Current Affairs - Bilateral, Regional And Global Groupings
On 24th August, the BRICS group, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, extended invitation to six additional countries during its Johannesburg summit.
- The Six New Countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates will join the grouping as new members on 1st January, 2024.
- Strengthening Global South Representation: With the new members, it will represent nearly half the world's population, including major oil producers like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran.
- Rationale behind New Members: The expansion of BRICS is driven by two factors: the desire for a platform to express anti-US sentiment and the aspiration for multipolarity, enabling Global South nations to showcase solidarity.
- Challenging Geopolitical Landscape: While the economic performance of BRICS has varied, geopolitical dynamics, like the Ukraine conflict and the China-Russia partnership, have propelled the alliance as a counterbalance to Western-centric forums such as the Group of 7 and the World Bank.
- China's Role in Expansion: The invitation of new members signals China's objective to establish BRICS as an influential and diverse alliance.
- Iran's Noteworthy Inclusion: The inclusion of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and regional rivals in the same group highlights China-Russia's influence.
- China's role in brokering peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, coupled with its oil trade with Saudi Arabia, demonstrates China's sway.
- Implications for India: India's participation in both the G7 summit and the BRICS expansion demonstrates its nuanced foreign policy approach.
- While China desires BRICS to be anti-western, India seeks to maintain it as a non-western entity.
- Diverse Interests of New Members: Among the new members, India values partnerships with all, yet concerns arise about the potential for BRICS to become more pro-China, potentially marginalizing India's interests and voice.
- BRICS Overview: BRICS, established in 2009 and headquartered in Shanghai, is an acronym representing a coalition of the world's prominent emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (which joined in 2010).
- Origin and Coinage of "BRIC": The term "BRIC" was introduced by British Economist Jim O'Neill in 2001 to categorize the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
- BRICS Composition: BRICS unites five influential developing nations, encompassing 41% of the global population, 24% of the worldwide GDP, and 16% of global trade. It is projected that by 2028, BRICS will constitute 35% of the global economy.
- Rotational Chairmanship: The leadership of BRICS rotates annually among its members in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S. Presently, South Africa holds the chairmanship for the year 2023.
Key BRICS Initiatives
- New Development Bank (NDB): The establishment of NDB facilitates funding for infrastructure and sustainable development projects.
- Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA): CRA provides financial support to member countries during economic crises.
- BRICS Payment System: This system aims to facilitate cross-border transactions and reduce reliance on external payment mechanisms.
- Customs Agreements: Collaborative efforts to enhance trade facilitation and eliminate trade barriers.
- Remote Sensing Satellite: The initiative involves the development and launch of a remote sensing satellite for earth observation and resource management.
Challenges Faced by BRICS
- Encountering Multifaceted Issues: BRICS has encountered a series of challenges, marked by conflicts like China's assertiveness in eastern Ladakh, causing India-China relations to reach a historic low.
- The strained relations between China and Russia with Western nations, along with internal struggles in Brazil and South Africa, further compound the challenges.
- Diverse Composition: Critics highlight the heterogeneity of BRICS nations as a potential threat to the group's sustainability due to varying interests among its diverse member countries.
- China's Dominance and Trade Imbalance: A prevailing perception is that the group's members engage in more trade with China than with each other, leading to concerns that BRICS could be manipulated to serve China's interests.
- Revamping Global Governance: Amidst global slowdown, trade conflicts, and protectionist tendencies, BRICS faces the critical task of shaping a new global governance model.
- Efficacy and Regional Support: While BRICS has achieved some successes, there are limitations. China's economic ascent has caused an internal imbalance within the group.
- Moreover, BRICS has not effectively mobilized support from the Global South to advance its agenda.
On 21st August, India and ASEAN nations reached an agreement to reevaluate their free trade agreement for goods.
- Roadmap for Review: The committee has also finalized the terms of reference for the upcoming negotiations. These discussions took place ahead of an ASEAN-India Economic Ministers’ meeting held in Indonesia.
