Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 4.2019
2019.01.21 — 2019.01.27
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
India and South Africa: Adjusting to the New World (Индия и Южная Африка: приспособление к новому миру) / USA, January, 2019
Keywords: top_level_meeting, expert_opinion, cyril_ramaphosa, narendra_modi
Author: Harsh V. Pant

The South African president's slated arrival in New Delhi as the Republic Day chief guest presents an opportunity.

This week will see South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gracing India's Republic Day celebrations. These invitations to be the chief guest at India's most high-profile public event carry high symbolic value as New Delhi sends out important strategic messages with the choice of its guests. Last year, the 10 leaders from the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were the chief guests to reinforce India's priorities in the region. Other guests have included key partners of India, such as former U.S. President Barack Obama, former French President Francois Hollande, and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. India had first invited U.S. President Donald Trump for this year, but the offer was declined by the White House because of "scheduling constraints."

The invitation to Ramaphosa is important from many dimensions. Ramaphosa, who served as the deputy president of South Africa from 2014 to 2018, has a long-standing record as an anti-apartheid activist. Despite being Nelson Mandela's preferred successor, the African National Congress (ANC) opted for his rival, Thabo Mbeki, as the second post-apartheid president. The decision to invite Ramaphosa also coincides with Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary; the South African leader is a keen Gandhi follower. In a first for a sitting president, Ramaphosa led the annual "Gandhi Walk" last year in Lenasia, an Indian township south of Johannesburg, in order to promote community awareness and fitness.

Ramaphosa took over as South Africa's president after an embattled Jacob Zuma resigned with great reluctance in February 2018. Zuma had been blamed for widespread corruption in South Africa, even as he led the country for more than a third of its time after apartheid. His departure was difficult, but necessary as the corruption scandals kept on mounting and the South African economy went into a tailspin. The persistent claims of corruption at the heart of government remain one of the major problems facing South Africa. As a consequence, South Africa's economic prospects remain uncertain in the lead up to the May elections this year even though the ANC is expected to win the elections. The ANC has benefited from Ramaphosa being at the helm of the party and the country, but the economy has not done as well as many were expecting when Ramaphosa took over, denting his popularity. For the ANC today, Ramaphosa remains its only asset, more popular than the party itself.

Ramaphosa will be visiting India, which itself has entered into election mode. But India's ties with South Africa remain too important to be left to the vagaries of electoral politics. The Modi government has made Africa a foreign policy priority, with sustained high-level engagements with countries in the continent since May 2014. This has been an attempt to deal with the complaint of African nations that India's interest in the continent remains episodic. As China's economic engagement in the region comes under growing critical scrutiny, there are new opportunities for India to enhance its profile with a more equitable partnership with African countries.

Bilateral trade between India and South Africa presently stands at about $10 billion and the potential for growth is significant. The two countries have set a target of $20 billion for trade and investment to be reached by 2021. Some of India's biggest corporations, such as Tata, Mahindra, and Vedanta, are among the 150 odd Indian companies that have invested in South Africa. New and emerging sectors like healthcare, technology, and skill development are going to be the focus during Ramaphosa's visit. He is keen to take the relationship beyond traditional trade and investment areas to a more forward-looking economic agenda. The defense relationship, with a focus on joint production as well as maritime security, is also going to be a priority in the future.

Beyond the bilateral, the two nations are engaged in a number of plurilateral initiatives. These include not only the much talked about BRICS grouping along with Russia, Brazil, and China, but also the India-Brazil-South Africa trilateral, the Commonwealth, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association. The BRICS agenda needs to evolve in a manner that emphasizes the voices of New Delhi and Pretoria. It is for this reason, perhaps, that the IBSA, which involves three democracies — India, Brazil and South Africa — needs to be revived. The Commonwealth also needs a more proactive engagement from India and South Africa if its future is to be viable. Given the centrality of the Indian Ocean in emerging geopolitics and geoeconomics, IORA needs full support from India and South Africa too to strengthen its institutional underpinnings.

It is perhaps time for the two nations to think big and start having a conversation about the larger trends in global politics. As a new order evolves, two friends with a longstanding historical relationship should now start talking about the future of Asia and Africa. At a time when strategic geographies are getting redefined with the rise of Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, key players like India and South Africa need to move beyond their comfort zones. It is to be hoped that Ramaphosa's visit will be able to spur that conversation.
Ramaphosa's visit matters (Визит Рамафосы имеет значение) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: top_level_meeting, expert_opinion, narendra_modi, cyril_ramaphosa
Author: Rajiv Bhatia

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, who is in India this week as the chief guest on Republic Day, and Prime Minister Modi both have elections on their minds, but the considerable diplomatic stakes in the bilateral relationship warrant his visit at this time

The visit to Delhi later this week by Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, is yet to generate excitement in political and diplomatic circles. This is not because Ramaphosa is an 'accidental' president[1] or 'accidental' chief guest[2] at the Republic Day celebrations this year. Expectations are low because most people wonder what is new anyway about India-South Africa relations?

Perhaps this sense of déjà vu is to be expected as both countries are at the cusp of elections. South Block's attention may have shifted palpably from external issues, but Ramaphosa is assured of a red-carpet welcome. After Nigeria, South Africa becomes the second country from the African continent to see its president as the chief guest for the second time at the Indian Republic's biggest spectacle.[3] In South Africa too, with elections in May, the visit seems a necessary ritual. "While the (South African) economy staggers along," as an expert, Larry Claasen, put it, "social tensions are increasing."[4] The president is busy stabilising the economy and preparing for the tough electoral campaign ahead, spending only a day in Delhi on his way back home from Davos.

Diplomatic stakes are still significant in the India-South Africa relationship. A series of high-level events since 2018 have marked various milestones, including the silver jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Nelson Mandela's birth centenary, 125 years of the famous Pietermaritzburg 'train incident',[5] and the Mahatma's sesquicentennial. Here then are some of the issues on the bilateral agenda that Ramaphosa's visit can advance.

One, the challenge for New Delhi and Pretoria is to convince each other – and their media and strategic communities – that they can deepen the bilateral engagement while furthering other partnerships. There is a compelling need to ensure better alignment between India's Africa policy and South Africa's Asia policy. India's relations with several African countries have strengthened considerably in recent years.[6] Likewise, South Africa's quest for partners in Asia has taken it to a much greater level of proximity to China: South Africa co-chaired the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summits both in Johannesburg (2015) and Beijing (2018).

Two, the two nations should deepen their understanding to ensure better balance and coherence among BRICS' member-states, especially between China and the other four – India, Russia, South Africa and Brazil. The Johannesburg summit of BRICS nations last year laid out a forward-looking agenda for support of free and fair trade, commitment to multilateralism, and a strategy for leveraging opportunities, created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The continuing challenge is to translate commitments into action, in spite of the headwinds created by the U.S.-China trade conflict, Brexit and rising tensions in West Asia. The other pressing issue is to safeguard the credibility of BRICS by fulfilling the expectations of fellow countries from the Global South, especially sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This will happen when the New Development Bank of BRICS begins to extend assistance for development projects in the two regions. The prospects for this look dim at present.

Three, the Modi-Ramaphosa discussions in Delhi may produce some clues about the timing of the next summit of IBSA, comprising India, Brazil and South Africa. In July 2014, in Fortaleza, PM Modi and Jacob Zuma, the then president of South Africa, had agreed that India will host the much-delayed summit in 2015.[7] This is yet to happen, ostensibly due to a continuing conflict of leaders' schedules. The real reason may have something to do with the shared perception of China's objections. In the meantime, IBSA has continued to function at the level of foreign ministers. Will it be kept at that level in the future as well?

Four, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), which is on a positive path, will engage the leaders' attention. The regional grouping's calibrated rejuvenation that began under India's chairmanship (2011-13) has advanced during South Africa's current tenure (2017-19), with a valuable contribution by Australia and Indonesia which held the chair between the two periods. The grouping has strengthened its institutional mechanisms, striven to play an active role in the domain of the Blue Economy and sought active collaboration with its partners

IORA's member-states await financial and technical assistance from 'observers', such as the U.S., China and Japan. They want to enhance cooperation in the realm of the Blue Economy and expand trade and investment linkages. While India and South Africa have been mostly on the same page, they apparently ended up disagreeing on the admission of Myanmar into the IORA. Probably South Africa's non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council may have had something to do with opposing Myanmar's application on grounds of its expulsion of the Rohingyas to Bangladesh.

Equally, the bilateral economic relationship is certain to be high on the agenda of Delhi discussions. Trade is on the decline from $15.7 billion (2011-12) to $10.6 billion (2017-18), while investment flows are on the rise. Over 150 Indian companies are active in the South African and neighbourhood markets; Vedanta leads the pack among the newcomers, having committed $1 billion investment in South Africa; and more new players are showing interest. From the South African side, several majors are engaged in India.[8] Naspers is the lead investor in a billion-dollar investment in Swiggy, India's largest food delivery platform, besides the former's commitments to Byju's and other enterprises.

The India-South Africa Business Summit, held in South Africa last April, demonstrated tangible interest from both sides to expand economic links. There was a promise of 'a joint action plan'. While details are still awaited, the bilateral Business Forum meeting, to be held in Delhi on January 25, is expected to give some fillip to business promotion efforts. On capacity building, an area of proven convergence, India has already fulfilled its commitment by establishing the Gandhi-Mandela Skills Institute in Pretoria recently.

Finally, looking beyond government and business-level exchanges, the two governments are trying to strengthen people-to-people relations. New agreements of cooperation are expected to be finalised between the think tanks of India and South Africa. Besides, while in Delhi, President Ramaphosa will deliver the Gandhi-Mandela Memorial Freedom Lecture "as a part of the celebrations of the 15th Anniversary of IBSA."[9] This may hopefully trigger a long and fruitful series of lectures to sensitise the millennials of both countries about the rich legacy and links of ideas, icons and interests that they share.

