include giants such as China and India and many of our other international partners, including our allies in the CSTO, the EAEU, the CIS, the SCO and BRICS. The credit for this goes to every member of the tightly knit Foreign Ministry staff. Importantly, over the past couple of years, including the first year of the special military operation, the number of countries willing to join BRICS and the SCO has increased dramatically to about 20. They include Egypt, Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Indonesia, Argentina, Mexico and a number of African countries, and they play a truly important role in their respective regions. The sheer number of these countries exposes the failed attempts to isolate our country. On the contrary, it's the other way round. The countries which feel independent and are guided by national interests rather than someone else's whims understand the ongoing developments as a geopolitical tectonic process, which fact encourages them to associate with the countries that they consider their like-minded partners. In this regard, we have a vast field for interaction with our colleagues.

                                                                                      We will continue to pursue an independent foreign policy course that covers all azimuths. We are ready to establish equal and mutually beneficial relations with anyone who shares a similar approach based on equal and mutually beneficial terms. The West's attempts to impose its will and its rules on everyone in order to maintain the pro-Western international order are futile and doomed.

                                                                                      The changes that are taking place around the world are reflected in the draft Foreign Policy Concept which will be approved by President Putin soon. We count on it. We will redouble our efforts at this critical historical juncture as we work in the interests of our country to ensure the most favourable external environment for it to make progress and address social issues, to improve the well-being of our citizens and to ensure the security of the Russian Federation.

                                                                                      We have some critics, including from among the Russian "non-systemic opposition" who say that we have set the goal of creating the most favourable external conditions for our country, but the practical policy has led to a quite different outcome. These people have no idea about what is going on. Indeed, until recently, just a couple of years ago, the external conditions that we needed for moving forward were determined not by us, but by the Western minority, the golden billion which promotes its foreign policy initiatives with the sole goal of making the world live according to their rules that allow them to continue the colonial policy which enables the West to continue to live at the expense of others. We will no longer rely on anyone when it comes to creating the external conditions that we need for progress.

                                                                                      Let me point out that this is not the same as the West's selfish policies. We strive to create external conditions that are as favourable as possible for our country's development, but which reflect the consensus of all independent and self-reliant states and fully comply with the UN Charter principles, which have been violated by our former Western colleagues on multiple occasions.

                                                                                      There remains much to be done. I urge everyone to be mindful of that fact and to have your employees, to whom I send my most heartfelt words of gratitude, be aware of that. Our Ministry's regional offices are playing an ever important role at a time where our people are focused on providing support to the personnel that is addressing the goals of the special military operation on the ground.

                                                                                      Concurrently, we must put our focus on identifying new promising trade and economic partners. It is often much easier to do so at the regional level. I urge you to maintain your proactive and creative approach. We discussed existing issues at a meeting of the Council of Heads of the Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation under the Foreign Minister in November 2022. Detailed recommendations were adopted following the meeting regarding ways to better unlock the potential of region-to-region ties. We will review these issues at a meeting of the Collegium of the Ministry which is more likely to be held in the early autumn of this year. We will get you onboard when we start preparations for this event. Following the meeting, we will sum up our achievements and outline areas of activity for the near future.

                                                                                      We are paying special attention to cooperation with Greater Eurasia countries, including the EAEU members. Russia is chairing the EAEU this year. Expanding the participation of the top executives of the constituent entities of the Federation in the bilateral forums and intergovernmental commissions would provide an additional incentive. You are well aware of these issues since you deal with them on a daily basis. We will look forward to you providing your recommendations regarding broader engagement of your regions' leaders in international events, including intergovernmental commissions. Most of the leaders of the constituent entities of the Federation are already part of these processes. At this point, we see that more can be done in this area.

                                                                                      We should more actively involve the Russian regions in cooperation with BRICS and the SCO, since these associations offer formats that are aimed at promoting interaction between the regions and provinces of the participating countries. In this regard, I would like to note an initiative advanced by Chelyabinsk Region Governor Alexey Teksler, which was supported by the Foreign Ministry, to hold the 4th Forum of Heads of Regions of the SCO Member States this year.

                                                                                      Russia boasts an extensive network of interregional ties with China, with two-thirds of the Russian regions linked by cooperation agreements with Chinese provinces.

                                                                                      Prospects for cooperation with our Indian friends are good. They are committed to cooperate with us in traditional and new promising areas alike.

                                                                                      The 2nd Russia-Africa Summit will be held in St Petersburg in late July. A major business forum will be held as part of it. This is an excellent opportunity for the regions to get onboard.

