Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 7.2019
2019.02.11 — 2019.02.17
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
New Delhi celebrated Russian Diplomat's Day (В Нью-Дели отметили День дипломатического работника) / Russia, February, 2019
Keywords: mofa, social_issues

The Russian Embassy in India organized a series of events dedicated to the professional holiday - the Diplomat's Day.

On February 7, pupils of the kindergarten and Russian Embassy school congratulated the Embassy staff members with colorful drawings, opening an exhibition "Diplomats in the service of Peace".

On February 8, Russian Embassy school held thematic "class hours" called "Let's talk about diplomacy", during which senior staff of the Embassy told pupils about the history and features of Russian diplomatic service.

A special place in the series of solemn events was taken by the school pupils visiting the Embassy museum dedicated to the outstanding Russian diplomat Alexander M. Kadakin, as well as laying flowers at a memorial plaque on Alexander Kadakin Street in New Delhi.

Children sports games held on the sports ground of the Embassy were timed for the holiday.

The piano concert by the famous Russian pianist Irina Shkurindina on February 8 became the culmination of the festivities. The artist performed classical works of world music luminaries: S.V.Rachmaninov, V.Mozart, F.Shopen and J.Gershvin. The musical evening was attended by the leadership of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, ambassadors of the BRICS and CIS countries, veterans of Indian diplomacy, representatives of the scientific and cultural elite, Russian teachers from leading Indian universities, as well as staff of the Russian diplomatic mission and compatriots.

The embassy joined the Russian Foreign Ministry's Internet rally, marking up all the notes about the events dedicated to the Diplomat's Day in its official accounts in social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) with the hashtags #DiplomatsDay and #Immemoriam.

The holiday received wide media coverage – a special supplement was published on February 11 in the Indian Express and Financial Express newspapers on key aspects of bilateral and international cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi. On February 8, a special report came on Russian TV channel Ren-TV for the Diplomat's Day, which included an interview with the Ambassador of Russia to India H.E. Mr Nikolay R. Kudashev, and on February 9 TV channel Russia-1 and Russia-24 within the program "News with Sergey Brilev" showed a report prepared by a correspondent in New Delhi about the life of the Russian diplomatic mission in India.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's opening remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of
the Kingdom of Lesotho Lesego Makgothi, Sochi, February 13, 2019 (Выступление и ответы на вопросы СМИ Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова в ходе совместной пресс-конференции по итогам переговоров с Министром иностранных дел и международных отношений Королевства Лесото Л.Макготи, Сочи, 13 февраля 2019 года) / Russia, February, 2019
Keywords: mofa, sergey_lavrov, quotation

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to once again greet my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Lesego Makgothi.

We have had very useful and constructive, and I would say, wide-ranging talks that have allowed us to understand how to continue to build upon relations in numerous areas that, for certain reasons, have not yet duly expanded. This agreement is of special importance because today we are hosting the first visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of the Kingdom of Lesotho to Russia in history.

We noted the traditionally friendly nature of our ties that have developed under the principles of respect and consideration for each other's interests. We noted a desire to expand these relations in all areas, beginning with the political dialogue and then including cooperation within international organisations, as well as in trade and economic, cultural and humanitarian areas. We noted geological prospecting, mining and the energy industry as promising areas. We agreed to continue supporting business contacts between our businesspeople. We hope that the Lesotho delegation will, among other things, be able to take part in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2019. We are expecting a specific list of projects from our friends; this implies projects that, in their opinion, can be jointly implemented.

We also focused on cooperation in education exchanges. Responding to a request from our friends in Lesotho, we expanded the quota for students from Lesotho by five times. This will make it possible to meet the interests of Lesotho and to train specialists in healthcare, meteorology and mining. This will start as soon as the next academic year. We also confirmed the possibility of sending law enforcement officers to study in advanced training courses at Russian Interior Ministry institutions, and also to earn degrees at universities in this area.

We discussed issues facing the international community, including issues being discussed most actively at the UN. Russia and Lesotho have a common position. We would like everyone to unfailingly honour international law, starting with the UN Charter, to respect the unique nature of nations and their desire to independently determine their own destiny as well as specific approaches and development alternatives.

We discussed UN Security Council reform and once again noted that there is no alternative to expanding the number of the UN Security Council members from among developing Asian, Latin American and certainly African countries. We believe that there is absolutely no alternative to this.

We are grateful to our partners for supporting Russian initiatives at the UN, including those aiming to combat the glorification of Nazism, proposals in international information security and efforts to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space.

While discussing African issues, we reaffirmed our approach that the African countries themselves should address the crises and conflicts that, unfortunately, persist on the African continent. The international community is called on to provide any support to these African processes and peacekeeping missions. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia will continue to strictly abide by these principles.

We praise the integration processes that continue to develop in Africa, including the Southern African Development Community that aims to guarantee socio-economic growth in the southern part of the African continent. Last year, we signed several documents with the Southern African Development Community, including a memorandum of understanding between the Russian Government and this organisation on the fundamental principles of our relations and cooperation, and a memorandum of understanding as regards military-technical cooperation. We praise the involvement of the Southern African Development Community in drafting recommendations for Lesotho; such recommendations concern the implementation of reforms that, as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Lesego Makgothi has confirmed today, will help ensure long-term public-political consensus in the country.

We discussed the recent session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa. The session's participants elected the Kingdom of Lesotho to the African Union Commission's Peace and Security Department. This important position will allow us to further expand cooperation on African issues.

In general, we advocated greater cooperation between Russia and the African countries in all areas, primarily in the context of a proposal by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in July 2018. He suggested holding the first ever Russia-Africa summit due to be held this autumn. More events like this summit are scheduled; and others have already been held. The Russia-Africa Public Forum was held in October 2018. An inter-parliamentary Russian-African conference is scheduled within the same format later this year. Russia will host a general meeting of the African Export-Import Bank's shareholders. We believe that this will make it possible to considerably raise the level of cooperation and improve its quality and to chart specific ways of further enriching our traditionally very friendly relations with our African friends.

Question: The latest summit of the guarantor countries on Syria will open tomorrow. Is it possible to say that a joint decision on the need to liberate the city of Idlib is already in the offing?

