Talk on terror, trade, Bimstec: Five takeaways from the 8th BRICS Summit

Jayanth Jacob,Panaji: New Delhi received qualified support from the BRICS grouping for its efforts to counter

terrorism but there was no consensus on India’s drive to nail Pakistan and its use of terror as an instrument of state policy.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Pakistan the “mother ship of terrorism”, other members of BRICS – including Pakistan’s “iron brother” China – were not willing to sign on the dotted line.
China remained the key factor in other issues too, such as India’s efforts to get backing from BRICS for its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. One positive was the fresh beginning with the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec).
Here are five takeaways from the BRICS and Bimstec meets:
1. Unanimity in fighting terror but not on naming and shaming Pakistan-based jihadi groups: The summit took place weeks after a terror attack on an army camp in Uri killed 19 Indian soldiers. India blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed for the strike and launched a campaign to diplomatically isolate Islamabad. The BRICS Summit declaration used strong language on terror and said states had the responsibility to prevent terror activities from their soil, but it fell short on mentioning any Pakistan-based terror groups. The BRICS communiqué consistently mentions UN-proscribed organisations such as the Islamic State. India needs to work more on the grouping, especially China, to get it to agree to mention Pakistan-based groups such as the JEM, which too has been sanctioned by the UN.
2. India’s NSG bid gets acknowledged but bilateral task with China remains: The BRICS Summit communiqué acknowledged that nuclear energy forms an important part of India’s efforts to fight climate change, and that New Delhi will be better off with a stable regime that guides nuclear trade. These two arguments were touted by India to back up its efforts to get entry into the NSG, an elite club of countries that controls trade in nuclear technology and fissile materials. This is significant but what is crucial now is how India goes about getting the support of China since NSG works by consensus.
3. New bridge with Bimstec: Truth be told, Bimstec, a bloc comprising seven countries (five from South Asia – India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka – and two from Southeast Asia, Thailand and Myanmar) has great importance for both BRICS and India and China individually. The Bimstec region averages 6.5% growth and represents an emerging consumer market, an ideal lookout area for the BRICS Bank to invest in infrastructure. And all these countries, barring perhaps Bhutan, seek greater economic ties with China. For India, these countries are important for strategic and economic reasons because of their geographic location.
4. Move faster, as the economies of BRICs countries are not what they used to be: Trade among BRICS countries account for just 5% of the grouping’s global trade. It took the grouping eight summits to agree to a customs agreement to facilitate trade among members. Talks are yet to begin for a free trade pact. The BRICS grouping consists of politically divergent countries but that shouldn’t come in the way of moving faster on economic cooperation.
5. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s idea of an energy cooperation agency: With falling oil and gas prices, and greater production by Iran, Iraq and African countries and the increase in production of US shale gas, Russia is looking for strong energy partnerships. China and India will need more energy resources to fuel their growth. Though it is an idea by Putin, it is worth following up for a win-win situation for both sellers and buyers.