Xi creates waves en route to BRICS

By Shastri Ramachandaran
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 14, 2016
Adjust font size:

Chinese President Xi Jinping is blazing a new trail in South Asia even before he reaches Goa on India's west coast for the 8th BRICS Summit on October 15-16. As it is, the BRICS Summit has stirred great interest in world capitals thanks to the focus on Syria heightened by President Xi's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit to discuss the "most pressing issues of regional and international politics." And, on the eve of the BRICS Summit in India, President Xi's landmark visit to Bangladesh – from where he will head to Goa – has triggered a new excitement in the region.

One immediate impact of this so-called "milestone visit" to Bangladesh is that it may push New Delhi to reconsider its regional strategy and put greater effort in scaling up relations with China. Xi's Dhaka visit could well be the catalyst needed to enhance and enrich the content of Sino-Indian interaction. How this happens may be known after the meeting between President Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the BRICS Summit.

Bangladesh has an important strategic, political, economic and diplomatic role given the fact that it is the most prominent player in the BIMSTEC grouping with which BRICS is holding its outreach summit in Goa on October 16. BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) consists of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. Formed in 1997, with its secretariat Bangladesh, under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, BIMSTEC is very proactive in strengthening regional integration and cooperation. President Xi's visit and meetings with Bangladesh's Hasina would not only boost the role of Bangladesh in the region but also give it an edge in BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit.

New Delhi chose BIMSTEC, rather than SAARC, as the partner forum of developing countries for the outreach exercise so that Pakistan is kept out. In the absence of Pakistan, Bangladesh acquires higher visibility and its profile is much enhanced by President Xi's visit which has come as a huge boost to regional ties with a far greater role for Dhaka.

Apart from China's "gift" of more than US$ 40-billion in aid and loans to Bangladesh, President Xi's visit will advance the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative. Bangladesh is an enthusiastic fellow traveler in the ambitious journey for revival of the ancient Silk Route. Bangladesh is important for China to extend B&R projects in South Asia. In return, Dhaka is handsomely rewarded with the two countries signing nearly 25 deals relating to mainly infrastructure development such as electricity, railways, roads, economic zones, manufacturing centers and technology hubs.

Deals on such a scale would take Sino-Bangladesh relationship to a new level. Clearly, Xi would have not travelled for anything less. His visit is the first by a Chinese head of state in 30 years, although he had visited Bangladesh as Vice President in 2010. Since then, ties between the two have grown by leaps and bounds. Today, Bangladesh welcomes Chinese business and investments, and political parties across the spectrum favor close cooperation with China.

Thus, when Sheikh Hasina comes to Goa, fortified by the new partnership with China, she would be setting Bangladesh on a bold, new course with a clear-cut strategy for balancing relations between neighbors (meaning, India) and global powers (read, China).

And, in Goa, the global powers in BRICS would be very much preoccupied with not only the crisis in Syria and the Middle East but, among other issues, also the consequences of Brexit, the upcoming elections in the United States, India-Pakistan tensions arising from the terror attacks in Uri.

BRICS is doing well. Every summit has seen consolidation of its agenda and rise in its international influence. The New Development Bank (NDB) is the jewel in its crown. The informal meeting of BRICS leaders during the G20 summit in Hangzhou in September has already set the tone and direction for the deliberations to come in Goa.

Economic development and growth with equity are the main challenges facing BRICS. Current global conditions and the economic situation of BRICS members as a whole (although China and India are coasting along smoothly despite constraints) are not conducive to hastening the goals of sustainable development.

The situation calls for stronger strategic partnership with more depth, firmer resolve in dealing with common concerns, better regional coordination and clarity for synchronizing positions on global and regional issues including climate change, Syria, security, terrorism, trade barriers, reform of WTO, the UN and international financial institutions. Intensified cooperation between BRICS member-nations is also important for greater cohesion.

As much as there is convergence of interests and views within BRICS, there are also divergences and differences. Denying differences does little to resolve them. Rather, the differences should be reconciled candidly and divergences harmonized where these cannot be reduced. Working more on areas of agreement, as has been done in the last seven summits, is one sure way of going forward.

A transcontinental group like BRICS will always have differences. What can be done is to manage these differences and subsume them under larger, common objectives. This should not only be done but also demonstrated to a world where BRICS is seeking to change the order.

The author is an independent New Delhi-based journalist writing on global affairs for Indian, Chinese and international media. He worked as senior editor and writer with leading dailies in India and China, including The Times of India, The Tribune, China Daily and Global Times.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.


Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter