India's Modi to rally Brics nations as bloc's clout wanes

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a mace presented by Lucknow's mayor Dinesh Sharma (second from left) as Home Minister Rajnath Singh (right) looks on during Vijaya Dashmi or Dussehra festival celebrations in Lucknow, India on Oct 11, 2016.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a mace presented by Lucknow's mayor Dinesh Sharma (second from left) as Home Minister Rajnath Singh (right) looks on during Vijaya Dashmi or Dussehra festival celebrations in Lucknow, India on Oct 11, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

Leaders will discuss growth prospects and other issues at summit in Goa this weekend

NEW DELHI • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will look to reinvigorate the Brics group of emerging nations at a summit this weekend, with India seen as a bright spot in a bloc whose clout has been undermined by economic woes.

Brics - a club made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - 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 gross domestic product (GDP) of US$16 trillion (S$22 trillion), set up their own bank in parallel to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank and hold summits rivalling the Group of Seven forum.

But the countries, accounting for 53 per cent of the world population, have been hit by falling global demand and lower commodity prices, while some have 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.

By contrast, India is now the world's fastest-growing major economy in an otherwise gloomy environment and its GDP is expected to grow 7.6 per cent in 2016-2017.

Indian Foreign Ministry official Amar Sinha said the leaders at the summit would debate "global growth prospects, the role of Brics in leading this global growth and our contributions to it". He also confirmed that regional security and climate change are on the agenda.

Ahead of the summit in the Indian tourist state of Goa, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley warned a gathering of Brics officials yesterday that the growing opposition to globalisation and free trade in Western countries would hurt the world economy.

Echoing concerns by the IMF and others, he said in a speech in Mumbai that he was concerned about protectionist movements in parts of the developed world.

Earlier, Indian Foreign Ministry official Amar Sinha said leaders at the summit would debate "global growth prospects, the role of Brics in leading this global growth and our contributions to it". He also confirmed that regional security and climate change are on the agenda.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's office said "international terrorism and the Syria peace process" would be discussed, as Moscow faces international anger over its air strikes in support of the Assad regime.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Li Baodong said the leaders would "exchange in-depth views on Brics cooperation and other global and regional issues", according to state news agency Xinhua.

Some of the more substantive talks are expected at bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, with Mr Modi expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr Putin separately.

Meanwhile, new Brazilian President Michel Temer will look to such meetings to boost trade ties and help drag his country out of its worst recession in half a century.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'Modi to rally Brics nations as bloc's clout wanes'. Print Edition | Subscribe