Rajiv Bhatia is Distinguished Fellow, Gateway House and a former Indian High Commissioner to South Africa. He comments regularly on developments in Africa and India-Africa relations.

This article was exclusively written for Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. You can read more exclusive content here.

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[1] His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, was forced by the ruling party – African National Congress (ANC) – to resign prematurely amidst corruption scandals and make way for the newly-elected president of ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, to take over as the President of South Africa. Thus the latter holds the presidency and is serving Zuma's remaining tenure, which ends in May 2019.

[2] The government invited Donald Trump, U.S. President, to visit India and be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2019. Trump declined the invitation due to other preoccupations. New Delhi then invited Ramaphosa who accepted the invitation.

[3] President Nelson Mandela was the chief guest at the Republic Day in 1995.


[5] The incident on 7 June 1893 refers to the time when young lawyer, M.K. Gandhi, was evicted from the first-class compartment of a train in an act of blatant racial discrimination. It launched him on the road to Satyagraha. His non-violent resistance profoundly affected both South Africa and India. South Africans are fond of saying: 'India gave us a lawyer, and we returned a Mahatma'

[6] The reference is to Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Mozambique, Kenya and Ethiopia.


[8] Please see my previous article on the subject:

Washington's demand for eliminating 9M729 missile unacceptable for Russia, says Moscow (Москва заявляет, что требование Вашингтона о ликвидации ракеты 9М729 неприемлемо для России) / Russia, January, 2019
Keywords: national_security, quotation

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stressed that the 9M729 cruise missile issue will provide another chance for dialogue with the US to save the INF deal

KUBINKA /Moscow Region/, January 23. /TASS/. The United States' demand for Russia's verifiable elimination of all cruise missiles 9M729 are absolutely unacceptable for Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a joint news briefing by the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry devoted to the 9M729 missile on Wednesday.

"The US delegation arrived in Geneva for inter-departmental consultations over the INF Treaty with the sole purpose: to read out statements written in advance to the effect that Russia rejects the ultimatum demanding our unilateral concessions implying verifiable elimination of all 9M729 missiles, their launchers and related equipment," he said. "Naturally, this kind of approach by no means looks like a diligent attempt at achieving a solution that would suit both sides and is absolutely unacceptable for us in gist and content.".

He stressed that Russia will demonstrate the 9M729 cruise missile to representatives of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), BRICS, the European Union and NATO.

"Representatives of CSTO states, BRICS, the European Union and NATO have been invited for the event today, along with representatives of certain other European and Asian countries," the diplomat said. "We set ourselves a task to provide foreign experts with an opportunity to make a true picture on their own," Ryabkov said.

The diplomat also expressed hope that explanations concerning the 9M729 cruise missile will give another chance to dialogue with the US on preserving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

"We expect that the objective technical data provided by us and the arguments that have been cited will lead to the intensification of the thought process in the US, which will help give another chance to a dialogue aimed at preserving the INF Treaty. For our part, we continue to be ready for such work. It should be done with the mandatory mutual consideration of both parties' interests and concerns and without any counterproductive ultimatums," he said.

"The treaty needs to be preserved. It is up to the American side to make the choice," Ryabkov stressed.
Untapped opportunities remain between SA, India (Между ЮАР и Индией остаются нереализованные возможности) / South Africa, January, 2019
Keywords: quotation, top_level_meeting, cyril_ramaphosa
South Africa

While the partnership between South Africa continues to yield good results many unexplored opportunities remain, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Speaking at the South Africa - India Business Forum held in Delhi, India, President Ramaphosa said the two countries have worked to transform their relationship forged in struggle into a partnership for peace and economic prosperity, but more needs to be done.

The President arrived in the South Asian country on a State visit on Friday.

He said that currently the two countries cooperate in multilateral formations such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa), G20 and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.

He urged the two countries to strive to forge a developmental path paved with pragmatism and a renewed sense of purpose as the challenges now faced by both countries have become greater and more complex.

The two countries continued to face high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment, particularly among women and the youth.

The two countries, he said, need to increase their production capacity while taking into account the changing and increasingly unstable nature of the international trading environment.

"However, while these rapid changes create challenges, we must not be blinded to the opportunities that lie behind and in the midst of such difficulties. There remain many unexplored opportunities that can propel us to a better tomorrow," he said.

The two countries also have complementarities and comparative advantages which can be exploited for mutual benefit, especially in trade, investment, technical exchanges in information and communications technology, and skills development.

Trade relations

Meanwhile, India is an important destination for South African exports and is the fifth largest global market for goods.

The President said he is pleased with the steady increase in trade between the respective countries which has grown from R80 billion to R107 billion over a five-year period from 2013 to 2017.

He attributed this progress to the broadening of economic space for bilateral trade, increased competitiveness in the two States' respective industries, as well as the strategic cooperation in fora such as BRICS, which have targeted programmes for increasing trade and investment.

He also welcomed the current initiatives by respective ministers of trade to increase bilateral trade. The two countries are seeking to explore sector-specific collaboration to boost manufacturing and trade relations with an emphasis on increasing trade in value added goods and services.

Investment relationship

South Africa's investment relationship with India has also deepened, with more than 150 Indian firms like Tata, Cipla and Mahindra operating in South Africa.

"We recognise and appreciate Vedanta Resources' investment of $1.6 billion in the Gamsberg Zinc mine in the Northern Cape province, of which $400 million has already been spent. This investment by Vedanta has triggered a new wave of industrial and economic development in that part of our country."

Untapped opportunities

President Ramaphosa said untapped opportunities still remain in sectors such as agriculture and agro-processing, automotive, pharmaceutical, aerospace and defence industries, infrastructure, energy, ICT, electronics, metals and mining, creative industries and the oceans economy.

He said the South African government is cognisant of the need to intensify efforts to create an enabling environment for business to thrive.

India-Africa Forum

"We are taking policy certainty and consistency very seriously and we act decisively and with speed whenever concerns are raised about these," he said, adding that South Africa remains committed to attain the goals set out in Africa's socio-economic developmental blue print, Agenda 2063.

"Africa is a continent of opportunity. We are therefore encouraged by India's commitment to the development of the African continent though the India-Africa Forum."

This forum, he said, must embolden Indian companies to form partnerships with South Africa's financial institutions and the private sector to jointly collaborate on projects that can build Africa's productive capacity and infrastructure.

SA companies in India

South Africa is also appreciative of the reforms undertaken by India on improving the investment environment, which will encourage more South African companies to enter the Indian market.

Currently there are 29 South African companies invested in India and South Africa wishes to see them double in number in the coming years.

South African firms with a presence in India include Sanlam, Life Healthcare, Momentum, Airports Company of South Africa, First Rand Bank, Old Mutual, and Naspers, among others. –

India-South Africa relations: A perennial bond (Отношения Индии и Южной Африки: многолетняя связь) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: Cooperation, top_level_meeting, expert_opinion
Author: Abhishek Mishra

India's relationship with South Africa is both fundamental and unique, dating back several centuries and is anchored in common ideals, ideas, interests, and icons – like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. However, their bilateral relationship remained strained for a long time due to South Africa's apartheid government. Following its independence, India intensified its struggle at multilateral organisations like United Nations (UN), Commonwealth, and Non Aligned Movement (NAM), and was the first country to severe trade relations in 1946, and subsequently imposed political and economic sanctions. After a gap of four decades, India re-established trade and business ties in 1993, after South Africa ended its institutionalised racial segregation. In May 1993, a Cultural Center was opened in Johannesburg. In November 1993, diplomatic and consular relations were restored during the visit of then South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha to India. The Indian High Commission in Pretoria was opened in May 1994. In 1996, India opened its permanent Office of High Commission in Cape Town, which was re-designated as Consulate General of India in 2011.

India and South Africa's shared common experiences and collective strength have shaped how they both view the world together. As two nations who have shared their struggle to freedom, the responsibility to improve the lives of others is embedded within India and South Africa's consciousness. After South Africa achieved democracy in 1994, it was the Red Fort Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and South Africa, signed in March 1997 by then PM Shri Deve Gowda and Nelson Mandela, which set the parameters for a rekindled relationship. The 20th anniversary of signing of the declaration was commemorated by an India-South African cultural extravaganza comprising of music and dance performances, and an event organised by High Commission of India, Pretoria on April 9, 2017. This Strategic Partnership between the two countries was again re-affirmed in the Tshwane Declaration (October 2006). Both these declarations have been instrumental mechanisms that has contributed in the past to both South Africa and India for achieving their respective national objectives.

Bilateral trade and investments – India is South Africa's fifth-largest export destination, and fourth-largest import origin and is the second-largest trading partner in Asia. Both countries are working to boost trade volumes in the coming years. Bilateral trade between India and South Africa currently stands at $10 billion. In 2016, both countries set a target of doubling bilateral trade and investment to $20 billion by 2021.

A recent joint study by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) published in May, 2018, suggested that around 140 Indian companies have invested close to $4 billion in South Africa, thereby creating direct employment for over 18,000 people. The leading Indian companies are Wipro, Coal India, Cipla, HCL Technologies, Tata Motors, Zomato, Mahindra and Mahindra, Vedanta, and Motherson Sumi. South African companies which have invested in India are SASOL, FirstRand, Old Mutual, ACSA, Shoprite and Nandos.

Indian community in South Africa – South Africa is home to the highest number of Indian Diaspora in the African continent, with a total strength of 1,218,000 thereby constituting 3 percent of South Africa's total population. Since 2003 onwards, India celebrates Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) each year on 9th January (the day Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa to India). Various mini-PBDs are also held regionally. The fourth in the series called 'PBD-Africa' was held in Durban, South Africa, on October 2010. This event also marked the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indian in South Africa. One of the event's activities is Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA), which is the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians, including in Africa. Some of the awards winners from South Africa are Prof Fatima Meer (2003), Ahmed Kathrada (2005), Sisupal Rambharos (2006), Billy Nair (2007), Ms Khorshed Noshir Ginwala (2012), Ismail E. Ebrahim (2013), Ms Ela Gandhi (2014), Essop Goolam Pahad (2015), Swami Sardaprabhananda and Anil Sooklal (2019).

