PM Modi and China’s Xi to come face-to-face, virtually! India-China standoff poses a threat to BRICS, says expert

By: |
October 20, 2020 2:52 PM

When the time was appropriate for showing solidarity in dealing with the pandemic, China and India got embroiled in a long border standoff.

Russia will be hosting the summit this year as it is the current chair of the grouping. (File image)

After tension escalated in eastern Ladakh in May 2020, leaders of India and China will come face to face for the first time virtually during the forthcoming 12th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit next month.

“The significance of the BRICS can be gauged from the very fact despite the India-China standoff, the two countries continued to engage in virtual meetings. The bilateral issue of the standoff is unlikely to be raised during the BRICS summit. But cooperation at one level automatically extends to other owing to mutual trust and socialisation,” opines Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU.

Though both External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have participated in meetings with their Chinese counterparts in Moscow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are going to be interacting virtually at the BRICS summit on November 17. Russia will be hosting the summit this year as it is the current chair of the grouping.

Agenda of BRICS Summit 2020

The theme of the meeting is “BRICS partnership for global stability, shared security and innovative growth.”

Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening cooperation among the members will be on top of the agenda.

The BRICS summit was earlier scheduled for July along with the meeting of Shanghai Corporation Organisation (SCO) in July in St Petersburg, but due to the global pandemic, that meeting had to be postponed.

Under the Russian chairmanship of the BRICS, since the beginning of the year, 60 events have been organised so far and most of them have been through video conferencing. The forthcoming summit hosted by Russia is expected to further strengthen the relations between the five-member countries, especially post COVID-19.

According to an official statement from Russia, “the focus has been on multifaceted cooperation between the BRICS nations to contribute to raising living standards and quality of life. All the five members have continued their close strategic partnership on three major pillars – economy and finance, peace and security, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.”

Russia has also played a very significant role in facilitating meetings between defence ministers of India and China both on the sidelines of SCO meeting and S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow.

Expert View

According to Prof Rajan, “The BRICS is passing through a difficult stage of transition. As a bloc of fast emerging states, it demonstrated the capacity to outperform the developed economies of the G-7 in the foreseeable future. At a time when Western economies were thrown into disorder by the financial crisis of 2009, the BRICS kept the global economy afloat with robust growth, and even providing financial assistance to the countries of the European Union.”

“After a decade, however, that phase seems to be over. The economies of the BRICS began to slow down considerably. The pandemic has only accelerated the process. Brazil and Russia are facing a severe economic crisis, while the economies of China, India and South Africa show a clear downslide.”

“The countries of the BRICS benefitted from the existing liberal international order. But what we are witnessing now is a reversal of that order- spearheaded by the United States itself. Protectionism and tariff wars have become common in international trade. The norms of the WTO are blatantly disregarded by the US. The trade war between the US and China will impact other economies in the near future. Other states will also learn from the process and erect similar barriers to protect their economies. The process of decoupling of the economies, if pursued further, will be a painful process. In any case, the revival of the economies of the BRICS would be a slow and tortuous process,” Prof Rajan opines.

When the time was appropriate for showing solidarity in dealing with the pandemic, China and India got embroiled in a long border standoff. Several rounds of negotiations at the military and diplomatic levels have failed to restore the status quo ante. “This poses an existential crisis to the BRICS. India and China have reiterated their faith in the BRICS at present, but if the crisis continues, it would be difficult for the leaders to maintain the same level of commitment,” Prof Rajan concludes.

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