- Upcoming Summit: The review of AITIGA will be a focal point at the India-ASEAN Leaders’ Summit scheduled for early September.
- Demand of Indian Businesses: Initiating the review process promptly is expected to make trade more facilitative and mutually advantageous.
- Timeline for Review: The ministers have agreed to adhere to a quarterly negotiation schedule with the aim of concluding the review by 2025.
- Significance: This review is anticipated to boost and diversify trade while addressing the existing trade imbalances between India and ASEAN.
On 20th May 2023, Indian Prime Minister participated in the third in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit held in Hiroshima, Japan, along with Prime Minister of Australia, Prime Minister of Japan, and President of the United States of America.
The Quad Leaders’ Vision Statement- “Enduring Partners for the Indo-Pacific” was released during the summit.
Initiatives announced during the summit include:
- Clean Energy Supply Chains Initiative: Clean Energy Supply Chains Initiative would facilitate research and development and support the Indo-Pacific’s energy transition.
- In addition, the Quad Principles of Clean Energy Supply Chains were approved to guide engagement with the region on clean energy supply chain development.
- Quad Infrastructure Fellowships Programme: The programme will support policy makers and practitioners in the region to design, build and manage sustainable and viable infrastructure in their countries.
- Partnership for Cable Connectivity and Resilience: It aims to leverage Quad’s collective expertise in design, manufacturing, laying and maintenance of undersea cables to secure and diversify these critical networks.
- ORAN Deployment in Palau: The leaders announced their support for the deployment of Open Radio Access Network (ORAN) in Palau, marking the first such deployment in the Pacific region.
- They also released the ORAN Security Report to support industry investment in open, interoperable and secure telecom platforms.
- Quad Investors' Network: A private sector-led platform called the Quad Investors' Network has been launched to facilitate investments in strategic technologies.
- Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness: The leaders welcomed progress of the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, which was announced during the previous Quad Summit last year in Tokyo.
- Data Sharing Partners in South East and the Pacific: They noted that data sharing with partners in Southeast Asia and the Pacific under this programme is underway and would soon include partners in the Indian Ocean Region.
- Indian Prime Minister highlighted how India’s approach to demand-driven development cooperation with the region was contributing to these efforts.
- The leaders also emphasized the need to preserve the integrity of the United Nations (UN), its Charter, and its agencies. The leaders agreed to maintain regular dialogue and sustain the momentum of Quad engagement.
On 14th May, 2023, the G7 Ministerial meeting on Health Innovation was held in Nagasaki, Japan. Health Ministers of the G7 countries and invited “Outreach 4” countries of India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand participated in the meeting.
The meeting was held to discuss the priorities, implementation and utilization of health innovation like digital health towards ensuring Universal Health Coverage.
Key points of India's address are:
- Use of Technology in Health Service Delivery: Use of technology & Digital Health Tools are an enabler & equalizer which can facilitate strengthened health service delivery and aid in achievement of Universal Health Coverage.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has catalysed the use of technology in health service delivery and also highlighted the need to focus on an enabling framework to bridge the digital divide across the countries, specifically amongst low-and-middle-income countries.
- Co-WIN: India’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery platform, Co-WIN has monitored the administration of over 2.2 billion vaccine doses across the length and breadth of the country and monitored not only cold chain management but also facilitated citizens and vaccinators in administration of the vaccines besides providing a QR code based digital vaccine certificate.
- eSanjeevani: This national telemedicine platform, launched during the pandemic, has already coordinated more than 115 million free of cost consultations to the citizens, making it the world’s biggest telemedicine platform.
- Digital Health Tools: Artificial Intelligence, smart wearables & big data analytics can aid precision medicine, personalized healthcare, genomics, and Clinical Decision Support Systems, ensuring the right treatment to the right person at the right time.
- India has already taken a policy decision to provide all such digital tools free of cost to the world as Digital Public Goods.
