The bringing together the two international forums of BRICS and BIMSTEC to a common venue can be heralded as a major coup. On the one hand, it strengthens India’s leveraging power in global affairs and at the same time marginalises Pakistan’s clout as it remains the only other Asian major without a voice. The participation of the heads of state and governments of the five BRICS countries in the summit and at same time the acceptance by the heads of state and government of BIMSTEC (barring Myanmar) for an outreach meeting during the same time has come as a shot in the arm for the Indian Government.
Diplomatically, it’s a coup with India as host and the common factor between BRICS and BIMSTEC is that it can take credit for bringing together Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand as well as Nepal and Bhutan closer through the BRICS platform.
The Ministry of External Affairs analysts believe that the move was aimed with the objective of strengthening technological and economic cooperation among South Asian and South-East Asian countries.
"All the member countries are focused on moving the relationship forward in terms of technical and economic cooperation which would lead to poverty alleviation, result in sustainable development and prosperity in the region. This is a very positive agenda. We would like to stay focused on the positive aspects," Preeti Saran, secretary East, Ministry of External Affairs said in a media briefing before the summit.
A point to note is that the formation of the New Development Bank (NDB) is so far the most major achievement of BRICS. With former ICICI chairman KV Kamath at the helm of affairs of the bank for the next four years, NDB is going to have a bigger say on the part of BRICS countries in the international financial order.
The New Development Bank is being seen as a possible alternative to the IMF-World Bank system. It is believed that the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai, China could emerge as a key player in funding options in some of the BIMSTEC countries which were hitherto dependent on the World Bank and IMF for their development projects.
The NDB intends to assist the developing countries in solving problems faced by them to obtain finance for their development in areas such as agriculture, health, technology, oil and gas exploration and infrastructure development.
The “Das Kadam” (10-steps) initiative of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined in the last BRICS summit at Ufa, Russia, clearly highlighted the roadmap that BRICS nations need to follow. With BIMSTEC countries’ rising needs of investment in infrastructure such as roads, railways, transport, water supply and sanitation, a closer cooperation between the South Asian and South East Nations could emerge.
Interestingly, collectively the 10 BRICS and BIMSTEC nations cover over 57 percent of the global population. This paves the way for the theme of parity in economic growth and poverty alleviation.
The economic elements apart, BRICS has in the last decade managed to redefine global political equations. The BRICS countries have cooperated closely at the United Nations on several occasions towards a more equitable world order.
However, not everything about it has been a smooth sailing affair. While India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan through these forums may be seen as a tactical victory towards dismantling SAARC in the coming years, the Chinese seem to be standing by Pakistan on several issues and may thwart any further attempts by India to target Pakistan economically and politically.
"There should be no double standards on counter-terrorism. Nor should one pursue their own political gains in the name of counter-terrorism," China's Vice Foreign Minister Li Baoding’s recent statement without naming India and Pakistan reflect’s Beijing’s approach. This can trigger a debate at the summit.
China has key strategic investments in Pakistan, especially the economically important China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which will give Chinese goods direct access to global markets through Pakistani ports.
While in wake of the Uri killings and the recent surgical strike in Pak occupied Kashmir by the Indian army, counter terrorism has become the other key agenda of the Goa Summit. Indian efforts in this direction may not find support from Chinese and some other delegations as the main brief of both BRICS and BIMSTEC is towards assisting mutual development by economic cooperation.
Goa also becomes a platform for India to showcase its accomplishments in the BRICS movement under India’s chairmanship of BRICS. It may be recalled that India’s chairmanship which started after the Seventh Summit last year runs up to December 31, 2016, and is on the theme “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Das Kadam initiatives have seen realization in varying degrees. With an exhaustive calendar of 115 events lined up by India as host, the member countries have participated actively in these. Apart from contributing their share capital of 50 Billion US dollars for the New Development Bank some of the subjects discussed by BRICS during India’s chairmanship are setting up a BRICS Agricultural Research Centre, a BRICS Railways Research Centre at Lucknow, India and a BRICS Sports Council at Guwahati in Assam.
India as the most youthful country in the world today with 800 million Indian citizens under the age of 35 seems to be gearing up for shaping the global economy. First of all, India has emerged as a stellar economic performer compared to the rest of the world, and will use the summit to underline its prime status among emerging powers, growing faster than any other major economy.