Sergey Lavrov: Tomorrow's trilateral Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on the Syrian settlement concerns the developments in the Idlib de-escalation zone as well as problems created there by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra). The agreement reached by the presidents of Russia and Turkey in September 2018 on the approach to resolving the Idlib zone problem was temporary. It was reaffirmed a couple of times at meetings of our leaders after last September.

The agreement boiled down to the need to separate the opposition interested in normal dialogue with the Government from the terrorists and thereby isolate them and continue to work toward their destruction because no agreements provide for the preservation of this terrorist nest on Syrian territory.

According to incoming information, some Western countries want exactly this and the participation of the enclave, in which Jabhat al-Nusra captured 90 percent of its territory, in some future political process. Obviously, any talks with terrorists are impossible. However, our Western colleagues have repeatedly resorted to double standards, so I do not rule out that this information is accurate.

Before the trilateral summit tomorrow, President of Russia Vladimir Putin will hold talks with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani. Needless to say, the issue of the Idlib zone will be central at the meeting with Erdogan. Everyone understands that Jabhat al-Nusra must not be allowed to continue entrenching itself in this zone where it has practically tripled the area of the territory under its control. Instead of separating the fighters of illegal armed formations from Jabhat al-Nusra, the reverse is happening.

We will do everything to help the Syrian Government and its armed forces to liberate their territory. We will also support the actions of the Syrian Army that should progress in keeping with the provisions of international humanitarian law. We will not allow what the Western coalition did in Raqqa. Everyone saw how Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta were freed. Hundreds of thousands of people have long returned to these cities. Meanwhile, corpses have not been taken away and mines have not been cleared in Raqqa, for one. We will not allow this to happen. The Syrian Government is absolutely opposed to such outcomes.

Question: What is preventing the Constitutional Committee on Syria from starting to work?

Sergey Lavrov: This issue will be discussed by all means. It has already been reviewed at today's consultations of our experts on drafting agreements for the three presidents at tomorrow's summit. We thought that the issue of establishing the Constitutional Committee was resolved in December. A Government-supported list was accepted by the opposition. The foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran and Russia sent this information to the then UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura. Later on, it transpired that the list was not welcomed by all. It was opposed by some Western countries rather than some Syrian parties. And they started throwing spanners into the UN machinery to prevent its endorsement. By and large, the UN is a facilitator and a helpful mechanism whereas dialogue should be conducted by Syrians themselves. Such crude and unceremonious interference in the neocolonial spirit evokes serious concern. But we are not closing ourselves off and are willing to look for a way out of this situation. We understand that the UN should facilitate the Syrian dialogue. We have discussed these issues with the new UN envoy on Syria. My deputy recently met with him in Geneva. We will continue this work. We will report to our leaders at what stage this work is and tomorrow they should make a decision on further advancing the inter-Syrian dialogue.

Let me repeat that nobody has ever worked on the practical issues involved in organising an inclusive dialogue among Syrians. Those that are trying to subvert these efforts will never succeed. They are motivated only by one goal – to prove that decision-making is their prerogative. This is egoistic and does not meet the interests of the international community in the Syrian settlement process and other issues. It is unacceptable to impose anything. What is needed is in an inclusive dialogue, be it in Syria, Venezuela or somewhere else.

Question: Can you comment on Moscow's position on Damascus's note to the UN Secretary-General with the demand to denounce the actions of the US-led international coalition, in part, the air attack on Deir ez-Zor, during which civilians were affected?

Sergey Lavrov: Damascus urged the Security Council to release a statement on this event. This has happened more than once. The coalition regularly hits the wrong targets, affecting civilians and infrastructure. This is no longer a new trend. Let me recall that during the bombing of Yugoslavia a vast number of civilian facilities were subjected to attacks – on purpose, including a bridge with a passenger train on it and the TV Centre in Belgrade. Nothing has changed in international humanitarian law since then; it prohibits using facilities like this as targets. We will support Syria in the UN Security Council. We will do this for any country that will suffer lawlessness that is perpetrated by uninvited foreign armed forces.

Question: The INF Treaty was not mentioned in yesterday's Foreign Ministry release for the media on your conversation with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Wasn't it mentioned at all?

Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, this issue was not mentioned during my conversation with Michael Pompeo. We gave a press release in which we listed the issues we discussed by telephone. Several days ago President Vladimir Putin made a clear statement on the INF Treaty and other issues related to strategic stability and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He reviewed the initiatives that have remained unanswered by the US and its Western allies. The President said that they "remain on the table" but instructed Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and me to no longer remind anyone about them. Everyone is aware of these initiatives. When our colleagues are ready, we will be willing to conduct a professional, to the point and non-politicised conversation. Michael Pompeo did not talk about this issue yesterday, so the Americans are not ready yet.

Question: The Financial Times wrote recently that the US and the EU have almost coordinated anti-Russia sanctions related to the incident in the Kerch Strait. In part, this issue will be put on the agenda of the EU Council of Ministers meeting on Monday (February 18). What is our attitude to this?

Sergey Lavrov: We said a long time ago that we won't discuss the sanctions with anyone. We want to develop our economy and trade with normal foreign partners so as not to depend on anyone's whims. In this case – on the whims of those who have failed to honour their word, allowed a coup in Kiev and did not compel the opposition to fulfill their agreements with President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. We are dealing with people who introduced sanctions in response to the declaration of will by Crimeans and in general to all events that are taking place in this area, including in eastern Ukraine. I think this is yet another occasion where the Europeans have to admit their complete inability to make President of Ukraine Poroshenko abide by the Minsk agreements. Something has to be done since they are unable to direct their "clients." So they decided to adopt another package of sanctions. We know these sanctions are taken under heavy US pressure, which is further evidence of the EU's lack of independence. This is sad…

We are open to dialogue but will proceed from the premise that we should not be dependent on people that act like this, including actions with regard to the commitments on settling the Ukrainian crisis that they assumed in February 2014.

