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BRICS: PM to bat for joint strategy

April 13, 2011 11:07 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Sanya, China on Tuesday at the Phoenix International Airport to attend the BRICS Summit that will see the formal induction of South Africa as the fifth member of the emerging economies group, which already has Brazil, Russia, India and China as members.

Singh received a warm ceremonial welcome at the Sanya airport by the Assistant Foreign Minister of China, Wu Hailong, who is also the Chinese Sherpa for the Summit. The Indian Sherpa  is Manbir Singh, secretary, economic relations in the Ministry of External Affairs.

The significance of the group, which will hold its third annual meeting on Thursday, is that it accounts for about 43 per cent of global population and 25 per cent of the world's gross domestic product on a purchasing-power-parity basis.

At the Summit, to be held at the scenic coastal town of Sanya in China's Hainan island, Singh is expected to moot the idea of a co-ordinated approach to key global issues such as sustainable development, balanced growth, energy and food security, reform of international financial institutions and balanced trade.

Singh is of the view that the traditional sources of economic growth in different economies are still under stress, even as fresh uncertainties have emerged in the wake of recent developments in different parts of the world, including West Asia.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the proposed agenda for the BRICS Summit will have a preponderance of international economic issues, including the reform of the international currency system, volatility in commodity prices, the Doha round of international trade talks, anti-protectionist policies and global economic issues figuring at the Group of Twenty forum, where all the BRICS countries are also present. In addition, the day-long summit will review the general international situation and discuss international development issues such as the millennium development goals, climate change, sustainable development and cooperation among the BRICS countries.

The highlight of Singh's  three-day visit to Sanya, however, is not the day-long Summit, but the four bilateral meetings with the heads of the four other BRICS member countries. He will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday.

Both meetings are significant in the light of India's current engagement with the two countries – one that has become the world's second-largest economy and the other which, with its oil resources, is hoping to become a member of the developed countries' club, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Singh's talks with Hu will take place against the backdrop of a growing perception in India that its relations with China have grown steady in the last few months.

The following day, after the conclusion of the BRICS Summit, Singh will interact with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and South African President Jacob Zuma in two back-to-back bilateral meetings.

Officials accompanying the prime miniter's delegation said the BRICS Summit's discussion agenda would be largely set by the China, which has proposed a "broad vision and shared prosperity" as the theme. It has suggested four sub-themes for discussion. These are: General discussion on the current international situation, international economic and financial issues, international development issues and co-operation among the BRICS countries.

India Inc upbeat on meet

The response from India Inc to the invitation to take part in the second meeting of the BRICS Forum has exceeded all expectations. As many as 45 Indian business leaders have decided to camp at Sanya for the two-day meeting starting Wednesday.

Tata Consultancy Services vice chairman S Ramadorai, Rajan Bharti Mittal, who is heading Bharti group's retail foray, and Harsh Mariwala, chairman of Marico, are among the 15 top business leaders who will join their counterparts from China, Brazil, Russia and South Africa to discuss what should be done to promote business among the world's most powerful group of emerging economies.

The country heads of Indian companies' China ventures, including those of Reliance Industries, Lupin and Dr Reddy's, are also taking part in this meeting.

The Indian delegation is led by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma. According to E B Rajesh, the head of the China office of the Confederation of Indian Industry, the BRICS business forum will look at four key issues.

These are: Trade promotion, financial co-operation, energy conservation and technological innovation. The deliberations will be presented to the BRICS Summit for consideration.

Chinese special

The BRICS Summit at Sanya has a special offering. The Chinese have proposed a meeting of trade ministers.

This is the first time that the BRICS Summit is being preceded by a trade ministers' meeting. India's Commerce and Industries Minister, Anand Sharma, was on the prime minister's special aircraft that took him to Sanya for the Wednesday meeting.

Sharma said one of the items on the agenda was to explore how the Doha round of trade negotiations could be expedited and brought to its logical conclusion.

A K Bhattacharya in Sanya (China)