The geopolitical takeaway from Goa BRICS 2016

By Sumantra Maitra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 21, 2016
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The biggest meeting at the BRICS summit was between India and China. BRICS as a block has struggled lately to come out with a single coherent message, because, other than India and China, all the other members are either economically struggling or are entangled in geopolitical conflicts. One could easily have guessed that the Indo-Chinese meeting would be the biggest. Earlier, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A total 16 agreements were signed, including significant deals in the fields of defense, energy, nuclear power in the Kudenkulam plant as well as shipbuilding and space research and collaborations.

But all eyes were on the meeting between China and India. This comes at a significant time with growing Indo-Pak tensions, and China was supposed to be a mediator. PM Modi was reported as saying, "My meeting with President Xi Jinping was fruitful. We discussed various aspects of India-China ties." China was supposed to be critical of Indian protectionism, which Beijing believes is a hindrance in more bilateral ties. As both Indian and Chinese analysts understand, the trade deficit won't just go away by seeking greater market access, as the two countries are in different stages of industrialization.

India, China and Russia, the three main powers within BRICS, had some serious issues where they are still trying to find convergence. They are similar in their outlook of non-interventionism on principle. On political economy as well, all three powers like to have some sort of state control over their serious interests. They are also looking to diversify the world's economy but the U.S.-India entente has been a substantial cause of concern for both Beijing and Moscow. Moscow recently had military exercises with Pakistan, which, given the security climate, were not appreciated by India. On the other hand, China and India had tough times with regards to nuclear suppliers group and what's perceived as Chinese support of Pakistan, which India sees as being an unlikely source of alliance. And frankly, as reports in Indian analytical circles suggest, other than China, India doesn't take any other BRICS countries very seriously when it comes to future economic growth.

This time, therefore, the focus was on China, and India made it clear that the two biggest Asian powers need to see eye to eye on terror. Ahead of President Xi's visit, China also sounded conciliatory notes saying the Elephant and the Dragon can peacefully coexist, something that the Indian side also agrees to in principle. The establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank also underlines similar economic interests. Overall, there is a trend of increasing convergence.

But the biggest geopolitical message that will resonate from this otherwise primarily economic group was the joint opposition to any sort of foreign interventionism in sovereign affairs. At the time of extreme geopolitical tensions, that should be a strong takeaway.

Sumantra Maitra is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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