BRICS has vital role in improving lives

China and India put aside their differences for the annual summit of leading developed countries. And the summit’s final declaration revealed a push for free trade and globalisation that is what the world needs in such times of uncertainty

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 September, 2017, 12:34am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 September, 2017, 12:34am

The annual summit in Xiamen of the world’s leading developing economies would have faltered had the two biggest members, China and India, let a recent border dispute get in the way. But President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were only too aware of the importance of the five-member grouping BRICS that also includes Russia, Brazil and South Africa, and put differences aside. The final declaration revealed concessions and a renewed push for free trade and globalisation. It is what the nations and world need in such times of uncertainty.

Xi and Modi have similar visions; they see their countries rising to be great powers this century. Given that China is the world’s second-biggest economy and India the sixth, there is every reason for an optimistic outlook. BRICS is an ideal platform to drive those ambitions, with Brazil’s economy standing globally at number eight, Russia at 11 and South Africa at 35. With developing nations holding the key to global growth, yet being prevented from having the voice they deserve by decades-old Western-dominated institutions, a forum that enables them to work together makes sense. The addition this year of five observers – Thailand, Tajikistan, Egypt, Guinea and Mexico – raised the idea of expansion.

Xi urges BRICS leaders to work together to boost globalisation as summit ends in China

Leaders were told by Xi of the importance of building open economies, fighting trade protectionism and promoting globalisation. He pointed to the difficulties posed in implementing the Paris climate change accord as evidence of the challenges. But ensuring that members’ differences do not derail BRICS’ objectives is as important. The pragmatism of the Chinese and Indian leaders, highlighted by their remarks and notably, a pledge to fight terrorism that included a list of extremist organisations – among them several in Pakistan, China’s ally but India’s avowed enemy – was a welcome sign. Modi showed he is similarly dedicated to BRICS, setting out a desire for the building of people-to-people exchanges.

But agreements at the summit do not mean that the mistrust between China and India no longer exists or that their border dispute has been settled. Much work remains in their relationship, just as Beijing and Moscow also have to ease trade tensions. Such effort is necessary if BRICS is to grow in stature and strength.

Developing countries, China and India foremost among them, offer the global growth that Western economies cannot, or are no longer able or willing, to work for. The existing world order does not appreciate their contributions and remains unwilling to allow a reasonable role in decision-making. BRICS does not want to overthrow existing mechanisms; it aims to work alongside them. It is all about fairness and improving lives.