High-level visits - Both the countries have maintained their unique bilateral relationship marked by regular high-level visits and exchanges.

PM Modi's 2016 visit - During PM Modi's visit to South Africa on July 8, 2016, a number of MoU/Agreements were signed such as; Memorandum of Understanding on ICT, Programme of Cooperation in Arts and Culture, Memorandum of Understanding on Tourism, and Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment Grass Root Innovation in the area of Science and Technology.

In the joint statement which was released subsequently, both PM Narendra Modi and then President of South Africa Mr. Jacob Zuma referred to the historical relations which India and South Africa shares, as well as the mutual struggle against colonialism and oppression. Both leaders agreed to collaborate in defence sector, especially in terms of the opportunities available for South African private sector under 'Make in India' initiative, energy sector, agro-processing, human resource development, and infrastructure development. Also, the relaxation of foreign direct investment (FDI) rule through the lifting of the caps on FDI in nine sectors of the Indian economy, including defence, food retail, local airlines, private security firms and pharmaceutical sectors, has been well-appreciated by the South African government. President Zuma and PM Modi also welcomed the decision of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) to open a regional office in Johannesburg. In the field of scientific and technical (S&T) research, the Department of Science and Technology of both countries have collaborated, especially in the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project under which eight new bilateral Research and Development (R&D) projects for capacity building and instrumentation development in the area of astronomy were to be implemented under the framework of India-South Africa S&T Cooperation.

List of MoUs signed during 10th BRICS Summit – The MoUs signed between India and South Africa on July 26, 2018 were;

  • Memorandum of Understanding between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, India and the Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa on Cooperation on Agricultural Research and Education
  • Memorandum of Understanding between Government of Republic of South Africa and Government of India regarding the Setting up of the "Gandhi Mandela Centre of Specialisation in Artisan Skills" in South Africa
  • Memorandum of Understanding between Indian Space Research Organisation and the South African National Space Agency on Cooperation in the Exploration and uses of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes
Partnership in multilateral fora's - India and South Africa have a long history of working together by coordinating their views and efforts in institutions of global governance/multilateral fora's, in order to achieve greater autonomy and ensure that the agenda of 'South' is prioritised.

BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)
– In 2010, the formerly known grouping of BRIC, became BRICS with the induction of South Africa. The BRICS Forum's valuable contribution in reforming the global financial and economic architecture is well-appreciated by both India and South Africa. During the sixth BRICS summit in Fortaleza in 2014, a decision was taken to establish the New Development Bank (NDB) which aims to mobilise resources for development project in BRICS, emerging economies, and developing countries. BRICS leadership in creating alternative institutions like the NDB is indeed noteworthy. Although the NDB is not envisaged as rivals to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, as an additional mechanism, the political message is clear. Both India and South Africa remains committed to work together to enhance intra-BRICS trade, investment, and financial cooperation.

IBSA (India, Brazil, and South Africa)
– Established in 2003, the IBSA Dialogue Forum brings together three large democracies and major economies from three different continent's facing similar developmental challenges, and represents three developing, pluralistic, multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual, and multi-religious nations. India and South Africa appreciates the work carried out by the IBSA Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation (IBSA Fund), established in March 2004, and became operational in 2006, in sharing experiences, expertise, and capacities with developing countries in a South-South Cooperation framework.

G20 – Both India and South Africa recognises G20 as the premier forum for coordination in international financial and economic matters, and calls upon the world-community to utilise monetary, fiscal, and structural reforms to jump-start the global economy. During his meeting with former President Zuma in 2016, PM Modi agreed on India's continued support for the South African proposals on the illicit financial flows, the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and for the industrialization of Africa and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as well as the G20 Action Plan on the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

World Trade Organisation (WTO) – India and South Africa supports WTO as the sole-multilateral mechanism on global trade, commerce, and in the centrality accorded to the development-agenda in the Doha Development Round. On July 12, 2018, India and South Africa made a joint proposal at the WTO, which said "the realities prevailing in the 1998, when WTO members agreed for the first time to the temporary moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions, have changed significantly during the subsequent two decades." Their main contention is that the present moratorium can lead to loss of competitiveness among developing countries, since they have higher tariffs on physical products, while the same product in digital form attracts zero duty. This joint India-South Africa report took due note of attempts by the developed world to make commitments more comprehensive and stringent through negotiations on regional trade agreements and multilateral agreements.

President Ramaphosa's up-coming visit – Chief Guests visit to Indian Republic Day parades is full of symbolism and the guest is decided on the basis of other countries' interest and the guest's availability. The growing synergy in India-South Africa bilateral ties is underscored by the fact that, this year's Chief Guest of Honour is President of Republic of South Africa H.E Cyril Ramaphosa. The invitation was extended and accepted by President Ramaphosa during his meeting with PM Modi on the margins of G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2018. This year is significant as it marks the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the 100thanniversary of Nelson Mandela. The visit will be President Ramaphosa's first visit to India as Head of State, and will be the second South African President to be the Chief Guest for India's Republic Day parade, after Nelson Mandela in 1995. Mr. Ramaphosa will be accompanied by First Lady Dr. Tshepo Motsepe and a high-level delegation including nine ministers, senior officials, and fifty-member business delegation.

During the visit, President Ramaphosa and PM Modi will address the India-South Africa Business Summit (ISABS) whose objective is to grow business ties between the two countries. The first ISABS was held on April 30, 2018 at Sandton Convention Center, Johannesburg. Both PM Modi and President Ramaphosa has identified skill development, health services and digitisation of governance as priority sectors.

Since 1993, over 1200 South Africans have received skills and technical training in India under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC). In this regard, the Pretoria Institute, which is set to be inaugurated in the first quarter of 2019, will provide electrical, mechanical fitting, boiler-making, and millwright skills training. The visit offers a golden opportunity for employed South Africans aged 25 to 45 to apply for this Indian training programme.

President Ramaphosa's visit will also provide an opportunity to discuss India-South Africa bilateral defences ties. In the past, Denel, a South African local manufacturer of defence products and solutions, has been a major arms exporter to India. However, the company was blacklisted in 2005 by then UPA government over paying kickback allegations. After a hiatus of thirteen years, the ban was lifted following a May, 2018 judgement of the Supreme Court which dropped all corruption charges. Under India's 'Make in India' programme, Denel will explore opportunities for joint ventures with Indian firms.

India-South Africa partnership is progressive and forward looking. Our rich culture and people-to-people contacts lends character and quality to India-South Africa ties. The visit of President Ramaphosa as Chief Guest of Honour for India's Republic Day parade is a step in the right direction for consolidating our bilateral ties.
India-South Africa Joint Statement/Joint Communiqué of the State Visit of President Cyril Ramaphosa to India: 25-26 January 2019 (Совместное заявление Индии и Южной Африки / Совместное коммюнике о государственном визите президента Сирила Рамафосы в Индию: 25-26 января 2019 года) / South Africa, January, 2019
Keywords: top_level_meeting, concluded_agreements, global_governance
South Africa

At the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the President of the Republic of South Africa His Excellency Mr. Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, accompanied by first lady Dr. Tshepo Motsepe, 09 Cabinet Ministers, senior officials and a large business delegation is on a State Visit to the Republic of India on 25-26 January 2019. President Ramaphosa on his first State visit to India is also the Chief Guest at India's 70th Republic Day Parade on 26 January 2019.

2. President Ramaphosa was accorded a ceremonial welcome on January 25, 2019 at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi. President Kovind is hosting a banquet dinner on January 25, 2019 in honour of the visiting President of South Africa. President Ramaphosa accompanied by Dr. Motsepe also paid respects to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated both nationally and internationally.

3. President Ramaphosa and Prime Minister Modi held delegation level talks at Hyderabad House on January 25, 2019. The two leaders held discussions in the spirit of the strategic partnership, strong friendship and historical links between the two countries. Both leaders acknowledged the significance of the 100th birth anniversary celebrations of Nelson Mandela and the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi as an invaluable legacy of peace, non-violence and compassion.

4. President Ramaphosa and Prime Minister Modi jointly addressed the India-South Africa Business Forum on January 25, 2019, with a focus to grow business ties between the two countries. President Ramaphosa also delivered the inaugural IBSA Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Lecture, in the presence of Prime Minister of India.

5. During the visit, a Three-Year Strategic Programme of Cooperation (2019-2021) was signed by the two sides, aimed at further enhancing the strategic partnership between the two countries.