Russia ready for cooperation with US on basis of equality — national Security Council (Россия
готова к сотрудничеству с США на основе равенства - Совет национальной безопасности) / Russia, February, 2019
Keywords: cooperation, quotation

MOSCOW, February 14. /TASS/. Moscow intends to continue cooperation with its international partners, including Washington, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily, adding that cooperation should be based on the principles of equality and reciprocity.

"We intend to continue working together with our partners, particularly within the United Nations, the SCO [the Shanghai Cooperation Organization], BRICS and other international organizations," he said. "It also concerns the United States, granted that the principles of equality and reciprocity are respected," Patrushev added.

The Russian Security Council secretary reaffrmed the country's commitment to international law and respect for the sovereignty and independence of countries. According to him, Moscow also called for peacefully resolving internal political diferences through legal mechanisms, opposing attempts to impose solutions.
Heartland Reunion: Geopolitical Chimera or Historical Chance? (Воссоединение Хартленда: геополитическая химера или исторический шанс?) / Greece, February, 2018 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues, global_governance
Author: Dr. Andrey Kortunov


Heartland Reunion: Geopolitical Chimera or Historical Chance?

Anyone who has at least some idea about the theory of international relations should remember the oft-quoted formula put forward by the father of British geopolitics, Halford Mackinder: "Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world." For those who are sceptical about geopolitical constructs and terminology, this logical chain may seem like a meaningless shamanic incantation. Over the course of a century, "Mackinder's formula" was repeatedly criticized, corrected, repudiated, anathematized, parodied and ridiculed. And yet, strange as it may seem, not only has this formula survived an entire century, but it is also perhaps more relevant today than it was a hundred years ago.

Of course, the question hinges on how we understand the concept of Heartland. Mackinder interpreted it as the geographical centre of Eurasia, or, more precisely, as the massive central and north-eastern part of the Asian continent, which on the whole coincided with the Asian areas ruled by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Today, it seems obvious that the "Eurasian core" must be sought south of the harsh, poorly developed and scarcely populated Siberian plains and barren deserts of Central Asia. Just like in the days of Mackinder, Siberia and Central Asia remain repositories of raw materials and energy resources. Just like before, these lands may be considered the "great natural fortress" of the land peoples, adjusted for the new arsenal of means of projecting military power that appeared in the 20th century. However, these lands did not become a true "axis of history": contrary to Mackinder's prophecies, their transport infrastructure remained incomplete and disconnected, while their role in the development of the Eurasian continent over the past 100 years has shrunk rather than grown.

At the risk of incurring the righteous indignation of the current geopolitical orthodox, let us postulate that the Eurasian Heartland of the 21st century is actually what Mackinder saw as the "inner crescent." Primarily China and India, in relation to which the rest of the Eurasian massif – Russia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and even the extended European peninsula of the Asian mainland – act as continental limitrophe states. Despite the undeniable significance of these border states to European history, politics, economics and security, the fate of Europe depends primarily on how relations in the new Heartland (that is, between China and India) unfold. And the future of the whole world to a great degree depends on the fate of Eurasia. This is one of Mackinder's main points, and it is by no means outdated.

The Prerequisites for Consolidation

It would seem that there are no fundamental obstacles to the consolidation of the Heartland: the interests of Beijing and New Delhi coincide on most major international issues. China and India have much in common. Both countries are, in their own way, historically stable and internally cohesive alternatives to Atlantic civilization. China and India are, along with the Arabic East (and to a lesser extent Tropical Africa south of the Sahara), the two most important points of the crystallization of "non-western" ideals. The fact that China and India are growing stronger is the most significant indicator that the "western" stage in the development of the system of international relations has drawn to a close.

As powerful drivers of economic growth both in Eurasia and around the world, both China and India are currently experiencing a stage of long-term economic, cultural and civilizational upheaval. Neither has fully overcome the deep trauma of national consciousness caused by their status as outsiders in global politics in the 19th and 20th century, and this trauma continues to have an impact on the historical narratives that dominate China and India and the foreign policy ambitions that emanate from these narratives. Beijing and New Delhi are "revisionist" players on the global stage in the sense that both China and India are interested in revising the old rules of the game that serve the interests of the "collective West." China is leading a broad economic and financial offensive – from Central Europe to Latin America. India, lagging behind China in terms of foreign economic expansion, is focusing instead on closing the political gap by laying claim to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The two countries are exposed to all the standard "growing pains" – the negative side effects of rapid economic and social growth. Both China and India suffer from severe environmental problems, a shortage of natural resources, growing social inequality and widespread corruption. In addition to this, there are pockets of separatism and terrorism in both countries. China and India are also witnessing a conflict between modernization and traditionalist forces. The concept of "national sovereignty" is paramount in both states, and any attempt to interfere in their domestic affairs is met with hostility. People in both countries question the stability of the current model of socioeconomic development, and many fear or predict inevitable crises and upheavals in the future.

Historically, relations between India and China have always been less conflict-ridden than, say, the relations between the Islamic and Christian worlds in the west of the Eurasian continent. In a sense, it is fair to speak not only of the economic, cultural and spiritual compatibility of these two ancient civilizations, but also of the fact that these aspects have penetrated the other country and even complement one another. There are numerous examples of this – from the epic history of the Great Silk Road to the equally impressive chronicle of how Buddhism spread across Eastern Asia. In essence, the consolidation of a China–India Heartland would not mean the creation of something fundamentally new, but simply the natural reunification of a torn Eurasia, the restoration of a recently lost continental unity.

Hence, there are objective prerequisites for the consolidation of a new Heartland. It is worth adding here that, while recognizing all the difficulties and tactical losses, such a consolidation would serve the long-term interests of both countries. The implementation of the joint China–India project would contribute to the stabilization of the geopolitical situation in the entire Eurasian space and open up fundamentally new opportunities for transcontinental cooperation in various fields.

It would not be out of place to draw a parallel with post-War Western Europe here, when the reconciliation between France and Germany led to the launch of European integration processes. In turn, it was ultimately France and Germany that benefitted most from this process: the political will and the willingness to compromise demonstrated by the leaders in Paris and Bonn paid off time after time in the following decades.