- Digital Health as a Priority: India’s G20 Presidency has brought digital health as a specific priority and has proposed the convergence mechanisms of all digital initiatives across the world through formation of Global Initiative on Digital Health housed at World Health Organization’s headquarter.
- This initiative with a network-of-network approach will be crucial in bridging the global digital divide and urged the support of G7 countries for the proposed initiative in this regard.
On 12th May, 2023, the 8th meeting of Agriculture Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member countries was held through video conferencing.
During the meeting, India said it gives importance to its relations with SCO in promoting multilateral, political, security, economic and people-to-people interactions.
The key points of India’s address are:
- Smart Agriculture Project: Under the chairmanship of India, SCO member countries adopted the Smart Agriculture project.
- Cooperation for Food and Nutrition Security: India said in order to maintain the normal functioning of the food supply chain in the present conditions, there is a need for close contact and cooperation between various countries for food and nutrition security.
- Budget Allocation: The budget allocation for agriculture and allied sectors in India has increased more than 5 times in 10 years from 2013-14.
- India’s Performance: India said it has performed well in the agriculture sector, contributing to global food security with food grain production, registering a significant growth in exports, and exports of agricultural and allied products have crossed Rs 4 lakh crore.
- Sharing Best Practices: India, with its comprehensive development path in the agriculture sector, will continue to share its best practices and build capacities with other countries, bilaterally as well as in collaboration with international organizations, so that they too become self-reliant and food-secure nations.
- Role of Research: The rich agricultural research has played an important role in solving the issue of food security, improving the income of farmers and agriculture workers and also for the sustenance of the people in India.
- Technology and Innovation: Efforts are being made by the Government of India to make the country self-reliant in the agriculture sector with concerted efforts in innovation, digital agriculture, climate smart technologies, development of high yielding, biofortified varieties, and agricultural research.
- Digitization: Under National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture, Agristack and India Digital Eco-system for Agriculture, most of the schemes are being digitized and brought on a single platform, so that farmers can easily access these schemes and take benefits from them.
On 4th & 5th May, 2023, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Ministers’ meeting was held in Benaulim, Goa.
The meeting focused on stepping up economic cooperation, including national currency payments for mutual trade.
The key points of deliberations are as follows:
- Proposal for National Currency Payments: The proposal for national currency payments came from Central Asian members and was prompted by the Ukraine war and sanctions imposed on Russia, a founding member of the organisation.
- Economic And Cultural Cooperation: During India's presidency, the country is bringing issues of economic and cultural cooperation to the SCO's agenda, along with traditional security and terrorism issues.
- Induction of Iran and Belarus: The meeting also discussed the induction of Iran and Belarus as full members and considered applications for observer status for Kuwait, UAE, Myanmar, and Maldives to join the grouping.
- National Payments Collaboration: A final decision on all points, including national payments collaboration, will be taken at the SCO Heads of State Summit in July.
On, April 28, 2023, India hosted the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers' meeting in New Delhi.
The key points of deliberations were as follows:
- Terrorism: India urged member states to collectively root out terrorism and hold its supporters accountable.
- India emphasized that any kind of terrorist act or support to it is a major crime against humanity and that peace and prosperity cannot coexist with this menace.
- Regional and International Security: The participants discussed issues of regional and international security under the charter of SCO, and expressed their "collective will to make the region secure, peaceful, and prosperous".
- China's Statement on Bilateral Talks: China, in a statement on bilateral talks between Chinese Defence Minister and Indian Defence Minister, said that the two countries share far "more common interests than differences" and urged both sides to take a long-term view, place the border issue in an appropriate position in bilateral relations, and promote the transition of the border situation to normalized management.
- Peace and Security: India emphasized that it believes in maintaining peace and security based on UN Charter provisions, and is committed towards defence capacity building of SCO member states for shared security interests.
On 21st April, 2023, India’s External Affairs Minister co-chaired the 4th India-CARICOM Ministerial Meeting with his Jamaican counterpart in Georgetown, Guyana's capital.