6. During the visit, Prime Minister Modi and President Ramaphosa:

  • recalled the Strategic Partnership established between India and South Africa through the Red Fort Declaration of March 1997 and the Tshwane Declaration of October 2006.
  • expressed satisfaction at the deepening and widening of this comprehensive bilateral partnership.
  • emphasised the need to further deepen relations in the political, economic, defense, scientific, consular and socio-cultural spheres.
  • agreed that the 10th Session of the India-South Africa Joint Ministerial Commission will be held in 2019 in New Delhi led by the Foreign Ministers of both the countries.
  • expressed satisfaction at the steady pace of cooperation in the defence sector encompassing a wide range of engagements including defence production, joint collaboration, manufacturing, research and development, training and joint exercises.
  • recognised the importance of increased bilateral naval cooperation and closer synergy within the context of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) which, by keeping the sea lanes secure against illegal actors, will ensure unhindered passage for trade and continued prosperity of the entire Indian Ocean Region.
  • acknowledged the increasing engagement between the two navies in recent years which inter alia has translated to increased interactions in maritime operations and training. PM Modi welcomed the participation of the South African National Defence Force in the First Multinational India-Africa Field Training Exercise (IAFTX) in March 2019 at Pune, India.
  • welcomed the holding of the inaugural meeting of the Joint Working Group on Trade and Investment (JWGTI).
  • welcomed the significant investment and presence of a large number of Indian companies and business entities in South Africa and the growing number of South African investments in India. In this regard, agreed to enhance bilateral investments between the two countries within the context of the Memorandum of Understanding between Invest SA and Invest India on enhancing bilateral investment relations.
  • agreed to cooperate, share best practices, technology and expertise on the Ease of Doing Business Reform Programme.
  • committed to expanding cooperation in the fields of trade and investments between business entities in South Africa and India
  • agreed to cooperate in the field of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which play an invaluable role in job creation and creating trade and investment opportunities.
  • acknowledging the holding of the first India-South Africa Business Summit in South Africa in April 2018 and the Invest in India Business Forum in November 2018, invited the private sectors to invest in key economic sectors of India and South Africa
  • agreed that both countries should explore solutions aimed at boosting trade and investment. In this context, President Ramaphosa agreed to simplify and reform South African business visa regime.
  • acknowledged the impressive progress achieved in cooperation in Science and Technology and innovations.
  • agreed to enhance cooperation in the field of the Oceans Economy and to cooperate in multilateral forums on the Blue Economy including in the framework of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
  • expressed satisfaction at the growing cooperation in the energy sector, and the potential to expand cooperation in the renewable energy sector as well as oil and gas.
  • agreed to strengthen cooperation in the area of mining, deep mining and mineral beneficiation.
  • acknowledged that the International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a common platform for cooperation among solar resource rich countries. India invited South Africa to join the ISA.
  • agreed to strengthen agriculture and fisheries cooperation in areas such as crop and animal production, food security, aquaculture and aquatic product processing.
  • agreed to work towards addressing skills development through the investment of resources and exchange of best practices.
  • welcomed the setting up of the "Gandhi – Mandela Centre of Specialization for Artisan Skills" in South Africa with Indian assistance.
  • Decided to further strengthen academic engagement between institutions on both sides. President Ramaphosa appreciated India's contribution to the higher education of South African youth through the fully paid scholarships offered under the ICCR and short term training programmes under IAFS and ITEC Schemes.
  • the two sides further agreed to conclude a MoU on Cooperation in Higher Education.
  • lauded the valuable contribution of the people of Indian origin in South Africa.
  • expressed the desire to broaden people-to-people interactions and to increase two-way tourism by addressing challenges with regard to consular and immigration related issues. In this context, the two sides agreed to conclude an agreement on simplification of visa requirements.
  • expressed their intent to explore avenues to resume direct air connectivity between South Africa and India.
  • welcomed the launching of "India for Humanity" initiative by India in the context of Gandhiji's 150th birth anniversary to provide artificial limbs by "Jaipur Foot" and welcomed India's offer to hold a camp in South Africa.
  • underscored the need for continuing consultations and the exchange of views between South Africa and India in order to build partnerships in multilateral forums and to ensure that the agenda of the South is prioritized.
  • committed themselves to promoting reformed multilateralism through cooperation and coordination at multilateral fora and in international organisations.
  • committed to cooperate in all relevant multilateral forums through the groupings of G20, BRICS, IBSA, BASIC, NAM, WTO and the Commonwealth, as well as the strengthening of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
  • reaffirmed their commitment to enhance the voice and representation of emerging and developing economies, including those in Africa, in the decision-making bodies of multilateral institutions.
  • Prime Minister Modi congratulated South Africa on becoming a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2019-20 and assured South Africa of India's support in the performance of its responsibilities in this role.
  • welcomed the successful holding of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg in July 2018, agreed to further enhance cooperation and coordination within BRICS with a view to reform and enhance global political and economic governance.
  • Congratulated Brazil on taking over as Chair of BRICS for 2019 and reiterated their support for Brazilian Chairmanship.
  • welcomed the holding of 15 events by IBSA countries in the context of the 15th anniversary of IBSA partnership.
  • expressed concern at the slow pace of UN reforms and committed themselves to securing their representation in an expanded UN Security Council to achieve a more representative and equitable UN Security Council Membership.
  • underlined the need for jointly working towards reform in the global governance architecture such as WTO, international financial systems etc. in order to advance a development-centered agenda that promotes inclusive growth.
  • reiterated their commitment to working together on strengthening cooperation to address fugitive economic offenders, including through international organisations and institutions such as G20, FATF and others.
  • agreed that terrorism constitutes a serious threat to international peace, security and stability and that no country is immune to the threat that terrorism represents.
  • noted the need for concerted action by the global community against terrorism through early agreement and adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, as well as the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in a balanced and integrated manner.
  • condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations regardless of its motivations, whenever, wherever and by whosoever committed.
  • welcomed signing of 2 MoUs between a leading policy research institute of India, namely, Research & Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) based in Delhi with two premier South African think tanks, namely, the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD) in Pretoria and South Africa Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA) in Johannesburg. The 3 research institutions would carry forward work under track 1.5 and, among other things, focus on areas to further promote practical cooperation with Africa identified in Delhi Declaration 2015 at the end of 3rd India Africa Forum Summit.
7. President Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude to the Government and people of India for the warmth and generous hospitality extended to him and his delegation during the visit, and extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to pay an official visit to South Africa on mutually convenient dates.

Brazil and South Africa discuss increased partnership between countries (Бразилия и Южная Африка обсуждают расширение сотрудничества между странами) / Brazil, January, 2019
Keywords: top_level_meeting, jair_bolsonaro, cyril_ramaphosa

Brazilian and South African leaders held a bilteral meeting on Thursday (January 24) to discuss ways to expand trade partnerships between the two countries. Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, met in Davos (Switzerland) on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

Bolsonaro presented the economic measures that will be taken by his administration to make the Brazilian economy more open and competitive, expanding trade partnerships. The leaders will also seek to strengthen cooperation ties to address challenges common to both countries, such as unemployment and social inequality.

During the meeting, the South African president said he has no doubt that he will find transformations under way in Brazil when he comes to the country for the BRICS (a group formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit, during which leadership of the group will be passed on to Brazil.

Meeting with Colombia

Bolsonaro also had a bilateral meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque. At the meeting, he declared his support for the neighboring country in the fight against terrorism. On January 17, a car bomb left dozens dead and wounded in Colombian capital Bogotá. The two leaders also discussed the importance of cooperation between countries to ensure security at the border and in the Amazon.
Bolsonaro's Rise To Power In Brazil Unlikely To Affect BRICS Format Cooperation - Ryabkov (Влияние Болсонаро в Бразилии вряд ли повлияет на сотрудничество в формате БРИКС, говорит Рябков) / Pakistan, January, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
Author: Rukhshan Mir

The election of Jair Bolsonaro as the new president of Brazil will unlikely affect cooperation in the BRICS format, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Thursday

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 24th January, 2019) The election of Jair Bolsonaro as the new president of Brazil will unlikely affect cooperation in the BRICS format, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Thursday.

"I am not ready to comment on which countries have taken a course for rapprochement with Brazil after President Bolsonaro came to power there and to what extent. And I would not say that in this case we have circumstances that hinder normal, productive cooperation in the BRICS format," Ryabkov said in an interview with the International Affairs magazine.

The deputy foreign minister expressed confidence that over the 10 years of its existence, the BRICS association has gained such a degree of internal stability and such dynamics in a number of areas that seem valuable and attractive, including for Brazil.

Moscow maintains dialogue with Bolsonaro's presidential administration on this issue and will continue these contacts, Ryabkov stressed.

Earlier in January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that there were no reasons to believe that Brazil under the leadership of Bolsonaro would play a destructive role in BRICS.

Bolsonaro, who represents the right-wing Social Liberal Party, secured a four-year presidential term by winning the October election.

According to Ryabkov, Moscow hopes that the Brazilian chairmanship in BRICS will be successful, and is ready to provide overwhelming assistance to that.

"I hope that the coming year of the Brazilian chairmanship in BRICS will be successful. We are ready to provide all-round assistance to our Brazilian colleagues in the interest of ensuring an efficient summit and other events that are included in the program of the chairmanship," Ryabkov added.
Bolsonaro's 5 Key Foreign Policy Challenges in 2019 / Oliver Stuenkel (5 ключевых вызовов внешней политики Болсонаро в 2019 году / Оливер Стенкель) / Brazil, January, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
Author: Oliver Stuenkel

The new president's foreign policy revolution creates unprecedented risks for Brazil – and depends on untested international partnerships.

To say that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's foreign policy views are controversial would be an understatement. Extreme positions on matters ranging from climate change to migration, and recent attacks on "globalism" and "cultural Marxism" by Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, have already affected Brazil's reputation abroad, and not for the better. The following analysis, however, will leave out any criticisms of Bolsonaro's overall foreign policy approach (which I have offered on previous occasions) and instead look at the five key challenges stemming from the foreign policy philosophy that he has embraced.

Challenge #1: Assure tangible mutual benefits from strategic partnership with the United States

Bilateral ties with the United States are the centerpiece of Brazil's new foreign policy. To win over critics, Bolsonaro must show that he is able to fundamentally transform the nature of the relationship and provide tangible evidence of how Brazil will benefit from moving closer to Washington. That is easier said than done. U.S. President Donald Trump is a notoriously transactional president and has little incentive to create the long-term partnership Brazil's foreign minister dreams of. Trump's decision to stay away from Bolsonaro's inauguration, and send Secretary of Defense Mike Pompeo instead, shows how hard it will be to establish a true bromance between Bolsonaro and his idol (compare the decision to that of Barack Obama, who sent his vice president to Dilma Rousseff's inauguration in 2014).

From Trump's point of view, there are important limitations to the relationship: opening the U.S. to Brazilian products such as steel and soy would hurt his own electorate ahead of what promises to be an epic re-election campaign in 2020. Even if Trump would like to help Bolsonaro, he is unlikely to overcome resistance in a House of Representatives now dominated by Democrats – who have recently voiced their criticism of Brazil's new president.

