Blaming “selfish actions” by western countries for the economic crisis arising due to sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the strengthening of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping with other countries pursuing an “independent policy” at a virtual summit of BRICS leaders hosted by China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders discussed the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan on Thursday.
While PM Modi focussed on the importance of BRICS in the post-pandemic global economic recovery, Chinese President Xi Jinping too called on members to reject “Cold war mentality” and oppose what he called the US and EU’s “unilateral sanctions”.
The Beijing summit declaration said that BRICS countries recalled their national positions as expressed at the United Nations over the past few months.
“We support talks between Russia and Ukraine. We have also discussed our concerns over the humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine and expressed our support to efforts of the UN Secretary-General, UN Agencies and ICRC to provide humanitarian assistance in accordance with the basic principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality,” the BRICS declaration said.
While discussing terrorism and terror cooperation, the BRICS countries said that only the UN Security council has the authority for imposing sanctions.
On Afghanistan, BRICS countries called for “Afghanistan authorities to achieve national reconciliation through dialogue and negotiation, and to establish a broad-based and inclusive and representative political structure”, adding that Afghan territory must not be used to shelter terrorists or attack any other country.
This was the first such meeting of the leaders since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and comes just days ahead of the G-7 summit in Germany, which PM Modi and South African President Ramaphosa will also attend, where western countries are expected to deliberate on tighter sanctions against Russia.
Addressing the BRICS summit’s inaugural meeting, which will be followed by meetings on Friday, an outreach session with a number of “BRICS plus” countries, and key agreements to be signed, PM Modi said that BRICS countries have had a “very similar view of the governance of the global economy”, and hailed “practical” cooperation in a number of areas including the New Development Bank, a satellite agreement, a Covid Research and Development Centre set up in South Africa, and the mutual recognition of Pharma products including COVID vaccines and medicines within BRICS countries.
While PM Modi has held no direct bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi since the PLA transgressions in April 2020, India and China have attended several multilateral meetings of the BRICS, SCO and G-20 together. The PM also made no mention of cooperation against terrorism in his opening remarks, significant given China’s decision to block an India-US proposal to designate LeT deputy chief Abdul Makki at the UN Security Council last week.
In his remarks, Mr. Putin made a veiled attack on the US and European countries for “using financial mechanisms”, and to “shift their own mistakes” in economic policies to the rest of the world. “Only on the basis of honest and mutually beneficial cooperation can we look for ways out of this crisis situation, which developed in the global economy because of the ill-conceived, selfish actions of certain states," Mr. Putin said.
Echoing the charge, Mr. Xi said that the BRICS grouping of emerging economies in the developing world should encourage “true multilateralism” in the world and “urge the world to reject the Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation, oppose unilateral sanctions and abuse of sanctions, and reject the small circles built around hegemonism by forming one big family belonging to a community with a shared future for humanity.”
Beijing has tightened cooperation with Moscow in the months following the invasion of Ukraine, and committed to a “no-limits” partnership. China has also abstained or voted in support of Russia on a number of Western-led resolutions at the United Nations, where India, Brazil and South Africa have also abstained. Meanwhile, China and India have emerged as the biggest buyers of Russian oil and coal, which has been banned by the US, and purchases restricted by the European Union in the past four months.
In his remarks, Mr Xi suggested a 4-point cooperation plan for BRICS countries and those from Asia, Africa and South America who will take part in proceedings tomorrow including the need for “equity and justice” in multilateral organisations, a strong, joint Covid response, pooling strength for economic recovery and keeping supply chains secure, and more investment in poverty alleviation, education, health and food security.