- The External Affairs Minister also had separate bilateral meetings with counterparts from Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Grenada, and Barbados.
- The participants discussed wide-ranging India-CARICOM sectoral cooperation, including in Trade & Economy; Agriculture & Food Security; Health & Pharma; Energy & Renewables; Infrastructure, ICT & eGovernance; Development Partnership & Capacity Building; Higher Education; Culture and P2P domains.
- They also exchanged views on vital issues of Climate Change & Disaster Resilience; Counter Terrorism; Reformed Multilateralism and closer cooperation at multilateral forums.
- The participants agreed on follow-up steps, including holding the second Joint Commission Meeting this year.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is a grouping of twenty countries: fifteen Member States and five Associate Members.
- CARICOM came into being on 4th July, 1973, with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas by Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.
- The Treaty was later revised in 2002 to allow for the eventual establishment of a single market and a single economy.
- CARICOM rests on four main pillars: economic integration; foreign policy coordination; human and social development; and security.
On 12th and 13th April, 2023, the second meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) was held in Washington DC on the margins of the 2023 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
- Objective: The objective of this FMCBG meeting was to deliberate on the progress made by the various workstreams of the G20 Finance Track on the deliverables that were tasked to them by the Ministers and Governors in the February G20 FMCBG Chair’s Summary and Outcome Document and to seek guidance on the way forward.
- Key Challenges: The members discussed the key challenges to the global economic outlook, including the war in Ukraine, food and energy insecurity, climate change, and recent risks to financial stability.
- Members agreed that the G20 can contribute to building a common understanding on fostering a conducive environment for global economic recovery, and ensuring that the most vulnerable countries and sections of the population are adequately protected.
- Debt Crisis: On the debt agenda, discussions focused on strengthening multilateral coordination towards addressing the increasing debt distress in low-income and vulnerable middle-income countries. Ministers and Governors reiterated the need to swiftly complete the ongoing debt treatments under the Common Framework and beyond.
- SDGs: The discussions also focussed on the mobilisation of resources for climate change, the role of the multilateral financial institutions in catalysing private finance flows for Sustainable Development Goals and the role of the G20 in scaling up and encouraging wider adoption of social impact investment instruments.
- Crypto-assets Ecosystem: The Members also deliberated on the macroeconomic and financial challenges posed by the crypto-assets ecosystem and exchanged views on potential global policy responses to crypto-assets, taking into account the risks, especially to Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs).
- Financial Inclusion: On financial inclusion, discussions focused on leveraging Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) for financial inclusion and productivity gains.
- Taxation: The Members discussed the need for coordinated efforts toward effective implementation and wider adoption of the two-pillar international tax package.
- The progress achieved during the 2nd G20 FMCBG meeting will inform the discussions during the 3rd G20 FMCBG meeting which will be held in July 2023 in Gandhinagar, India, and subsequently the Leaders’ Summit scheduled to be held in New Delhi on September 8-9, 2023.
On March 3, 2023, the Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held in New Delhi to discuss various issues related to regional security and cooperation.
- The Quad discussed the commitment of India, Australia, Japan, and the United States to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
- The meeting reaffirmed the principles of freedom, rule of law, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and peaceful dispute settlement, freedom of navigation and over flight.
- The meeting also opposed any unilateral attempt to change the status quo.
- The Quad seeks to support the region through practical cooperation on contemporary challenges, including: health security, climate change, critical and emerging technologies, infrastructure, and connectivity.
- The Quad ministers committed to supporting Pacific Island countries and strengthening the ASEAN-led architecture through: Cooperation with the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and emphasizing upon the rules-based international order, including the UN Charter.
- The ministers also stressed the importance of respect for sovereignty consistent with international law.
- The importance of peace and security in the maritime domain and countering terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations.
- Strengthening the ASEAN-led Architecture. The Importance of Rules-based International Order, Including the UN Charter
- Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism in All Forms and Manifestations.