Security Council reform on the agenda

Within days of presenting his first budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will head for their first big international visit for the BRICS summit in Brazil, with development and the BRICS bank at the top of the agenda.

Mr. Modi will be meeting more than 10 heads of state during the visit from July 13-16, including leaders of the BRICS countries: Russian President Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Jacob Zuma as well as host Brasilian President Dilma Rousseff in Fortaleza for the summit starting July 15.

Focus on meet with Putin, Xi

The BRICS summit will be followed by a trip to Brasilia, where President Rousseff has invited leaders of South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuala and Surinam to meet with them as well. It is unclear how many bilateral meetings Mr. Modi will have, but the focus will be on his meetings with President Xi and President Putin. President Xi is also expected to visit India in September with a host of bilateral announcements and infrastructural deals on the cards.

“At BRICS, we will be hoping for an endorsement of the need for Security Council reform,” said Sujata Mehta, secretary, Economic Relations, who is the PM’s representative to the preliminary talks that begin this week in Fortaleza.

A Fortaleza declaration that will include an announcement on the $100 billion dollar BRICS bank is also expected. Officials said the decision on whether to base the bank in Shanghai, as primary donor China has proposed was still “under negotiation.”

India, Brazil and South Africa have all demanded a permanent Security Council seat, and Russia and China endorsed their claim at the BRICS summit in Sanya, China in 2011. Ms. Mehta said the U.N. agenda for developing “sustainable development goals” for post-2015 will also be discussed.

Apart from the structured agenda for BRICS, the countries, representing a powerful bloc with $24 Trillion GDP and 40% of the world’s population, will discuss international issues like the WTO negotiations and the situation in Iraq and Syria. Apart from South Africa, all the countries have been affected by revelations on the U.S. NSA’s surveillance operations, and have criticised the U.S. for them. Part of Mr. Modi’s challenge, this early in his tenure, will be to ensure the grouping doesn’t give the impression of an “anti-western” coalition, ahead of his big visit to the U.S. in September. “Given the weight of the countries involved, that the fact that we are able to meet in this configuration and take collective positions is in itself its own message,” said Ms. Mehta on Sunday.

In the run-up to the PM’s BRICS engagement, a slew of leaders from Europe and the U.S. have visited India, including U.S. Senator John McCain and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. High level delegations of the British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, as well as U.S. top diplomat Bill Burns are expected this week.

Mr. Modi’s international mission, will however, miss the customary glare of the private media, something The Hindu reported first. In a sharp departure from the past, the PM will only take a press entourage of agencies and official media.

Official confirmed on Sunday that Doordarshan, AIR, Photo division, ANI, PTI and UNI are the only organisations on board Air India-1, bringing down the number of media personnel travelling with the PM from 34 to 6. Officials wouldn’t confirm if the extra seats would be used instead for the BRICS business delegation.

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