There is potential for deepening ties, however. For example, unilaterally offering a visa waiver to U.S. tourists, despite a tradition of reciprocity when it comes to visa policies, would help promote tourism in Brazil, which punches below its weight when it comes to attracting international visitors. Brazil could also seek more profound cooperation in fighting transnational crime, strengthening border protection, and establishing closer coordination in the realm of anti-terrorism. This last issue could gain relevance after Brazil moves its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step Bolsonaro has promised but that could make Brazil and its citizens abroad a possible target. In military affairs, too, there is potential for broader cooperation with both countries. Finally, Bolsonaro will ask for explicit U.S. support when it comes to Brazil's OECD candidacy.

To an important extent, Bolsonaro's foreign policy will be measured by the progress he makes vis-à-vis ties to the United States.

Challenge #2: Regain leadership in the regional response to Venezuela

Bolsonaro's second key foreign policy challenge will be to regain the role of agenda-setter in the Venezuelan crisis, after having been relegated to a mere bystander since 2013. Rather than pushing for radical options such as military intervention, a move rightly discarded by Vice President Hamilton Mourão during the campaign, Brazil's regional leadership will be measured by its capacity to mobilize and align the region, including skeptics such as Bolivia and Mexico.

This strategy requires systematic and patient diplomacy that can only be achieved if others feel Brazil is committed to regional cooperation in other areas too. Pursuing that policy will become far more complicated if President Mauricio Macri fails to win re-election in Argentina later this year. In addition to aligning positions on how to deal with the regime of Nicolás Maduro, achievable steps would be to lead on a regional strategy to allocate and integrate Venezuelan migrants and on how to provide more humanitarian aid to the country.

Challenge #3: Reduce tension between religious nationalists, the military and free-traders

A good part of the damage inflicted on Brazil's international reputation since Bolsonaro's election in October is a product of the new government's views on human rights, climate change and so on. But another, potentially avoidable problem has been the constant infighting and flip-flopping between the three centers of power: the pro-Trump anti-globalists and religious forces, the military faction, and the neoliberal economists.

The first group has been able to dominate the news cycle, to the chagrin of both the generals and the economists, who regard Araújo's rhetoric as a threat to their plans. Overcoming these tensions will be hard, but Bolsonaro will have to do more to signal to outside observers that the first camp will refrain from intervening in Finance Minister Paulo Guedes' attempt to liberalize Brazil's economy.

Challenge #4: Damage control, in particular with China, Argentina and the EU

Even policymakers supportive of Bolsonaro privately admit that the new administration will have to do more to reduce frictions that have emerged with traditional partners during these first weeks. Bolsonaro will have to explain to Macri how he envisages the future of the bilateral relationship (given that he will break with tradition and visit Chile first), and what Brazil's stance vis-à-vis the Mercosur trade bloc will be.

Given Bolsonaro's position on climate change, a topic dear to European governments, ties with the EU will have to be rethought based on this policy divergence. An early trip to China will help overcome the skepticism that has taken hold in Beijing when it comes to Brazil.

At the same time, it'll be crucial to avoid a brain drain in the foreign ministry. While it is natural that key posts should be held by ambassadors minimally sympathetic to the president's worldview, sidelining qualified technocrats just because they voiced criticism during the campaign would weaken Brazilian foreign policy.

Challenge #5: Articulate a vision for the BRICS presidential summit, which Bolsonaro will host in November

In November, Bolsonaro has the unique chance to look statesman-like when he hosts the 11th BRICS Summit. He'll welcome leaders from China, India, South Africa and Russia, in addition to the many other leaders the host nation usually invites as part of an "outreach summit." For the meeting to be a success, Bolsonaro will need to offer a vision of what he would like the BRICS grouping to look like in the future, and what will be the key ideas Brazil will offer during its temporary one-year long BRICS presidency, which started this month.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
AI new impetus for China-Russia ties (Искусственный интеллект - новый импульс для китайско-российских связей) / China, January, 2019
Keywords: investments, social_issues, digital
Author: Chu Daye

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a new area of China-Russia cooperation that will provide renewed impetus to bilateral trade and investment, analysts and industry experts said on Sunday.

The comments came against rising calls by officials and experts from the two countries to develop high-tech cooperation, with AI as a major focus, to generate new mutual benefits.

China and Russia probably achieved their target of $100 billion in bilateral trade in 2018. To meet a more ambitious target of $200 billion by 2024, AI will play a role, analysts said.

Chinese Ambassador to Russia Li Hui said in an interview in October 2018 that the two countries should increase the quality of bilateral cooperation and treat the digital economy as a new growth engine.

AI was identified by Li as a factor along with big data, the internet and smart cities.

Rajiv Biswas, APAC chief economist with IHS Markit, said that the internet of things (IoT), big data and AI are increasingly critical for China's industrial shift toward a high-technology economy.

"The Chinese government has placed a high priority in investing in AI, which is critical to building a high-technology industrial sector that is globally competitive. Russia will be a key future partner for China in the area of AI, due to the high-level R&D capabilities of Russian universities and research institutes," Biswas told the Global Times over the weekend.

Chinese government initiatives to boost public expenditure on AI and to build international cooperation with key research and development (R&D) leaders such as Russia will be important to building China's AI capabilities, Biswas noted.

"High-tech cooperation including AI will be the next highlight of China-Russia cooperation. Reciprocal and mutually empowering, such cooperation now covers the fields of talent, technology and manufacturing techniques. The cooperation has already shown some results," according to Song Kui, president of the Contemporary China-Russia Regional Economy Research Institute in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Such cooperation will form a new type of China-Russia relationship, Song told the Global Times on Sunday.

AI supremacy rests in having vast computer power, enough data for machines to learn from, and the human talent to operate those systems, experts said.

China leads the world in AI sub-categories such as connected vehicles, and facial and audio recognition technologies, while Russia has manifest strengths in industrial automation, AI applications in defense, security and anti-surveillance, according to an article on tech news site on January 14.

In a demonstration of its AI prowess, Russia became the first country to test a drone tank in the battlefield in Syria, according to media reports in 2018.

Huge potential

Zhao Zhiqiang, chief technology officer of the Harbin Institute of Technology Big Data Group, said despite calls from government officials and experts, there have been few results from China-Russia AI cooperation at industrial level.

"Mainly it is cooperation on the levels of talent, research and development and developing applications. Russia's advanced basic science education system has turned out lots of talented people and some of these people are recruited by Chinese AI firms," Zhao told the Global Times on Sunday.

"China has made integration of informatization, digitalization and industrialization as a strategic national policy. I hope Russia has a similar arrangement. If so, I am sure there will be more cooperation on the industry and enterprise level with commercialization as the goal," Zhao said.

According to a local news outlet in October 2018, the Nangang district of Harbin, traditionally an industrial city and a defense technology hub and now a top city in the development of AI, is seeking to engage in AI cooperation with Russia.

Nonetheless, Zhao said the bilateral cooperation potential involving AI is huge.

"Under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, AI, the internet and IoT can flourish in a world without national borders. Different applications for AI include aeronautics and aerospace, Russia's Glonass and China's BeiDou satellite navigation systems, and allowing AI to harness advanced human experience in manufacturing," Zhao said.

When opportunities are mature, Russia will be a vast market for Chinese-developed AI applications, Zhao noted.

With both China and Russia being leaders in AI technology and R&D, closer bilateral cooperation is likely under various joint technological cooperation projects, Biswas said.

The Russian government is doubling down on AI investment, with a national AI roadmap expected to be released in mid-2019, while media reports have suggested related funding will almost double for the 2019-20 period to a total of $719 million.

Closer co-operation between China and Russia on AI will also be fostered under the BRICS and the Russia-China Investment Fund.

Song said that as China-Russia AI cooperation gains momentum, it might have an impact on the international market.
Systemic risk in financial institutions of BRICS: measurement and identification of firm-specific determinants (Системный риск в финансовых институтах БРИКС: измерение и идентификация специфических для фирмы детерминантов) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: research, economic_challenges, emerging_market
Author: Shumaila Zeb, Abdul Rashid


The aim of this paper is twofold. First, it measures the systemic risk contribution of banks, financial services, and insurance firms of each of BRICS member country for the period 2000–2015. Second, it empirically examines how firm-specific factors determine systemic risk in financial institutions of BRICS countries. To carry out the empirical analysis, the unbalanced firm-level data are used. To gauge the systemic risk of banks, financial services, and insurance firms, the Delta Conditional Value-at-Risk (∆CoVaR) methodology is applied. The panel regression approach is used to examine how firm-specific variables determine the level of systemic risk in different financial institutions of BRICS countries. The empirical findings suggest that the size of institution, the tier 1 ratio, the liquidity ratio, the operating profit margin ratio, and the market-to-book value ratio statistically significantly determine systemic risk in BRICS countries. The results are significant in devising financial regulations to decrease the influence of systemic risk factors in the respective economies.
Iran Turns to BRICS Nations to Demolish Trump's Wall of Sanctions (Иран обращается к странам БРИКС, чтобы снести стену санкций Трампа) / United Kingdom, January, 2019
Keywords: cooperation, expert_opinion, economic_challenges
United Kingdom
Author: Omid Shokri Kalehsar

The countries of the BRICS grouping, except for Russia, are broadly categorised as developing countries or emerging economies.

Due to their rapid growth and the influential pull of their markets - making up half the world's population - these countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have emerged as major global players in recent years.

These states are united in their concern for reforms to be made to the world financial system to increase stability, and calls are being made to re-evaluate the prominence of the dollar, given the heavy debt the United States finds itself in.

BRICS have largely drawn focus on such economic and trade issues, but with increased power, signs are emerging that these countries desire a role in a panoply of broader political affairs and global conflicts including those concerning Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Korea and Iran.

Despite broadly similar concerns vis-à-vis American economic and political might, Iran's basis for relations with BRICS varies according to each country. It pays to highlight where these concerns coalesce and where they depart regarding each member:


The stability of the global oil market lies in the hands of major importing countries, including China. Any bout of economic crisis or political insecurity experienced by oil exporting countries has a direct impact on China's energy security and economic growth. Thus, political and economic stability has always been strongly supported by Beijing.