The numerous benefits of consolidating the Eurasian heartland are too obvious to not be a subject of contemplation on both sides of the Himalayas. Relations between Beijing and New Delhi have, for at least the past six decades, developed more along the lines of a rivalry than cooperation – and this rivalry has on more than one occasion turned into direct confrontation. Why is this the case? Could it be the subjective mistakes of the leadership? Personal ambitions of leadership? The underhand practices of internal forces? The tragic accidents of history? Or perhaps there are some objective " force majeure circumstances" that stand in the way of a new Heartland coming together?

The Dimensions of the Eurasian Schism

Let us start with what everyone already knows – the two countries represent very different types of government. The differences between China and India today are greater than those between France and Germany 50 years ago. While China is much farther away from Europe than India, it is, on the whole, considerably closer in terms of being a nation state in the European mould. Despite the fact that there are a significant number of national minorities in China and substantial regional differences, ethnic Chinese (Han Chinese) are a single people and make up more than 90 per cent of the country's population. Of the 34 Chinese provinces, including the autonomous regions and cities of central subordination, only Taiwan falls outside the vertical power system of governance, for obvious reasons.

India does not have a dominant national people. In terms of its ethnocultural and linguistic diversity, the Indian subcontinent does not resemble a separate European state or China, but rather the European Union as a whole. And in terms of religious diversity, the multi-structural nature of the economy and the regional disparities, India goes way beyond the whole of Europe put together. India is made up of 29 states and seven union territories, which exist in a state of complex political interaction. India is essentially a grandiose integration project in South Asia that is primarily turned inwards rather than outwards. If we stretch the analogies somewhat further, we can say that, as a single state, China has the same problems in its dialogue with the eclectic and insulated India that centralized Russia has in its interactions with the amorphous and insulated European Union.

Evidently, the historical trajectories of the two countries have also diverged greatly, especially over the past 250 years. India was a British colony, and the nearly 200 years of British rule left an indelible imprint not only on the country's political system, but also on its culture. China, on the other hand, has never been colonized by a foreign country. While British democracy was a "system-forming" factor for independent India, communist China regarded the Soviet Union of the 1950s as a model to be emulated. Despite the fact that both countries have moved far from their original models of the mid-20th century, there are no grounds to suggest that their political or economic systems have drawn any closer.

In theory, the China–India partnership could even benefit from the fact that their political systems are so different: China would assume the main role in its interaction with various authoritarian regimes, while India would take the lead when it comes to developing ties with western liberal-democratic regimes. In practice, however, the dissimilarity of the systems hinders cooperation and, more importantly, mutual understanding. In is noteworthy that Beijing has found it far easier to establish relations with Moscow in the 21st century than with New Delhi, although the history of China–Russia relations is far more dramatic and controversial than the history of China–India relations.

Since China and India are the two largest countries in continental Asia, competition for natural resources, foreign markets, control of transport corridors and influence over common neighbours is inevitable. The close proximity of the two major powers gives rise to border disputes: the countries share 4000 km border, and the problem right now is not even about resolving territorial disputes, but merely about preserving the territorial status quo and preventing an escalation. The sides feel tempted to support various instruments of influence in each other's territories. What is more, the question of what best meets the development needs of other Asian countries – Chinese socialism or Indian democracy – remains open.

Trade between China and India is growing at a rapid pace; however, both India and China are more focused on global markets than they are on each other. And for decades they have been purchasing the main resources needed for modernization – investments and modern technologies – from the West, often competing directly with each other for them. Bilateral trade remains asymmetrical, with Chinese exports to India far outweighing its imports from that country. Moreover, Chinese economic activity in India is far from always seen by the latter in an exclusively positive light.

A stable balance of powers between China and India in Asia is hindered by the fact that, right now, China is stronger than India both economically and militarily, and this asymmetry is likely to persist for the foreseeable future. A consolidated Eurasian Heartland would be less of an equal partnership than that of France and Germany in the second half of the 20th century.

India is still dogged by painful memories of the 1962 Sino–Indian Border Conflict. The model of Asia and a "closed" system is thus advantageous for Beijing, with China's dominance in this system being in no doubt. For the same reason, New Delhi is interested in an "open" Asia, in which the asymmetry in the balance of powers between China and India could be compensated by introducing external players (who are, of course, on India's side) into the mix.

The Interests of External Players

The interests of the United States in Asia are obvious and depend very little on the change of administration in the White House, although Donald Trump's team has articulated these interests more clearly and more gruffly than its predecessors. Washington cannot but fear the consolidation of the European Heartland and will therefore continue to capitalize on the deepening contradictions in China–India relations. Naturally, it is trying to manage this process somehow without steering it towards a large-scale military conflict with unpredictable consequences.

Today we are witnessing an attempt by the United States to replicate the successful approaches of Henry Kissinger taken in the 1970s and to build a Eurasian geopolitical triangle. The difference is that the USSR is replaced by China, and China is replaced by India. This explains the increased attention of the United States to New Delhi and the persistent attempts to involve India in multilateral groupings that include allies of the United States that are located on the island periphery of the Eurasian continent, namely Japan and Australia (the concept of a "democratic Indo-Pacific"). If Washington had succeeded in achieving the sustainable institutionalization of these groupings in the form of a military-technical alliance similar to NATO, this would have created long-term guaranteed preventing the consolidation of the Heartland. However, at this juncture, any format of allied relations with Washington is politically unacceptable for the Indian elite, which is pushing for the preservation of the country's strategic independence. What is more, India cannot sacrifice its continental Eurasian partners (primarily Moscow and Tehran) – not even for the sake of friendship with Washington.

The European Union is less interested in the preservation, much less the exacerbation, of the confrontation between China and India. Of course, the consolidation of the Heartland would present a serious challenge for Europe too, but one that is more to do with economics than geopolitics. The formation of a single Eurasian economic space would undoubtedly speed up the displacement of Europe as the economic centre of activity in Eurasia to Asia and reduce the role of the European Union in the Eurasian and global economies. On the other hand, China and India are two of the most promising foreign markets for the European Union, and the further development of these markets in line with the strategic interests of Brussels.