                                                                                      The forthcoming International Economic Forum, Russia - the Islamic World, in Kazan in May 2023 remains a robust support for promoting foreign economic relations. Tatarstan leads Russia's participation in this promising and long-established association. Yevgeny Primakov stood at its origins. Since then, the vision of that politician and statesman regarding our ties with Islamic countries has once again proved its importance for Russia. I'm convinced that multiple regions, especially our republics, will certainly be interested in being part of preparing for and holding this forum.

                                                                                      We host major international events such as the St Petersburg International Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum which need to be used as much as possible to develop promising projects in conjunction with our foreign partners, which will promote Russia's technological development as well as the development of other sectors of our economy. We are aware that economic forums are held at the regional level as well. Please put this work on a systematic track so that information about the regional forums is available both at the Central Office of the Foreign Ministry and to all our representatives. We will make sure that our foreign partners receive information about these regional forums in a timely manner and work through the possibility of joining them.

                                                                                      Exhibitions of regional products abroad pay off well in practical return. We regularly help organise them and presentations of the economic, tourist and investment potentials of the constituent entities of the Federation. Last year, the Foreign Ministry's GlavUpDK Cultural Centre hosted presentations by the Vologda Region, the Republic of Karelia and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). As is customary, diplomatic officials, mostly ambassadors, take part in them, as do businessmen who are very interested in what the Russian regions have to offer. This is a workable format. We will keep it going, since heads of constituent entities are clearly interested. We keep receiving requests for hosting events of that kind. Previously, we had three to four such events a year. We will take a look at our protocol resource and see if we can host such events more often. They help us broaden our scope of work with officials from friendly countries and their Moscow-based embassies.

                                                                                      We operate on the premise that their offices will continue to assist regional authorities and business entities on an as-needed basis in their quest for new partners abroad. The activities mentioned before are doing their part in facilitating this quest. This work must be done daily as part of routine operations. I'm talking about drafting proposals for visits at the level of regional leaders, and media support for economic, investment and cultural activities of the constituent entities of the Federation.

                                                                                      Coordination of efforts with our foreign missions, especially in countries with which our respective regions have working or twin ties, may be quite a useful practice. We should make fuller use of the possibilities offered by regional chambers of commerce and industry. This is one way to ensure sustainable and productive ties with our embassies and trade missions abroad.

                                                                                      The practice of holding coordination meetings of senior officials from the Department for Liaisons with the Constituent Entities of the Federation, the Parliament and Public Associations (DLPA) with the heads of line agencies of the constituent entities of the Federation on various aspects of foreign economic activity has a proven track record. Similar meetings were recently held with the support of the Ministry's offices in Yekaterinburg, Mineralnye Vody and Rostov-on-Don.

                                                                                      We will continue to provide advisory support to officials from the administrations of the constituent entities of the Federation. Consultations held between representatives of the Vologda Region and the Pskov Region with corresponding ministerial departments are quite notable in this regard as positive examples. I urge the relevant entities such as the DLPA and territorial departments to respond to requests coming our way and work them through with an eye towards identifying new areas of activity.

                                                                                      Awareness raising, including interviews with heads and employees of territorial bodies, speeches during conferences, workshops and round tables in the regions, is important, particularly at this juncture. Efforts to promote an objective image of our country are particularly important today because of the mayhem in the global information space caused by the United States and its satellites in order to demonise Russia and vilify us (without exaggeration) in the eyes of the international community. Efforts to counter this kind of provocations must be made systematic.

                                                                                      Please put your focus on young people, especially those who show interest in foreign policy, but also those who have not yet shown such an interest. You should reach out to them and stir their interest in global affairs, since this work has much to do with Russia's future.

                                                                                      I would like to offer high praise for the initiative put forward by the Foreign Ministry's office in Krasnoyarsk to host dedicated meetings of aspiring diplomats from Khakassia and Norilsk at the Foreign Ministry, as well as to establish a Club of Young Diplomats in Lugansk. These activities deserve every support on our part. Their experience must be put to good use as much as possible.

                                                                                      The tasks we are facing are truly ambitious. I have no doubt that you are fully aware of the importance of ongoing developments and will continue to act effectively as you contribute to the strengthening of our country's positions in the international arena, and to the widest possible dissemination of truthful information about our policy in the international arena. The departments from the Central Office will continue to help you every step of the way. I'm confident that today's meeting will end with the drafting of recommendations that will benefit all aspects of your joint work.

                                                                                      I wish you every success in your endeavours.

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