China is not happy with American supremacy over energy resources and energy transmission routes in the Middle East and Chinese officials fear that in the event of any conflict between the two countries, the United States has the power to cut off China's supplies in one fell swoop.

Iran hopes that, in the absence of European co-operation due to sanctions, Chinese and Russian companies will have the gumption - rather more disentangled from the reach of the United States as they are - to continue to invest in the Iranian oil and gas industry. However, it should be noted that during the previous sanctions, Chinese companies left Iran's oil and gas industry as a precaution due to the consequences that violating sanctions may have had on other global investments and projects.

There is no guarantee that these companies will now invest in Iran's energy industry after this second series of sanctions.

China's state-owned and privately owned enterprises have always been steered by the Chinese government in terms of deals with supplier nations, with the desired result being further political influence and more affordable oil and gas products. It is likely that the Chinese government will reduce oil imports and stall investments in Iran so as not to antagonise the United States. Thus, the relationship between China and Iran has a chance of blossoming provided the right international settings are achieved vis-à-vis Iran's relationship with the West.


Russian companies are ready to participate in the energy industry of Iran.

Last year, contracts for the development of Aban and Persia Fields were signed with Russia's Zarobzhanga. Similarly, negotiations between Iranian authorities and Lukoil have seen recent movement in the past month over development of the Bangestan Reservoir, Mansouri Square, and Water Taymour Oil Field.

Considering current developments in the energy market and the reinstatement of US sanctions, attracting foreign capital and technology to the Iranian energy industry will be understandably harder to achieve. Realising the goals of Iran's Sixth Development Plan and Vision Document depends on foreign investment, which requires a reduction of political risk in the country - even in the case of Russian companies.

A change of attitude in foreign policy and an attempt to eliminate tension with neighbouring countries would mark a step toward attracting foreign investors, but despite political ties and gestures in solidarity with Iran, Russia in fact benefits greatly from the sanctions regime, given it is one of the world's largest producers of petroleum and gas.


In recent months, the US has increased its oil exports to India, and has signed a twenty-year contract to export LNG to the world's largest democracy. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are also seeking to increase their share of the Indian market. Saudi Arabia, as a US ally, is struggling to reduce Iran's role in the Indian energy market. If Iran wants to maintain its share in India and use the facilities of Indian companies in the oil fields, especially in the common area with Saudi Arabia, Iran needs an active energy diplomacy in the region.

Tensions in relations with neighbouring countries and the resolution of problems with the United States are the only way to preserve regional energy markets, including in India.

Indian private companies have good experience and enough financial resources to attract the Iranian market. The problem is that a legal framework is needed to attract foreign investment, as well as an effective and rapid decision-making process, and political stability - especially in the international context.

In recent years, Iran-India relations have warmed in addition to energy sectors in the transit areas, and the Chabahar port of Iran has become a bridge to the markets of Afghanistan and Central Asia, providing India with an exceptional opportunity to bring forward its trade relations.

This issue is important given India's growing competition with China to gain more influence in the region's markets for New Delhi, and India, with a rational decision to deal with US regional policy, can make more of its opportunities.

The port of Chabahar is of special importance for the countries of Iran, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and, generally, Central Asia, and facilitates trade and access to these countries. Chabahar has a strategic importance for India, at the point of connecting this emerging economic power to its target markets in the countries of Central Asia, and onwards with Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

India, of course, can also use Pakistani ports to connect its markets in Central Asia and the Caucasus, but Chabahar is both more politically and economically reliable than Pakistan's ports. Therefore, the geopolitical and geostrategic significance of the Chabahar port has led India to invest heavily in developing and managing this free trade area and to cooperate with Iran in this regard.

South Africa

Over the past decade, the Iranian government has been trying to make more of a political impact on the African continent. The number of trips between high-ranking Iranian and African leaders has increased dramatically over the years, but it does not seem that in practice the development of Iranian relations with Africa will be lucrative for Tehran either economically or politically.

However, in response to the changing global conditions Iran finds itself subjected to, the country is attempting to find new allies. South African companies are keen on cooperating with Iran and have a good platform in the area of joint investments - one of which includes oil producing units.

South Africa and other regional powers have become important actors in the economic and political arena with economic growth and political and international activities that can achieve positive achievements such as playing and expanding South-South cooperation.


US sanctions on Tehran have particular meaning for Brazil, which sells Iran 90 percent of its agricultural imports. Iran will find it difficult to finance Brazilian imports with the onset of sanctions. Banking transactions will be difficult. Most Brazilian banks have not agreed to trade directly with Iran, as its deals with the United States have a greater impact on Brazilia's economy, and so have attempted to circumvent sanctions with a European model and is dealing with Middle Eastern banks.

Iran is Brazil's primary trading partner in the Middle East, with a trade volume of $2.6 billion - mostly helped by the foothold the country provides to the 600 million people in the surrounding markets, including Central Asia, the Caucasus, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Almost allies

Despite their dynamic differences and sometimes clashing economic and political interests, the BRICS group represents a powerful axis in the global economy, with an independent and capable banking system providing more integrated cooperation with a sub-tier of developing countries.

However, all are struggling to balance rapid growth with economic stability. India is currently under severe pressure to make economic reforms, while the issues facing Brazil, Russia, and South Africa relate more to growth itself. China, despite its mature economy, is struggling with growing debt and the complication of "shadow banking" and "surplus capacity".

BRICS are united in their negative views of the US sanctions against Iran, with Indian officials warning that the move would only increase global oil prices and may lead to shortages in supply. So far, with the new sanctions entering their second month, oil prices have risen by about 20 percent, leading many BRICS officials to begin seeking ways around the sanctions regime.

The South African Minister of Commerce has stated that while the country would go along with sanctions imposed by the Security Council, unilateral US-imposed sanctions would be against Pretoria's interests. A major issue pertaining to the BRICS is their relative remoteness and the lack of recognition of each other's capabilities, leading to, and a result of, a lack of coordination despite active joint meetings between business officials, cooperatives, and NGOs.

Despite the lack of coherence, and differences in the internal political and economic context of each of these countries, given their political, economic and demographic status, they are naturally set to become one of the world's most powerful intergovernmental institutions, and can even challenge the political and economic domination of old institutions.

In this respect, BRICS is the best example of the "emergence of others" against the West; a position that surely has the potential to provide opportunities for Iran. China and India will continue to buy Iranian oil, but even they, along with other BRICS members, remain diplomatically unable to fully ignore US demands.

Omid Shokri Kalehsar is a Washington-based senior energy security analyst.

The New Arab

Top Indian Bankers Under Scanner in Loan Scam (Лучшие индийские банкиры под наблюдением в связи с мошенничеством с кредитами) / Russia, January, 2019
Keywords: ndb

K.V. Kamath, president of the New Development Bank, a BRICS initiative, is likely to face a probe in India's multi-million dollar loan scam in which the ICICI Bank, of which he was the CMD until 2009, allegedly disbursed loans to private entities in contravention of rules and policies.

New Delhi (Sputnik): India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a First Instance Report (FIR) against Chanda Kochhar, former chief the ICICI Bank, the country's largest private sector lender in cases pertaining to alleged fraud in the disbursement of loans to private entities. Furthermore, the federal investigative agency has also announced that it would soon launch a probe against other big names in the banking sector, including K.V. Kamath, chief of the New Development Bank, and Sonjoy Chatterjee, India head of Goldman Sachs.

Kamath is credited for having catapulted the ICICI Bank Ltd to the status of India's second-largest lender. He headed the bank for 13 years until 2009 and took charge of the New Development Bank in 2015.

K.V. Kamath was appointed to the prestigious position of chairman of the New Development Bank (NDB), created by the five-member BRICS group in 2015. The BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — finalized setting up the NDB at the group's summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, on 15 July 2014.

Initially, the CBI had unearthed suspicious transactions of six high-value loans of around $470 million that were disbursed by the sanctioning committee to the Videocon group between June 2009 to October 2011 in contravention of the rules and policies of the bank.

A subsequent probe indicated that loans amounting $223 million were sanctioned on various dates by various committees having senior officials of the ICICI Bank as members, namely K.V. Kamath, Sandeep Bakshi, the current CEO of the ICICI Bank, N.S. Kannan, current CEO of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, Rajiv Sabharwal, current CEO of Tata Capital, Zarin Daruwala, current CEO of the Standard Chartered Bank in India, Sonjoy Bhattacharya, chairman of Goldman Sachs (India) Securities. The alleged irregularities happened at a time when these personalities were in the screening panel of the ICICI Bank.

"These loans have turned NPA (non-performing assets) resulting in a wrongful loss to ICICI Bank and wrongful gains to the borrowers and accused people… The role of these senior officers of the sanctioning committee (abovementioned) may also be investigated", the CBI statement issued on Thursday reads.
Trade War Games: Unity Among BRICS and Next Eleven Countries will be the Key (Игры торговой войны: единство стран БРИКС и Группы одиннадцати станет ключевым) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: Cooperation, expert_opinion, trade_relations
Author: Abhijit Mukhopadhyay

The standstill agreement reached between the United States and China on 1 December 2018 on the sidelines of the G-20 meetings has brought the much-needed breather for these two countries and the rest of the world. Both the countries agreed not to impose any tariffs for the next 90 days. However, this temporary truce does very little to resolve the deeper trade problems in their relationship and seems to be a more short-term political agreement than a substantive step towards the resolution of the existing problems.

The temporary nature of the agreement has been immediately highlighted when on 4 December 2018 US President Donald Trump tweeted: "I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so… We are right now taking in billions (of dollars) in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA REACH AGAIN."

Without going into the wrong economics behind it, the intent shown clearly demonstrates the uneasiness of the truce between these two.

