Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday hosted leaders of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) emerging powers at a summit seeking to boost trade ties and help overcome the bloc’s economic woes.
Modi and the other leaders of the BRICS nations donned traditional Nehru jackets for a group photograph on Saturday night, before a closed-door dinner.
However, the leaders faced the more somber task of working to reinvigorate their bloc when talks got under way yesterday in Goa.
“We hope that when the BRICS discussion happens tomorrow [Sunday], there will be discussion on how we can increase intra-BRICS trade and cooperation. It is an important issue,” Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup told reporters.
BRICS was formed in 2011 with the aim of using its growing economic and political influence to challenge Western hegemony.
The nations, with a joint estimated GDP of US$16 trillion, set up their own bank in parallel to the Washington-based IMF and World Bank and hold summits rivaling the G7 forum.
However, the countries, accounting for 53 percent of the world’s population, have been hit by falling global demand and lower commodity prices, while several have also been mired in corruption scandals.
Russia and Brazil have fallen into recession recently, South Africa only just managed to avoid the same fate last month while China’s economy — the recent engine of world growth — has slowed sharply.
India by contrast is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy in an otherwise gloomy environment and its GDP is expected to grow 7.6 percent in 2016 to 2017.
After a flurry of bilateral meetings with BRICS leaders on Saturday, Modi is said to be seeking the group’s cooperation on enhancing trade, as well as climate change, while Russia is expecting talks on Syria.
However, Modi is also likely to be seeking discussion on regional security, including recent cross-border attacks blamed on militants in Pakistan that have spiked tensions between the neighbors.
Modi is seeking to isolate archrival Pakistan internationally following fury at home over the attacks that have left Indian soldiers dead.
Analysts are skeptical of India’s chances of securing a joint BRICS condemnation given China’s strong diplomatic support for Pakistan and Russia’s efforts to forge closer defense ties with Islamabad.
Taking place at the same time in Goa is a meeting of heads of a seven-nation grouping called the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, loosely based around the Bay of Bengal.
Burmese State Counsellor Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, as well as the leaders of Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal, are set to hold talks focused on trade.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is not attending following the death of the nation’s king.
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