As far as the European Union is concerned, the main question is: On what basis can the consolidation of the Eurasian Heartland take place? Of course, Brussels would like to see Eurasian consolidation based on European standards, in compliance with European procedures and in line with European standards. The worst option for Brussels would be the gradual "economic absorption" of India by China and the implementation of the Eurasian integration process based on something that is entirely different from the European vision (for example, on the implementation of the One Road, One Belt initiative).

Russia's interests in the various development scenarios for China–India relations are the subject of heated debates within the country's expert community. On the one hand, it is often argued that maintaining tension in relations between Beijing and New Delhi makes Moscow a more valuable partner for both sides. Right now, Russia's relations with China and India are better than those between China and India, meaning that it occupies the most advantageous position in this triangle. Based on this logic, we can assume that the consolidation of the Eurasian Heartland around the China–India axis would entail a further shift in the Eurasian centre of gravity towards the south of Russia's borders. This would marginalize Russia even further as a participant in the Eurasian community.

On the other hand, it is safe to predict that attempts to capitalize on the contradictions between China and India will inevitably raise suspicions both in Beijing and in New Delhi, cause them to doubt the sincerity of Russia's actions, etc. It is easy to imagine a situation in which Moscow will be unable to maintain its neutral position and be forced to choose between its two most important partners in Asia, and whatever choice it makes will inevitably entail major losses. Let us not forget that the escalation of the confrontation between China and India – a factor that stands in the way of the consolidation of the Heartland – would leave the door wide open for the United States, which is not likely to be among Moscow's friends any time soon. Moreover, such an escalation is fraught with the risk of a major military conflict breaking out on the continent, and this would inevitably affect Russia's security. To summarize the advantages and disadvantages of consolidation for Russia, the only reasonable conclusion is that the expected benefits of a consolidated Heartland clearly outweigh the potential costs.

Let us make it clear right away – whatever Russia's role in the consolidation of the Eurasian Heartland, it will by no means be decisive. China–India relations have their own internal logic and their own dynamics that no external player (be it the United States, the European Union or Russia) can change. It would appear that, as the stronger party in these bilateral relations, China should go the extra mile to reduce suspicion and gain New Delhi's trust. We could argue about what steps need to be taken and in what order, but this, strictly speaking, is not an issue for Russian foreign policy. However, this does not mean that Russia does not have a role in this most important issue.


On December 1, 2018, an attempt was made on the side-lines of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires to step up the activities of the mechanism of tripartite cooperation between Russia, China and India (the RIC countries) and resume the practice of regular high-level meetings after a 12-year hiatus. According to Vladimir Putin, these meetings should focus on various aspects of security and the fight against protectionism and politically motivated restrictions in international trade. Developing these ideas, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi identified four possible areas for cooperation: regional and global stability, economic prosperity, the exchange of experience in areas of mutual interest, and cooperation on how to respond to emerging challenges. Similar thoughts were expressed by the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping, who stressed the special responsibilities of the three powers to support regional and global stability.

In recent years, the RIC format has remained in the shadow of the more representative five-party cooperation structure that includes Brazil and South Africa (together, the five countries make up the BRICS association). Without belittling the significance of the latter two countries, it is worth noting that the geographical expansion of RIC into BRICS entailed certain institutional costs: the two non-Eurasian countries had their own tasks and priorities that differed from the agenda of the original Eurasian members. The fact that the last presidential election was won by Jair Balsonara, a far-right congressman, the so-called "Donald Trump of Brazil" raises a number of questions about the future of the five-party structure. In any case, it would surely be a grave miscalculation for Russian policy to "dissolve" RIC into BRICS completely.

In all likelihood, in the near future, tripartite summits will be held on the side-lines of larger multilateral events (G20 summits, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Asia–Europe Meeting, etc.). However, if everything is limited to brief and infrequent interactions between leaders, statements of coinciding positions or even the signing of general political declarations, then this will do little in terms of the consolidation of the Heartland. It is necessary to articulate, in a frank manner, the existing differences with regard to the most serious problems facing Eurasia. The leaders of the three countries should focus on the problems that are standing in the way of consolidation of the Eurasian space.

At the same time, considering the fact that these trilateral meetings are inevitably short, the issues raised should be studied thoroughly beforehand by experts and the relevant ministries in the track 1.5 and track 2 formats and with a view to developing specific "road maps." It is precisely the specifics that have traditionally been lacking in joint statements adopted at the end of the annual meetings of RIC foreign ministers. Another urgent task that could help solve the problem of trust between the Chinese and Indian militaries is the creation of a permanent tripartite mechanism for military consultations and the holding of regular military exercises.

A practical political trialogue could begin with an open discussion of such issues as the future of Syria and Afghanistan, which are of great importance for all three participants. Equally significant are the development of individual functional dimensions of the Eurasian Heartland – joint initiatives in the fight against terrorism, managing migration flows, food and energy security, issues of international information exchange and the development of artificial intelligence. It is from the widest possible set of such functional regimes, not from old or new rigid institutional blocs, that the new Eurasian Heartland should be built.

India and China are Arctic Council observer states. As one of the leading members of this organization, Russia could suggest to its partners that they discuss Arctic issues together so that none of them could have any suspicions about Moscow possibly harbouring a position on these issues that could be considered "pro-China" or "pro-India."

And, of course, more active trilateral interaction on issues that go beyond the geographical boundaries of the Eurasian continent would serve as a powerful incentive for the consolidation of the Heartland. The future of multilateral arms control. The reform of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and other global organizations. The development of international public law in the 21st century. Climate change and environmental issues. The management of technological progress. If Russia, China and India develop a united position on these and many other issues, it will carry far greater weight on the international arena than the individual opinions of each of these countries.

Ultimately, the Eurasian Heartland of the 21st century is not just a geopolitical, or a geo-economic concept. It represents, to a certain extent, common or similar views of leading Eurasian states on the future of the world order and a strategy for restoring manageability to a world that is coming apart at the seams. It is a joint sense of global stability and a common readiness to look beyond the narrow horizons of immediate national interests. It is only in the presence of such a community that the new Heartland can become the "axis of history" the illustrious father of British geopolitics and member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom Halford Mackinder wrote about, albeit in an entirely different context and according to a completely different logic.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
South Africa Ready to Discuss Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Russia - Foreign Minister (Южная Африка готова обсудить сотрудничество с Россией в сфере ядерной энергетики - глава МИД) / Russia, February, 2019
Keywords: economic_challenges, cooperation

South Africa will discuss nuclear energy cooperation with Russia during the next high-level bilateral meeting, Lindiwe Sisulu, the South African minister of international relations and cooperation, told Sputnik.

