Daily Editorial Analysis for 1st Sep 2021

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It’s time to build BRICS better

Why in News

  • The 13th BRICS summit is set to be held on September 9 in via video conference under India’s chairmanship.
  • This plurilateral grouping comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is chaired by turn. India held the chair in 2012 and 2016 too.
  • The preparatory meeting of Foreign Ministers in June and dialogue at the BRICS Academic Forum in early August offered an important opportunity to present an objective assessment of the grouping’s record amid differing views of believers and sceptics.
  • The importance of BRICS is self-evident: it represents 42% of the world’s population, 30% of the land area, 24% of global GDP and 16% of international trade.
  • BRICS was 15 years old, recently portrayed it as a young adult, equipped with “thoughts shaped and a worldview concretised, and with a growing sense of responsibilities.”
  • Still, member states have been carrying BRICS forward in an era of complex geopolitics.
  • They have bravely continued holding dozens of meetings and summits, even as China’s aggression in eastern Ladakh in 2020 brought India-China relations to their lowest point in several decades.
  • There is also the reality of the strained relations of China and Russia with the West, and of serious internal challenges preoccupying both Brazil and South Africa.

Four priorities

  • Launched by a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Brazil, Russia, India and China in 2006 and riding on the political synergy created by regular summits since 2009, BRIC turned itself into BRICS in 2010, with the entry of South Africa.
  • The grouping has gone through a reasonably productive journey. It strove to serve as a bridge between the Global North and Global South.
  • It developed a common perspective on a wide range of global and regional issues; established the New Development Bank; created a financial stability net in the form of Contingency Reserve Arrangement; and is on the verge of setting up a Vaccine Research and Development Virtual Centre.
  • As the current chair, India has outlined four priorities:
  • The first is to pursue reform of multilateral institutions ranging from the United Nations, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the World Trade Organization and now even the World Health Organization.
  • BRICS has had very little success so far, although strengthening multilateralism serves as a strong bond as well as a beacon.
  • Reform needs global consensus which is hardly feasible in the current climate of strategic contestation between the U.S. and China and the devastation caused by COVID-19 to health, lives and livelihoods.
  • BRICS emerged from the desire to challenge dominance in the early years of the century, and it remains committed to the goal of counter-dominance (by China) now.
  • It is observed that the “counter-dominance instinct and principled commitment to multipolarity in all forms” is “written into the DNA of BRICS.”
  • The second is the resolve to combat terrorism.
  • Terrorism is an international phenomenon affecting Europe, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world.
  • Tragic developments concerning Afghanistan have helped to focus attention sharply on this overarching theme, stressing the need to bridge the gap between rhetoric and action.
  • China, for example, feels little hesitation in supporting clear-cut denunciations of terrorist groups, even as its backing of Pakistan, which is heavily enmeshed with a host of international terrorist groups, remains steadfast.
  • In this context, BRICS is attempting to pragmatically shape its counter-terrorism strategy by crafting the BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan containing specific measures to fight radicalisation, terrorist financing and misuse of the Internet by terrorist groups.
  • This plan is expected to be a key deliverable at the forthcoming summit and may hopefully bring some change.
  • Promoting technological and digital solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals and expanding people-to-people cooperation are the other two BRICS priorities.
  • Digital tools have helped a world adversely hit by the pandemic, and India has been in the forefront of using new technological tools to improve governance. 4
  • But enhancing people-to-people cooperation will have to wait for international travel to revive.
  • Among other concerns, BRICS has been busy deepening trade and investment ties among its member states.
  • The difficulty stems from China’s centrality and dominance of intra-BRICS trade flows.
  • Creating a better internal balance remains a challenge, reinforced by the urgent need for diversification and strengthening of regional value chains, all exposed during the pandemic.
  • Policymakers have been encouraging an increase in intra-BRICS cooperation in diverse areas like agriculture, disaster resilience, digital health, traditional medicine and customs cooperation.


  • The idea of BRICS is fundamentally sound and relevant.
  • The governments have invested huge political capital in pushing the BRICS experiment forward, and its institutionalisation has created its own momentum.
  • The five-power combine has succeeded, albeit up to a point. But it now confronts multiple challenges:
  • China’s economic rise has created a serious imbalance within BRICS;
  • Beijing’s aggressive policy, especially against India, puts BRICS solidarity under exceptional strain; and
  • BRICS countries have not done enough to assist the Global South to win their optimal support for their agenda.


  • It is necessary for leaders, officials and academics of this grouping to undertake serious soul-searching and find a way out of the present predicament.
  • BRICS negotiators need to master the art of brevity and tight drafting. When they do so, they will realise that unduly lengthy communiqués are an index to the grouping’s weakness, not strength.


Two years lost

Why in News

  • Under the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the National Statistical Office has released estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first quarter of 2021-22.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

  • April to June of 2020 was marked by a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19, which caused a sharp and unprecedented decrease in output of over 24 per cent (at constant prices) as compared to the first quarter of 2019-20.
  • The April-June 2021-22 quarter, by comparison, showed growth of 20.1 percent for GDP at constant prices. It means that GDP in real terms is still lower than it was before the pandemic hit.
  • The just concluded first quarter of FY22 was also when the devastating second wave hit the country. Although there was no nationwide lockdown this time around and many major supply chains remained intact, there has been some impact on the final figures.
  • There is every chance that India might have to endure another wave over the coming months.
  • Thus, the assumption should be that by the end of the year, the economy will return sustainably to the GDP levels last seen in 2019-20 or slightly higher.
  • It is now clear that hopes for a “V-shaped” recovery must be revisited.
  • A realistic expectation is that the pandemic and consequent policy measures will have cost India two full years of growth.
  • From April to July, 34.6 per cent of the budgeted receipts have been paid to the government.
  • A look at the decomposition of the quarterly estimates also provides similar grounds for optimism.
  • Some core sectors, such as power and construction, are showing considerable momentum — as are other indicators such as the sale of commercial vehicles and steel consumption.
  • For the near term, however, grounds for optimism might be suggested by the vaccination programme, which has covered considerable ground, especially in the high-output parts of the country.


  • More than half the eligible population have now received at least one vaccine dose, with that proportion much higher in metropolitan centres like Mumbai and Delhi.
  • As the 18-45 age group receives its second dose in these areas, they are only a few weeks away from fairly high levels of community protection.
  • Thus, another increase in infection will have a more limited effect on hospitalisation, mortality, and output. Although India has lost precious years, light is visible at the end of the tunnel.


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