BRICS Summit 2021
On September 09, the 13th annual gathering of the world’s leading emerging economies – including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (comprising the acronym BRICS) – was held virtually, due to the pandemic, for the second year running. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted the meeting that was held just days after the Taliban’s announcement of an interim government in Afghanistan. Although the theme for the Summit was ‘BRICS@15: Intra-BRICS cooperation for continuity, consolidation and consensus, the discussion remained focused on the emerging situation in Afghanistan as the participants underscored the importance of preventing terrorists from using Afghan soil to stage attacks on other countries.
While addressing the session, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who delivered an important speech entitled “Advance BRICS Cooperation to Meet Common Challenges Together,” said that the five countries of BRICS had upheld multilateralism, participated in global governance, and have become an important power in the world that cannot be overlooked. “China has provided over 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to more than 100 countries and organizations, and will donate another 100m doses to developing countries by year-end on top of the $100m already donated to COVAX,” he added. He further stated: “We need to promote global solidarity against COVID-19, join forces to tackle the pandemic, uphold a science-based approach to tracing its origins, and oppose politicization and stigmatization. We need to enhance coordination in COVID prevention and control, and boost the research, production and equitable distribution of vaccines as a global public good.”
Narendra Modi, in his statement said, “We will have to ensure that BRICS yields more results in 15 years.” He also said that despite Covid situation this year, over 150 BRICS meetings and events were organised. Of these, over 20 were ministerial-level. “We tried to expand the BRICS agenda. BRICS achieved many firsts this year … Our water resources’ ministers will meet in BRICS format for the first time in November,” he said.
While the Brazilian President recalled his visit to India fondly, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that their collective response to Covid-19 has demonstrated what can be achieved when they work together. “As BRICS countries we must continue to safeguard our people’s lives, livelihoods, support global economic recovery and enhance the resilience of public systems,” he said.
Speaking at the opening of the summit, Putin, who was the only leader who chided the United States and its allies for the mess created in Afghanistan, said the withdrawal of the United States and its allies from Afghanistan “has led to a new crisis” and the “entire international community will have to clear up the mess as a result.” “This situation,” he said, “stems from irresponsible attempts to impose alien values … To build a so-called democracy without taking into account historic features and traditions that other people have followed. It results in destabilisation and chaos and after that, the authors of this left and entire international community will have to clear up this mess.”
New Delhi Declaration
After holding extensive deliberations on the situation in Afghanistan, the five-nation influential group adopted the New Delhi Declaration in which they asserted that the territory of Afghanistan must not be used to carry out terror attacks against other countries called for combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the cross-border movement of terrorists. The Declaration stated: “We express our concern at the continuing conflicts and violence in different parts of the world. We endorse the position taken by our Foreign Ministers at their last meeting on the situation in Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, Afghanistan, Korean Peninsula, the Iran nuclear issue and Myanmar. We reaffirm our commitment to the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of States and reiterate that all conflicts must be resolved by peaceful means and through political and diplomatic efforts in line with international law, in particular the UN Charter. We underscore the inadmissibility of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
We follow with concern the latest developments in Afghanistan. We call for refraining from violence and settling the situation by peaceful means. We stress the need to contribute to fostering an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue so as to ensure stability, civil peace, law and order in the country. We condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks near the Hamid Karzai Kabul International Airport that resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries. We underscore the priority of fighting terrorism, including preventing attempts by terrorist organisations to use Afghan territory as terrorist sanctuary and to carry out attacks against other countries, as well as drug trade within Afghanistan. We emphasise the need to address the humanitarian situation and to uphold human rights, including those of women, children and minorities.”
Wide Chasm on Afghanistan
The differences on the Taliban in the international community were played out in the BRICS virtual summit. The careful formulation on Afghanistan contained in paragraph 23 of the joint statement, which was issued after the summit, clearly establishes the wide chasm on Afghanistan.
Such joint statements are the product of careful and detailed diplomatic negotiations. An attempt is always made to find – what in diplomatic parlance is referred to as “language” – formulations that are acceptable to all participants. Such formulations are meant to obfuscate differences so that a statement can be adopted. This is because the absence of a joint statement often denotes that a summit meeting has failed. Apart from the host country – which in this case was India – few member countries of a group want a summit to fail.
Paragraph 23 of the BRICS joint statement begins with the sentence, “We follow with concern the latest developments in Afghanistan.” The Taliban announced their caretaker government on 7 September, that is, two days before the summit. That was the latest development in Afghanistan, but though the joint statement used the adjective ‘latest’ to define developments, it simply ignores the caretaker government. That can only be because India, China and Russia had such large differences over the government that no language could be found to even refer to it.
The writer is a lawyer.