Though not much highlighted in the news, in another significant development, India, in its second attempt, secured the World Trade Organization's (WTO) approval to establish a dispute settlement panel to provide ruling on the unilateral duties imposed by the US on the imports of steel and aluminium. India's first request was blocked by the US on 21 November. But when a complainant makes a second request, the panel usually gets automatically established. Switzerland joined India in making the second request against American import duties.

Therefore, existing confrontations on the tariff front are very much going on – involving major players of international trade.

US blocking of filling up of WTO AB vacancies

The US, meanwhile, has single-handedly blocked a proposal for filling four vacancies of the WTO's Appellate Body (AB) as the country feels that in the past, the body went beyond its mandate in its rulings. This is another part of the broad American narrative that "the system is rigged against us". AB is a standing body of seven persons that hears appeals from reports/rulings issued by dispute settlement panels at the WTO. The AB reports, once adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body, must be accepted by all the parties involved under the existing rules and procedures governing the settlement of disputes at the WTO.

India joined the European Union, China, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Korea, Iceland, Singapore and Mexico to issue a joint proposal to fill up the vacancies on 26 November. However, using its veto power, the US once again rejected the proposal on 12 December, and called the EU, India and China the "new trilateral" (at WTO), which is trying to "change the rules to authorise and accommodate the very approaches that would make the Appellate Body even less accountable".

This persistent blocking of filling vacancies of the Appellate Body seems to be an American ploy to go back to the pre-1995 GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) phase where the rulings of any dispute settlement panel can be negotiated as opposed to the AB's mandatory implementation under the current two-stage dispute settlement system. If that happens, then it will be a telling blow to the credibility of the WTO.

So, trade battles are been fought in different multilateral spheres other than tariff front, and there are enough reasons to be sceptical about the US-China standstill agreement on tariffs.

Worrying trends for economies like India

directions for future international trade reform, published by the World Bank (WB)-International Monetary Fund (IMF)-WTO trio in September 2018 – should be read in the context of these changing winds of international trade. A closer reading of this proposal paper reveals worrying trends for emerging economies like India in near future.

The paper surprisingly does not criticise the unilateral tariff impositions of recent times even once, and instead mentions (only once) in the beginning – "The system of global trade rules that has nurtured unprecedented economic growth across multiple generations face tensions. Though only recently brought to the fore, these tensions are rooted in issues that have been left unresolved for too long. Governments need to promptly address outstanding questions involving, for example, the WTO dispute system and the reach of subsidy disciplines".

This is nothing but a backhand justification given for the American stance of imposing unilateral tariffs.

The WTO secretariat technically cannot be party to such a biased reform proposal of international trade as it does not have any decision-making power. In WTO, all decisions are taken by the member countries only, and the secretariat's duties are "to support various councils and committees, to provide technical assistance, to monitor and analyse developments in world trade, to provide information to public and media, and to organise the ministerial conferences". Ministerial conference is the highest decision-making body in the WTO under the existing framework.

The policy paper further goes on to say that "… reliance on an approach in which all members must agree on all issues risks driving negotiating activity outside the WTO. Agreeing among so many members, each with unique challenges and priorities, has proven difficult". Since inception, a consensus-based multilateralism has been the bedrock of the WTO and is the primary reason behind its immense success in promoting free trade in the past. Not so subtly, this WB-IMF-WTO proposal is challenging that consensus-based approach of trade negotiations here.

The paper then makes an argument to employ a 'plurilateral' and 'flexible' approach in negotiations within the WTO on any issue where consensus does not emerge as "the practice of bundling negotiating issues together in a giant, all-or-nothing trade rounds has become extremely difficult to manage". This is like proposing separate clubs within the WTO, and essentially treating some groups of countries as superior to other groups of countries. It is an absurd idea to sustain in a multilateral forum where all countries are supposed to be treated at par with each other. It is like saying that any country is free to negotiate its own kind of bilateral or plurilateral deals under the WTO umbrella. But, why would countries do that under the WTO when they have the option of doing it outside independently? It looks like a desperate attempt of the WTO to remain relevant in international trade.

In contrast to these arguments, the policy paper then advocates for a universal approach to investment to set "holistic rules critical in a world of regional and global value chains". It also reiterates the necessity to resolve thorny issues like market access in agriculture, distortions in agricultural trade, regulatory cooperation, and e-commerce. While acknowledging the variability of interests on these issues, the paper prescribes 'evolution' and 'modernisation' of rules, policies and practices governing global trade.

On questions like market access, possibility of future arm-twisting cannot be ruled out either. Countries like India, Brazil and China will get affected adversely in future if this proposed approach is accepted further at the WTO level.

Need for more South-South trade and investment cooperation

This is not good news for the emerging economies, for example the BRICS countries. These countries negotiated hard for deferment of tariff schedules and services commitments in the past to protect their own economic and development interests. Under this proposed "plurilateral flexible" approach those benefits may just disappear.

Going by this trade reform proposal advocated by the WB-IMF-WTO trio, the cost of unilateral tariff imposition, as started by the US, finally would have to be borne by the countries of the world which are growing the fastest – the BRICS countries and the Next Eleven.[i] It is unlikely that multilateral organisations like the WTO will have the requisite instruments to stop unilateral and arbitrary trade decision making of the US. Economic and political might of the US, on the contrary, is likely to bend these institutions in its favour.

In contrast, formations like the BRICS evolved through a larger cooperation in international trade negotiations. In other words, trade blocs or formations based on south-south cooperation have larger stakes in the multilateral rules-based WTO. Unfortunately, the WTO does not seem to be a 'saviour' of these countries this time.

As pointed out by British entrepreneur Martin Sorrell, "The fast growing markets – the BRICS and Next Eleven – are the key. The next billion consumers are not going to come from the US or Western Europe – they are coming from Asia, Latin America and Africa". So, all international future games of trade wars will also be revolving around capture of this emerging consumer base.

Now, when multilateralism is in dire straits and immediate future is not looking so good, these countries (BRICS and Next Eleven) urgently need preparation and planning to face more protectionism in international trade. Only larger cooperation among themselves can protect their interests in the new world trade order, which may decisively tilt towards the advanced countries – particularly the USA – in the short run.

Abhijit is Senior Fellow with ORF's Economy and Growth Programme. His main areas of research include macroeconomics and public policy, with core research areas in monetary economics and the political economy of finance.

(This article is based on a short presentation made by the author at the international seminar "BRICS Economic Agenda: Searching for New Ways of Cooperation and Development" on 4-5 December 2018. It was organised by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), Brazil.) ---------------------

[i] Next Eleven countries are Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Main foreign policy results in 2018 (Основные внешнеполитические итоги 2018 года) / Russia, January, 2019
Keywords: mofa

In 2018, Russia's diplomacy focused on addressing problems related to creating a safe and favourable external environment for harmonious internal development in Russia.

- The near abroad countries come as a natural priority in Russia's foreign policy. The Priority Development Areas to 2022 and the 2018–2019 Programme for Coordinated Foreign Policy Actions have been approved within the framework of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The Plan of Joint Actions by Russia and Kazakhstan to 2021 was adopted, which identifies the main areas of state-to-state cooperation. In the wake of the internal political changes in Armenia, our respective countries reiterated their mutual plans to continue allied cooperation. Political as well as trade and economic ties with Kyrgyzstan have been expanding at a rapid pace. A programme for economic cooperation to 2021 was signed with Tajikistan. Work under the Action Plan on Developing Key Areas of Cooperation with Azerbaijan to 2024 has begun. A state visit by the Russian President to Uzbekistan took place in October. In August, the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Russia and Turkmenistan entered into force.

Several meetings between the Russian President and the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia took place as part of political dialogue with these republics. The recognition of their independence by Syria came as an important event.

2018 saw progress across the entire spectrum of the Eurasian integration agenda. Under the Russian chairmanship of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a declaration on the further development of integration processes within the EAEU was adopted, which complements the existing agreements on forming common markets with areas of interaction including education and science, healthcare, tourism, sports and region-to-region trade cooperation. A foundation was laid for launching joint digital projects. Regulations on the status of observer states in the EAEU and the decision to grant such status to Moldovawere adopted. In the context of expanding its external relations, the EAEU signed a Memorandum on deepening cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the CIS Executive Committee, which opens the way to harmonising integration initiatives in the post-Soviet space. An interim agreement leading to the creation of a free trade area with Iran and the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation with China, which provides a legal basis for aligning projects under the EAEU and the Chinese One Belt, One Way initiative, were adopted. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the EEC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was an important step regarding implementing Russia's initiative to form Greater Eurasian space. The willingness to create a broad partnership in Eurasia was confirmed in the format of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the Heads of State meeting (Qingdao, June) and Heads of Government (Dushanbe, October).

Forty-five decisions were made as part of integration cooperation within the CIS at the heads of state and government levels alone in the trade, economic, cultural and law enforcement spheres, as well as in security. The CIS Convention on Cooperation in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, agreements on implementing joint activities in this area, forming and expanding the intellectual property market, cooperation in combating crimes in information technology, and the Interstate Programme for Joint Measures to Combat Crime for 2019-2023 were all signed. Joint statements were adopted on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (at the heads of state level) and on preventing the erosion of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states (at the foreign ministry level).

Twelve joint statements on the most pressing issues on the international agenda, including on support for the INF Treaty, on the situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa, Syria, and the development of cooperation with regional organisations were adopted within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Joint exercises to improve the military and peacekeeping components of cooperation, and special operations to combat illegal migration and drug trafficking were conducted as planned.

- The signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea at the Fifth Caspian Summit (Aktau, August) was a major achievement. It took over 20 years to work this out. The document gives the coastal countries exclusive rights to this unique body of water, its mineral and other resources. It also establishes a navigation system and procedures for the collective use of the Caspian basin, and guarantees the sea's peaceful status and the non-presence of armed forces of countries other than the five littoral states. It has created conditions for accelerated development of economic cooperation between the Caspian states and enhanced predictability and stability in one of Eurasia's most important regions.

- Cooperation with the countries of the Asia-Pacific Region, where the centre of global economic growth has been moving, was substantially enhanced in 2008.