Pretoria said in July that it was committed to expanding its use of nuclear energy was not ready to sign a deal with Russia's Rosatom nuclear corporation on building reactors with 10,000 megawatt capacity and would wait until it could afford the projects.

"I think our president [Cyril Ramaphosa] was opting for a mixed use for nuclear energy and I think they [with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the last meeting] were in complete agreement about that, but it was the timing that was a bit too soon for us to be able to absorb that.

I am not sure when we will be going to Russia, but I am certain when we go to Russia the matter will be on the table," Sisulu said, while answering the question on when South Africa is going to sign an agreement on nuclear cooperation with Russia.

At the 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, held in July of 2018, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that the country's economy faced too many financial constraints in order to proceed with a nuclear program.

A month later, South Africa's Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said that a new Cabinet had shelved the plans of former President Jacob Zuma to increase the use of nuclear energy in the country, opting for the use of coal, gas and wind power instead.
Russia to Remain World's Largest Primary Energy Exporter by 2040 - BP Outlook (Россия к 2040 году останется крупнейшим в мире экспортером первичной энергии - прогноз BP) / Russia, February, 2019
Keywords: economic_challenges, rating

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russia will remain the world's largest exporter of energy resources by 2040, satisfying 5 percent of global demand, and will also retain its position as one of the largest producers of fossil fuels, UK petroleum giant BP said in its annual report out on Thursday.

"Russia remains the world's largest primary energy exporter and the second-largest combined oil and gas producer, exporting 9 Mb/d of oil and 387 Bcm of gas on a net basis by 2040," the company said in its Energy Outlook 2019.

Russia is expected to produce 12.5 million barrels of liquid hydrocarbons daily by 2040, third only to the United States and Saudi Arabia, as well as 851 billion cubic meters of natural gas, second only to the United States, the forecast says.

According to BP, the production of primary energy by Russia in the period between 2017 and 2040 will increase by 21 percent, but the country's share in its global production will decrease to 9 percent from 10 percent.

Russia's domestic energy consumption is projected to increase by 7 percent by 2040, the report says. It is the slowest growth rate within BRICS, since India is expected to boost energy consumption by 156 percent, Brazil by 65 percent, and China by 28 percent.
Will SACKs unstack BRICS? (БРИКС могут ожидать массовые оттоки средств) / India, February, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges

If one were to go by the recent report of the UBS Group, BRICS — the acronym that became synonymous with fast-growing economies in the last two decades among the global investment fraternity — may come under heavy pressure due to massive outflow of funds.

The rejig of portfolio by major index providers will likely to result in some $121 billion in active and passive fund flows shifting across the emerging market universe, a Bloombergreport quoting UBS said.

Investors should prepare for unprecedented opportunities in emerging markets over the next year as new entrants including Saudi Arabia and China's domestic shares are added to global indices, in what UBS Group AG calls relatively 'seismic shifts'.

Global index providers such as London Stock Exchange Group Plc unit FTSE Russell, MSCI Inc and S&P Dow Jones Indices are due to review a series of indices to take on board the so-called SACKs — Saudi Arabia, Argentina, China onshore shares (also called A-shares) and Kuwait.

Investors will look to position themselves, align their portfolios and take account of relatively seismic shifts in emerging market index weights, said the UBS report and added "With over $500 billion of passive fund flows alone tracking the EM segment across MSCI, FTSE and S&P, we expect liquidity shifts to occur." By May 2020, when the last of the current spate of index reviews is set to take place, $37 billion in passive fund flows would have been ploughed into SACKs assets, UBS estimated. Active fund managers, in all probability, will be forced to participate, at the very least, to maintain current tracking error levels to the tune of about $84 billion in incremental active flows over time, UBS predicted.

Among the losers, the biggest active and passive outflows, in aggregate, may be seen among Hong Kong and American Depository Receipts of Chinese stocks ($34.5 billion), South Korea ($15.7 billion) and Taiwan ($12.8 billion) with India, Brazil, South Africa and Russia also likely impacted, according to UBS.

Emkay study

A similar study done by Emkay Global Financial Services has pointed out a potential outflow of around $1 billion from MSCI India index. Constituent stocks of the MSCI Market Index may get impacted, with the proposed changes to computing calculation methodology for foreign ownership limits, as mentioned in a consultation paper released, said Emkay. The outcome of the consultation will be announced on March 29 and if the proposals are accepted, they will be implemented from May.

Once the changes are accepted, this will reduce India's weight in the MSCI Emerging Market index by 0.23 percentage points to 8.55 per cent, it calculated. Stocks such as L&T and ITC would be impacted the most, according to Emkay Global.

Adding fuel to fire

Besides, inflows into domestic equity funds have been witnessing a slowdown lately. Mutual fund houses in January saw the lowest monthly gross inflows since April 2017, but net inflows increased month-on-month due to a fall in redemptions. The equity asset value of top 20 mutual funds dropped 1.6 per cent month-on-month to ₹8.3 lakh crore in January.

With elections around the corner, reports of an exodus from the Indian bourses could worry local investors in the short term at least.

As most of the stocks are already at yearly lows, some even at multi-year lows, retail investors are eagerly waiting for positive news flows to change the current tight situation.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Address by L N Sisulu, MP, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at the occasion of the debate on the President's State of the Nation Address, 13 February 2019 (Выступление министра иностранных дел и сотрудничества Л.Н. Сисулу по случаю прений по вопросу о положении президента в стране, 13 февраля 2019 года) / South Africa, February, 2019
Keywords: speech, global_governance
South Africa

Madam Speaker,
President of the Republic, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa,
Honourable Members:

Honourable Members have had very robust debates, which were very valuable in parts. From where I stand it is important for us to distinguish between criticism that is constructive and can make us better people and that which is just destructive, no matter how attractive. Africa does not see us as separate bits of a warring people but as one country bound by a historic honour to lead the way in that which identifies us as we approach the elections, which is our own intolerance of abuse of human rights and bound by a common purpose to improve the lives of our people. Of course that doesn't mean that we will always agree, but it does mean we are tied by a common destiny. Africa sees hope in us, it associates us with all that they would want to associate with.

