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BRICS to focus on Syria, Iran today

Russia, China against any bid to put the five nations under threat of intervention

On Thursday morning, the strategic community around the world will be focussed on the outcome of the hour-long restricted meeting between the heads of government of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) to see if they can forge an effective and common approach to the problems facing Syria and Iran.

> Graphic: The BRICS countries

Russia and China have made it clear that they will press for opposing any West-led attempt to put these countries under the threat of intervention. But the stand of the other three BRICS members will have to be reconciled with that of Russia and China. India opposes foreign military intervention in principle but has broken ranks with the two by opting to vote with the West on Syria.

Brazil under the new President, Dilma Rouseff, imprisoned by an earlier military junta and whose father as a Communist leader was forced to flee Bulgaria to escape persecution, has turned around the country's approach to human rights. Brasilia now opposes any prolonged attempt by a regime to indulge in prolonged violence.

And South Africa has tended to succumb to hustling by the West as happened last year when it was in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and inclined to side with other BRICS countries on Libya. But sustained pressure from the West ensured that South Africa, along with Nigeria, the other African nation in the UNSC at that time, supported the West.

On Iran, the West is pressuring both China and India on reducing oil imports from Tehran at a time when they are in no position to do so because of mounting energy needs. But a common position on Iran will be easier to formulate after the BRICS Trade Ministers' statement on the summit eve.

The Ministers were tactful but left no doubt where their collective sympathies lay. “We respect U.N. resolutions...at the same time the U.N. resolution does not forbid countries to engage in trade in essential commodities and what is required for human good… Therefore, we look at things...in very pragmatic manner and remain within the ambit of the U.N. resolution,'' said Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

But on Syria, China which describes BRICS as on the way to becoming “a major power in the process of solutions to the world's political problems,” is reconciled to the leaders not concurring in entirety.

Speaking to journalists in Beijing last week, Li Kexin, Foreign Ministry's senior negotiator for BRICS, admitted that while the five nations wanted a peaceful Middle East, they can have different ideas on specific approaches. “It doesn't matter. This is not a formal UNSC resolution. We will be trying to find a common political ground on the Syrian issue,” added Mr. Li.

Both Syria and Iran assume importance even though they are essentially topical issues because it was only at the last summit that BRICS introduced a political element by commenting on Libya.

While India has officially not said anything on its approach to Syria at the BRICS summit, Russia has expressed concern over “foreign interferences” in domestic affairs of sovereign countries. Like China, it downplays its differences of approach with India.

“It is a sovereign decision of India and we respect that. But we vetoed [the Syria resolution in the UNSC] because we oppose outside imposition on any sovereign country,” said Russian Ambassador Alexander Kadakin.

“We are worried at the U.S. and Israeli threats to use force against that country. A new war in the region, already overburdened with armed conflicts and acute crises, will rapidly deteriorate the situation in the vast Asian region, will entail shocks in the oil markets and, therefore, in the entire global economy,” he said.

The BRICS summit is expected to sign two enabling agreements on setting up a development bank and local credit facility.

“Two agreements would be signed during the summit. These emanate from decisions taken in Brasilia. These are framework agreements arrived after banks of all five countries met twice. These are enabling agreements subject to national laws,”said Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (ER) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 5:46:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/brics-to-focus-on-syria-iran-today/article3255480.ece

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