With the role of BRICS countries touted crucial in shaping the post-pandemic world order, willingness and competence can guide India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reap the benefits of global governance it extended during Covid-19.
With the world facing the onslaught of ensuing COVID19 pandemic, entropy at the global level is at an all-time high. A world that was failing categorically on climate change, communal clashes, equality, ethnic tensions, and terrorism looks forward to India playing a bigger role, a concept considered over-idealistic with regards to India’s capacity to stand tall by some if not many.
Present geopolitical context looks at four separate factors for the issues the world is facing: Coronavirus, rise of China, retrenchment of the Western world order led by the United States, and the growing power of populism and dictatorial leaders. A world that earlier accused the US for promoting neo-colonialism and extending a stick far longer than the carrot it offered, looked toward China to draw benefits of its economic might i.e. easy financial assistance, to be precise.
China too had been accused of predatory economic policies; what economists describe as a ‘debt trap’. Its policy of extending loans to countries irrespective of their repaying capacities for projects at locations of strategic interests has dismayed world leaders. Sri Lankan port of Hambantota is one such example. If economists are to be believed, loans extended to the Sri Lankan government were never expected to be repaid. Failure to repay meant that the port could be taken over by Chinese agencies for mercantile as well as military purposes. China’s plan worked to perfection.
Two factors crucial in the approval of Hambantota project by the Chinese included its proximity to the Indian coastline and its location on the route between Suez Canal and mainland China.
The COVID19 pandemic, however, has come as an equalizer that has brought a lot of flak on China. The world now seeks monetary compensation the COVID19 losses. Although, the loss of lives is not possible to be paid back, economic implications still persist.
Role of BRICS in the new world order
Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) represent the changing center of gravity for the world economy. These emerging economies, especially China, triggered awe for the rapid pace of expansion of their economies at the turn of century. The economic recession during the bygone decade slowing global growth notwithstanding, BRICS members showed substantial resilience. India too maintained a steady and swift growth rate for a considerable time.
In contrast to China, India’s resilience comes from a different diplomatic approach.
India has a keen interest in governance. After WWII, two countries, India and Pakistan, were granted independence by the British almost at the same time. While Pakistan has been ailing under the crumbling economy and skyrocketing debts, global governance helped India become resilient and thrive at a steady pace.
As far as BRICS is concerned, India proposed and worked with other members towards creating alternate institutions of global finance and for effective coordination of macroeconomic management globally to prevent and respond to future crises. Launch of New Development Bank and proposal of creation of a BRICS Credit Rating Agency are also part of it.
India’s motivation on the world stage
Collectively influencing global financial architecture, creating secondary financial institutions based on principles of actual equality, creating sector-specific collaboration platforms on development & security and to use those platforms to leverage the advantage for domestic economic growth prompted India’s interest in extending ideas and support for the creation of such institutions in BRICS.
Watch: BRICS Foreign Ministers convene in the backdrop of Covid-19
BRICS is not the very first time that India has shown keen interest in formulating a structural policy framework for global institutions. Global governance, in India’s understanding, is all about creating an international order that addresses the interests of countries, both large and small, on the basis of the principles derived from its long-time participation in international affairs. National upkeep, regional environment, and the ever-changing global scenario play a pivotal role in this context.
Yet under the British Colonial Rule, India, as a committed multilateralist, joined the international system as an enthusiastic stakeholder and participated in key negotiations aimed at building the postwar international order. It was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945. Active participation of India in organizations of global significance increased after its independence. It was also involved in negotiations of the aborted International Trade Organization.
The global unionist approach
Taking up the role of the global trade union leader, independent India tried to influence the agenda of international organizations by highlighting the distinct and mostly marginalized concerns of developing countries. India, in the UN General Assembly, highlighted issues different from those advanced by the developed world. The alternative pathway India chose for itself was typified by the Non-Aligned Movement that made India’s right to determine its foreign policy orientation, freely and without duress, sacrosanct.
After being recognized as a ‘rising power’ and a ‘growth market’, India continues its agenda of challenging the established powers and its stance in several negotiations has drawn criticism of the developed countries. Taking up new roles and discharge of the duties concerned requires two fundamental virtues: technical competence and political willingness. The combination has acted as a major deterrent to India’s interest to take on new responsibilities involving greater global burden-sharing.
While technical competence depends directly on the workforce, political willingness depends upon the quality of mandate with the government. Workforce, powered by an increasing number of technical and non-technical educational institutions, is being supplied with skilled human resources. Landslide mandate given to the BJP-led Indian government is equally crucial. Modi factor has the potential to make an important difference on both these issues.
India’s future positioning on the global political landscape
Two consecutive overwhelming majorities to the BJP-led government paved way for a stronger political will at the Centre. Invitation to the then US President Barrack Obama for the grand Republic Day Parade on Twitter and his spontaneous acceptance paved the way for a superior global acceptance under Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi.
With India sending 85 million hydroxychloroquine tablets to 108 countries in wake of COVID19 pandemic, India has extended the role of net security provider at a time when the global powers not only denied others help but were seeking help themselves. With over 85,000 confirmed cases and 2,700 confirmed COVID19 deaths, India has shown that a net security provider not only needs to protect the territorial integrity of other nations but saving lives in face of a pandemic can be crucial too. Gains of Indian growth are not only significant for Indians but also for the international fraternity as evident in the ensuing onslaught of COVID19 pandemic.
Policy shifts that target agriculture and industry for reform, if already spelled out, even if yet to be implemented, making conditions favorable for growth. Attention to logistics, infrastructure development and maintenance as part of various initiatives including ‘Make in India’, anticipate improvements in both these sectors. Growth and development, in case they do go according to plan, or even come close to what was planned, will bolster India’s ability to contribute to the certain global public goods.