Our voice is an important one in the world and our significance grows exponentially. In short, if we were constructive in our criticism we will grow, but if we criticise to distort we do ourselves a disservice. We, all of us have a national responsibility to act in the national interest.

Wherever you go there is no doubt that in the developing world we are increasingly regaining our stature. Our reputation and influence are humbling. The African continent sees in us a symbol of how struggle against injustice can create a different world, how the most negative situation can inspire hope and change the world's discourse. Today we look back on our interventions on the Continent and are very proud of the role we have played and are still required to play.

We return from the African Union Summit and are overawed by the continued belief in us. Almost overnight we are the 1st Vice-Chairperson of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union for 2019 and elected Chairperson of the African Union for 2020 and the APRM for the same year. We were humbled by this confidence in us.

In his State of the Nation address, the President outlined the actions that this government will take to deal with South Africa's social and economic challenges. In the debate yesterday Honourable Ministers indicated the progress that this government has made over the last 25 years to improve the social and economic conditions that the majority of South Africans live under. My colleagues discussed the challenges and proposed strategies to deal with these.

This year is 25 years since South Africa emerged from the dark shadows of international isolation. Today, South Africa is a proud member of the community of nations; our country is respected across the globe for the work that we have and continue to do in the United Nations, the UNSC, African Union, BRICS, G20, SADC and other multilateral fora. All these are possible because of the ANC government that has rescued this country from the debilitating albatrosses of sanctions, sports and cultural isolations and the undesirable position of being a pariah state. Because the apartheid state was correctly described by the United Nations as implementing a 'crime against humanity', it was not possible for the representatives of that rogue state to operate openly and freely in the world. The titanic struggles of our people, assisted by the principled citizens of the world, ensured that we triumphed and set on the path to rehabilitate the country among the global community of nations.

The sentiments of the Freedom Charter were solemnly expressed by the leadership of all political parties through our Constitution when it declared, among other things that we must: "Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations…" We managed to change and remodel our foreign relations to be in line with the Freedom Charter, indeed adhere to our Constitution and fulfil the wishes of Nelson Mandela and many heroes and heroines who sacrificed so that South Africa could be free and join the international community. Through our experience of ending disputes by negotiations and not war we have set a gold standard and therefore much is expected of us.

We have now established our footing and we are proud that through the leadership of the ANC, South Africa has managed to make serious positive impact on the international arena. Among others, we achieved the following:

  • South Africa has a global footprint, in all the regions of the world, demonstrating the acceptance of the country in the community of nations.
  • South Africa has played an important role in the promotion of peace, stability and security, especially on the African continent. We strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiations.
  • We contributed to the transformation of the OAU into the AU and were at the forefront of the formulation and implementation of the African development programme, NEPAD, as part of the ongoing efforts to bring about the African Renaissance.
  • We have played a central role in the sensitive matter of nuclear disarmament, internationally, drawing on our own lessons here at home. In fact the fanfare that the USA is making in its role in the case of Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea pales in significance to the role that South Africa has played in this area.
  • We have played an important role in the United Nations, especially in the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals and its successor, the Sustainable Development Goals. And they are central to our own Agenda.
  • South Africa has played a critical role in the fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerances, including the hosting and giving leadership in the UN Conference on these matters. We have not held back when we were confronted with what we regarded as gross abuse of human rights. At this point we would like to apologise to the country for the glitch that happened on the matter of Myanmar. It will not happen again.
  • Our country is one of the leading nations on matters of climate change, through our role in the UN and other forums. Recently the President has accepted the nomination to co-chair the Global Commission on Adaptation.
  • We continue to be a leading voice against the oppression of women and the need for gender equality. Our voice in a recent conference of Women Foreign Ministers was a passionate call to ensure that women's equality is mandatory in all our work. A recent report of the United Nations states that "Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest regional female entrepreneurial activity rate in the world, with nearly a third of businesses having some female ownership". We are making great strides Honourable Zulu.
  • Through Honourable Dlamini-Zuma South Africa was central in the formulation of the African Agenda 2063.
  • As part of the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 plus China, IBSA and BRICS-Group of Nations, South Africa is helping to recast the global governance system, away from the dominance of the powerful countries of the North, towards an inclusive international order whose focus is on the empowerment of poor, underdeveloped and developing countries. During the recent AU Summit the Secretary-General of the United Nations said that: "In the search for durable solutions to forced displacement, the world – and, indeed, I personally – have drawn constant inspiration from African leadership, African vision and African compassion. Over many years, it has become clear to me: Africa's generosity ... is unmatched".
  • Recently, we were privileged to co-host with the United Nations the Mandela Peace Summit that focused on global peace and security, where more than 100 Heads of State pledged to follow the principled leadership of Mandela. We as a country basked in the glory of what we mean to the world.
All these and many others are the milestones that this government of the ANC is proud to have achieved and upon which we must build and ensure that South Africa continues to be at the pinnacle of addressing and helping to resolve conflicts and wars, especially on the African continent. We will infuse our own ideological interpretation of the world as opposed to being consumers of other's views.

We live in an era of profound global political changes and transitions that have serious implications for South Africa and Africa. These transitions have as their root the retreat into neo-isolationism; the reasserting of crude, bare-knuckled power politics; and the rise of right-wing populist movements and parties. This phenomenon is acutely expressed in different parts of the world. We are also seeing the rise of right-leaning governments influenced by a rejection of immigrants and poor global economic performance.

We have a huge responsibility, all of us to stamp the authority of respect for multilateralism and human rights. We may be geographically and economically a medium sized country, but our combined morality gives the world hope.

