Responding to questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting India to attend the G-20 summit next month, the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of Russian Embassy in India, Roman Babushkin, said on Friday that a decision on the “level” of delegation for the summit has not been taken yet.
“The decision has not yet been taken. All options are on the table,” Mr. Babushkin said speaking at a discussion organised by the India Foundation.
Speaking at the discussion, he said that BRICS members have been taking consistent steps to switch to settlements in national currencies for quite sometime now and working out new payment mechanisms. In this regard, he referred to the proposal of Brazilian President Lula de Silva, about the creation of a single BRICS currency. He also pointed to last year’s summit, where Mr. Putin spoke about an international reserve currency based on the currency basket of the BRICS countries and said, “These ideas demonstrate new tendencies. However, it is clear that a lot of aspects around that require in-depth study.”
To a question from The Hindu on discussions for a common BRICS currency, Mr. Babushkin said it is a matter of national sovereignty which is why it is “natural to cooperate under the framework of the BRICS”. “It is an important part of the agenda to promote settlements in national currencies, in order to facilitate trade, to be independent from Western financial structures that can use their mechanisms as a tool to impose unilateral sanctions to freeze assets,” he said.
On a timeline for this, the DCM said the process is ongoing and depends on how countries would combine their visions, but more importantly the process should be based on the principle of consensus. “In any case, the issues of building an effective independent settlement and payment infrastructure are among the priorities of BRICS in the financial track. Consultations are going on,” he stated.
Traditionally, BRICS agenda closely corresponds to G-20 priorities, including the need to consolidate the efforts and interests of emerging economies and empower the countries of the Global South, Mr. Babushkin said. “The growing potential of BRICS combined with our like-minded vision for sustainable and predictable multipolarity is by itself a solid reason for us to move ahead towards real democratisation of global governance,” he said, stating that Russia would favour the pre-pandemic practice of regular meetings of BRICS leaders on the sidelines of G-20 summits. However, asked if such a meeting is scheduled at the upcoming summit, he said it depends on the agenda of the Presidency.
Stating that BRICS is “attractive “for other countries, which do share “same values and principles”, Mr. Babushkin said it’s “high time” to respond to such desire of at least more than 20 aspirants.
Speaking on the aspect of including more members into BRICS, former Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, distinguished fellow at Gateway House in Mumbai, said each member country in the grouping has a veto on any new member and has to be based on consensus. We have done a detailed study and about 22 countries are interested in joining BRICS, he added.
Mr. Babushkin talking of alternative instruments, which are “supposed to be safe” from “politicised” western architecture, including in the context of the “de-dollarisation trend”, said one of the most important achievements of BRICS is the New Development Bank (NDB) which was launched in 2014. To date, the NDB’s loan portfolio includes 90 projects amounting to more than $30 billion, he said.
Referring to the NDB, Zorawar Daulat Singh, adjunct fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, questioned if the NDB in some way can finance projects in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which is not getting funding from regular institutions due to fear of Western sanctions. On this Mr. Babushkin said this may be taken up by BRICS at a later stage.