The deepening of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation with China remained one of the important factors of socio-economic development of the two countries. Foreign policy coordination with Beijing, including in the UN, BRICS and the SCO, exerted stabilising influence on world politics. Trade between the two countries exceeded $100 billion for the first time. The Yamal LNG Plant launched regular energy supplies to China; the sides signed a package of inter-government and inter-corporate documents on building additional energy units at the Tianwan Nuclear Power Station and the new, Xudapu Nuclear Power Station; and the bulk of work on the Power of Siberia gas pipeline from Russia to China has been completed. Our joint projects in aviation and outer space have reached a high level of completion.

In the context of specially privileged strategic partnership with India, the contractual foundation of cooperation in the economic, military-technical, trade, space, energy, agricultural, transport and cultural areas has been expanded. The desire to continue consolidating relations was reflected in the joint declaration, "India-Russia: An Enduring Partnership in a Changing World" adopted following a bilateral summit (New Delhi, October).

An unofficial summit in the Russia-India-China format (Buenos Aires, December) was held after a 12 year interval. The three countries reaffirmed their willingness to strengthen the multilateral foundations of the world order and establish an architecture of equal and indivisible security in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Relations with Japan were intensified on a broad range of issues. Dynamics in this process were given by the talks during the official visit of the Japanese Prime Minister to Russia in May and top-level bilateral meetings on the sidelines of different international events in September, November and December. At the November summit in Singapore, the sides agreed to accelerate talks on the issue of concluding a peace treaty based on the 1956 Joint Soviet-Japanese Declaration.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula developed in line with the roadmap for settlement drafted by Russia in cooperation with China. It provided for the solution of the nuclear and other issues based on respect for the legitimate interests of all states in Northeast Asia. Russia's political dialogue with the Republic of Korea and the DPRK livened up and the discussion of large infrastructure projects was resumed in the trilateral format.

Versatile cooperation with other countries in the Asia-Pacific Region, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines made steady progress.

Decisions meeting Russia's interests were adopted in the SCO. They were designed to upgrade cooperation between the SCO member countries by promoting regional economic integration and cooperation in countering terrorism, separatism, extremism and drug trafficking. A second meeting of the Moscow format of consultations was held to facilitate the peaceful process in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It was attended by representatives of the Political Office of the Taliban Movement in Doha.

The main result of the Russia-ASEAN summit (Singapore, November) was the consolidation of the strategic partnership with the association as a key instrument of ensuring regional stability and establishing a stable system of security and development in the Asia-Pacific Region.

- Our country has pursued an active foreign policy regarding the Arab and Muslim states. Thanks to Russian Aerospace Forces, most of Syria has been liberated from terrorist groups. The processes of restoring the socio-economic infrastructure, and the returning of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes began. A landmark event, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, took place in Sochi in January. Based on the decisions made there, the guarantors of the Astana process (Russia, Turkey, and Iran), in cooperation with the UN, Damascus and Syrian opposition groups, have formed the Constitutional Committee, opening up the prospect for a political transformation and a long-term settlement in Syria.

Economic cooperation with Turkey was given a strong impetus: the construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant began, and the offshore section of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline was laid. Military-technical cooperation agreements were systematically implemented. Work continued on major projects with Iran, including major energy and transport projects. An important milestone in cooperation with Egypt was the signing of an intergovernmental agreement on comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation in October. Russian-Saudi and Russian-UAE relations developed, including in the OPEC Plus format, and so did Russian-Qatari ties. Russia maintained a multi-level trust based dialogue with Israel as well as traditionally close contacts with the Palestinians. Russia made an effective contribution to reaching agreements on resolving the situation in Yemen (Stockholm, December), approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2451.

- Russia developed constructive cooperation with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The President of Russia met with the leaders of Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama, and Paraguay. The legal framework for bilateral relations with the region's countries was expanded. Progress was achieved in the development of promising high-tech joint projects in the energy sector, metallurgy, infrastructure, transport, and biotechnology. Russia was granted observer status with the sub-regional organisation, the Central American Integration System.

- In 2018, the President of Russia met with the leaders of Angola, Gabon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, the CAR and South Africa. The range of commodities traded with the African countries has expanded. Memorandums of understanding were signed with the Southern African Development Community on the groundwork for relations and cooperation, as well as memorandums of understanding in military technical cooperation. Consultations were launched with the African Union Commission on preparations for an integrated memorandum of cooperation.

- As part of multilateral cooperation in the Arctic the parties have signed an agreement to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas sections of the central Arctic Ocean (in addition to the five coastal states, the agreement was signed by Iceland, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and the EU). The Intergovernmental Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation came in force. It was drafted under the co-chairmanship of Russia and the US in the Arctic Council and was signed a year earlier.

- In the Euro-Atlantic area the efforts of Russian diplomacy were aimed at preventing the uncontrolled degradation of relations with the US and the EU despite their mounting pressure on Russia. The year of 2018 saw the toughening of sanctions, the provocative Skripal case in Britain, the subsequent expulsion of Russian diplomats from the US and some European countries and the buildup of NATO's military activities near Russian borders. Contrary to the statements of some European leaders about their striving for greater independence in foreign affairs, the majority of the EU countries followed a tough anti-Russia course even if it ran counter to their economic and security interests. However, the positive dynamics of political dialogue and trade and economic cooperation was maintained with Austria, Finland, Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus. Versatile cooperation with Serbia saw steady progress. The construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline continued on schedule.

The past year did not bring any positive changes in Russia-US relations although Russia displayed a willingness to conduct a dialogue based on the principles of non-interference in internal affairs and respect for each other's interests.

The reason for this is the ongoing domestic political struggle in the US and its current administration's course towards eroding the interstate character of international organisations and revising its international commitments, in part, its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on settling the situation around Iran's nuclear programme (May) and statements on its intention to "suspend" US participation in the INF Treaty. Political dialogue was limited: a bilateral summit was held (Helsinki, July); there were sporadic contacts at the foreign minister level, and cooperation on a number of international issues (arms control, Syria, Afghanistan and the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula). The military maintained smooth communication on preventing armed incidents.

- We used participation in key multilateral structures to improve the instruments of global management and a search for solutions to common problems based on international law and compromise. During the Russian Presidency of the UN Security Council (June), the UNSC passed eight resolutions and coordinated three statements by the President of the UN Security Council, including on Ukraine. The adoption by the UN General Assembly of a number of vital resolutions was ensured, including those on UN cooperation with the CIS and international information security, in part, the Russia-proposed code of conduct for states in the information space and the start in the UN General Assembly of a political discussion on ways of countering information-related crime. The Russian initiative on creating a broad anti-terrorist front received support - about 70 states signed the Code of Conduct Towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism that determines the objectives of the activities in this area.

The South Africa-chaired 10th BRICS summit (Johannesburg, July) demonstrated progress in cooperation in all key areas – political, economic and humanitarian. The members of the association confirmed the unity or closeness of positions on the majority of global issues and a striving to enhance the role of BRICS in world affairs. The New Development Bank was profitable. Twenty-six investment projects (including six in Russia) worth $6.5 billion are being carried out under its aegis. Work began on the issues of the fourth (digital) industrial revolution to facilitate the adaptation of the socio-economic development of the BRICS countries to current technology.

At the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Russia proposed an initiative on expanding the opportunities and protecting the rights of consumers in the digital economy.

- Working with Russian compatriots abroad, Moscow hosted the Sixth World Congress of Russian Compatriots (October 31–November 1). A comprehensive plan for major events on implementing government policy in this area in 2018-2020 was endorsed. Special attention was paid to the further consolidation of the diaspora and the protection of the rights and lawful interests of compatriots, primarily in Ukraine and the Baltic states. Over 82,000 people moved to Russia in 2018 under the government programme for facilitating voluntary resettlement of compatriots to Russia.

- As part of the efforts to expand Russia's cultural and humanitarian presence in the world, support was provided for a broad range of events, including cultural cross years and Days of Russia, as well as Russian Seasons. Assistance in training national personnel was rendered to foreign countries. The system of selecting foreign students for education at Russian universities was improved. The diplomatic service made a contribution to the preparation and holding of the first FIFA World Cup in Russia. Hundreds of thousands of foreign fans and tourists visited Russia during this major sporting event.

World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
Global Talent Competitive Index: Key Facts (Глобальный индекс конкурентоспособности талантов: ключевые факты) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: ranking, research, social_issues

The Global Talent Competitive Index prepared by the INSEAD business school in partnership with Tata Communications and Adecco Group was released on the first day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2019.

The Global Talent Competitive Index measures how countries and cities grow, attract and retain talent, ranking 125 countries and 114 cities across all groups of income and levels of development.

Where does India stand? The findings of the 2019 Global Talent Index for India are:

  • Even though India has moved up one position to rank 80th on the global talent competitive index, India remains a laggard among the BRICS nations.
  • India's performance was beter than its lower-income peers when it comes to growing talent (48th) and access to growth opportunities (41st).
  • In spite of the scope for improvement across the board, India's biggest challenge is to improve its ability to attract (95th) and retain (96th) talent.
  • India needs to address its poor level of Internal Openness (116th) in particular with respect to weak gender equality and low tolerance towards minorities and immigrants and its disappointing showing in lifestyle (112th) indicators.

Global Findings

The global findings of the Index are:

  • Switzerland is followed by Singapore, the US, Norway and Denmark in the top five on the list.
  • The talent gap between higher and lower-income countries has widened over the last five years.
  • Countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa are seeing a progressive erosion of their talent base.
  • China's ranking fell by two places to 45. Even then China is the best performer among BRICS countries.
  • The report cities rather than countries are developing stronger roles as talent hubs and will be crucial in reshaping the global talent scene.
  • The top-ranked city in the index is Washington DC, followed by Copenhagen, Oslo, Vienna and Zurich.
  • The study found that entrepreneurial talent has become a key differentiator in relative talent competitiveness.
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