Undoubtedly, this highly dynamic and challenging global environment is most times, unpredictable. However, a clear trend has emerged with the shift in the global 'balance of forces' defined by the global power struggle between forces of multi-polarity and those of uni-polarity. We have to be ready at all times to ensure that the global forces fighting for a multi-polar world become dominant and are not weakened by those that pursue the narrow uni-polar politics.

These global dynamics offer us an opportunity to strengthen multilateral systems of governance, capacitating the regional, continental and global multilateral bodies and ensuring that these international fora have the necessary wherewithal to function optimally and become, in reality, the true catalysts for a transformed, better Africa and world.

South Africa has assumed its seat in the United Nations Security Council. This happens in an age of frenetic global contests on a number of fronts, which have profound impact on the African continent and on our country. The manner in which we conduct our work, in the UNSC and other multilateral fora is critical for South Africa to fulfil the injunctions of the Freedom Charter and to live up to our reputation.

Our work at the United Nations Security Council is very important if South Africa, Africa and other developing countries are to reverse the dangerous trends towards unilateralism and protectionism that are being spearheaded by some countries. This we are doing, because we are firmly committed to a strong multilateral system. South Africa believes and would always promote and protect a rules-based international order.

Because most of the issues at the UNSC are those from the African continent, we will not shirk our responsibilities and allow others to dictate terms and conditions on how to resolve the many African challenges of peace and security. This includes doing whatever we can to help defeat terrorism in Africa, the Middle East and every part of the world. However, our most immediate responsibility at the UNSC is the reform of the UNSC itself. Africa believes that by the sheer nature of the work of the UNSC Africa deserves two permanent seats and South Africa is available to represent the Continent.

South Africa will use its seat on the UNSC as well as its chairship of the AU next year, BRICS and other multilateral forums to continue working for strong, timeous interventions to decisively deal with the problems of the world.

Africa remains at the centre of South Africa's Foreign Policy. Our bilateral relations with the Continent are historical and fraternal, with some countries, which date back to the Continent's support for our national liberation struggle in South Africa against apartheid and colonialism. It would be important to underscore that South Africa's foreign policy objectives on the Continent are implemented within a highly dynamic geopolitical environment, which at times is unpredictable.

As we speak democracy is germinating in Africa. Honourable Members it is important to note that in 2019, along with South Africa, sixteen countries on the Continent are set to be holding general elections. On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of South Africa, we would like to take this opportunity to wish these countries well ahead of the elections, and we are optimistic that these elections will be conducted peacefully, in accordance with these countries' respective Constitutional frameworks.

In the short time that we have been in government, we came in as chairperson of SADC and are very proud of our achievements during our Chairship.

We are proud of the support we gave to the DRC to enable them to declare elections in 2018. The former President and government of the DRC complied with the requirements of SADC. We sent a strong observer mission to the DRC to monitor the elections. Their report was very clear that it was a fairly peaceful election. Despite all the challenges there is a newly elected government in place in the DRC. We wish to reiterate our message of support and congratulations to the people of the DRC, for peacefully conducting the landmark and historical Presidential and Legislative elections on 30 December 2018. South Africa stands ready to offer her support to the newly elected President of the DRC, H.E. Mr Felix Tshisekedi, who was inaugurated on 24 January 2019, and welcomes President Tshisekedi's overtures of forming an inclusive government in the DRC.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the request of the DRC Government, has appointed former President Thabo Mbeki as his Special Envoy to the DRC, to assist the country during this transition period.

It will be recalled, that President Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the SADC Facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho, appointed a SADC Facilitation Team led by the now retired and former Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa, Judge Dikgang Moseneke, to assist the Facilitator and work with all stakeholders in Lesotho to ensure the implementation of the SADC recommended reform process in the Mountain Kingdom. The Facilitation Team continues to assist all stakeholders in Lesotho in the reform process.

South Africa remains committed to its principled position, in support of the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to their self-determination and independence, a position based on the resolutions and decisions expressed by SADC, the AU and the United Nations. In demonstrating our ongoing commitment to the struggle of the Saharawi people, South Africa and Namibia will co-host the SADC Solidarity Conference on Western Sahara in South Africa from 25 to 26 March 2019.

We want to emphasise that the solution to the question of Western Sahara should be based on the principle of self-determination and decolonisation, through the holding of a referendum that will lead to its independence. We want to emphasise our commitment to the people of Palestine who continue to suffer under severe repression and denial of basic human rights and we re-iterate our support for a two-state solution.

Zimbabwe has been going through a challenging socio-economic situation, which has inadvertently had an impact on South Africa. We have engaged the Government of Zimbabwe and have a clearer idea of the problem. As such, South Africa stands ready assist the country in addressing these challenges. We would like to express our strong support for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe, in order to allow for economic development in the country.

One of the most remarkable things that happened in our time is in the area of economic diplomacy. The African continent continues with its upward economic growth trajectory, with a projected growth rate of 4% in 2019, and 4.1% in 2020 respectively. The establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in March 2018 will create the world's largest single market of over 1.2 billion consumers, stimulate intra-Africa trade and investment, and grow GDP to US$3.4 trillion. South Africa acceded to the Treaty at the recent AU Summit and looks forward to the industrial and infrastructural investments that will follow.

Slowly Africa is coming into its own. Within the space of less than a year we have seen the end of hostilities between :

  • State of Eritrea and Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  • Republic of South Sudan and State of Eritrea
These are the underpinnings and give us hope that Thabo Mbeki's dream of an African Renaissance will find the root in our time.

We are solving our problems, we are crafting our future and we are determined that in our lifetime Africa will be a continent to reckon with. Now I understand what former President Mbeki's idea of an African Renaissance was about. It is possible, it is within our grasp.

Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. We are not doing too badly. We welcome your suggestions, when they are not destructive and these help us sharpen our tools. There is not a single country that is not facing its own problems. We are solving our problems and many countries look at us with envy out there. We are doing well.

The President indicated further improvements we have notched up. It does not help if we ignore that because these are our successes as a country. Here are a few successes that despite everything else we have heard you say, you have chosen to forget. I am proud that we are looked on as a success.

Mr President, your strong stewardship will be an asset to the African Union.

I thank you.

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