Rising Powers Face Dark Backdrop at 9th BRICS Summit
India, China, and Russia joined Brazil and South Africa at the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China, on September 3 -5 under the theme “Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future.” Formal goals for the Summit included securing peace, common development, diversity, and improved global economic governance.
Security tensions between and involving the member states prior to the Summit took center stage, including the conflict in Syria, continued missile launches by North Korea, and most pointedly, the Doklam border standoff between India and China. In spite of this dark backdrop to the Summit, the Joint Declaration highlighted the member states’ commitment to cooperation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Ten Noble Commitments” set the tone for India’s efforts to get a clearer statement on terrorism from BRICS. Prior to the BRICS Summit, Modi took a clear shot at Pakistan at the G-20 Summit in July with his eleven point proposal regarding terrorism. The inclusion of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammed, and the Haqqani Network in this year’s BRICS Joint Statement prompted Pakistan’s Foreign Office to reiterate that it “is also seriously concerned about the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in the South Asian region,” and Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan denied that any groups benefited from a “safe haven” within the country.
- The liberal paper Hindustan Times views the dissipation of tension over the Doklam border issue and China’s deference on including the Pakistani terror groups as evidence that “the potential for cooperating more and confronting less remains considerable” between India and China.
- Well known strategic analyst C. Rajamohan is less sanguine on bilateral relations between the two BRICS giants, arguing in the liberal left Indian Express that India now needs to construct a “multipolar Asia” as much as a “multipolar world.”
- The center-right Times of India warns that while the inclusion of Pakistani terror outfits was a “breakthrough,” it is “wrong to see the declaration as a diplomatic ‘victory’ for India.”
- The pro-government Pioneer gave the Chinese credit for including the specific terrorist groups and applauded the BRICS forum for going beyond economics to the more difficult security issues.
As host of this year’s Summit, China initiated “BRICS Plus” and invited Thailand, Egypt, Mexico, Guinea, and Tajikistan as part of a commitment to South-South cooperation. In his closing ceremony speech, President Xi Jinping called for BRICS members to “push for a more just and reasonable international order.” In response to Pakistan’s reaction to the BRICS Joint Statement, Deputy Chinese Head of Mission in Islamabad Lijian Zhao seemed to justify this move by pointing out via Twitter that the groups included in the Joint Statement had also been named by the United Nations Security Council.
- The nationalist Global Times was upbeat on China-India relations, asserting that the quick resolution of the Doklam border standoff was indicative of the spirit of BRICS to “reach beyond differences in political systems and ideologies and seek win-win development.” But it also struck a cautious note stating that with Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, “if both developed and emerging economies continue to turn more inward-looking and back away from coordinating their macro-economic policies, the flickering flame of global economic recovery could be snuffed out.”
- The official state-run People’s Daily was optimistic, heralding the economic successes of the BRICS members’ cooperation and “increasingly influential role in international affairs,” especially through the prospect of expanding membership through BRICS Plus.
In an article published before the Summit, President Vladimir Putin gave special prominence to the conflict in Syria, tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and economic cooperation. Russian Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin was quoted as saying that BRICS was “much more constructive” than the G-20 as all members “listen to each other’s positions” and “come to a common point of view.”
- An editorial published by RT, a government-funded media network, framed the current tension between North Korea and the United States as a “test for how much the BRICS have succeed in forging a multipolar world,” in which Russia and China, with the support of other member states, would be able to add weight to their calls for a “double freeze” in escalating behavior.
- Nationalist news site Pravda illustrated BRICS as a means to resist Western imperialism. A review of Putin’s goals for the Summit hailed the undertaking as “a first step towards the creation of a New World Order.” Pravda also took liberties in its commentary of a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, insinuating he argued the BRICS organization had ended the “domination of the West.”
- In an editorial on Sputnik News, a news outlet established by government-owned agency Rossiya Segodnya, it was argued that BRICS “can replace the US in the role of a global hegemon.”
The embattled Brazilian President Michel Temer met with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the BRICS summit to sign a number of bilateral accords. During the summit, the Brazilian President emphasized the opportunity to deepen cooperation among the BRICS member-states.
- The São Paulo based Estadão reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping requested a more open economic relationship between BRICS countries, criticizing protectionism and defending globalization. He also suggests a bigger investment in infrastructure to allow better integration among the countries. While in China, President Temer recognized the challenges due to the devaluation of commodities along with financial risks, and mentioned that the lower unemployment rate in Brazil is due to the labor reform that was recently approved by the Brazilian Congress.
- The Rio de Janeiro based O Globo stated that President Temer advocated greater business relationships among the BRICS countries. The president spoke about the concession program and highlighted the way that Brazil offers extraordinary business opportunities. Foreign Relations Minister Aloysio Nunes reaffirmed that Brazil is willing to host a New Development Bank agency in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.