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BRICS-Plus? Or a BRICS-Minus Modi Summit in Xiamen?

(This is part one of a two-part series on whether India should participate in the BRICS Summit due in September.)

In the run-up to the summit of leaders in Xiamen, the Chinese Academy of Governance and the China International Publishing Group organised the BRICS Seminar on governance in the enchanting city of Quanzhou, about 100 kms away from Xiamen, in Fujian province.

Also Read: Modi & Xi Won’t Get Carried Away By Short-Term Concerns in Doklam

At a recent BRICS seminar, the Chinese participants agreed that Doklam crisis should have a peaceful resolution.

Emergence of BRICS-Plus

Apart from BRICS members, China invited participants from 16 other countries ─ including countries such as Chile, Guinea, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Egypt that do not even figure in the Next Eleven.

Speakers from these countries supported the idea of expanding BRICS, and making it an effective platform for voicing the needs, demands and aspirations of both the developing as well as the underdeveloped nations in the world. BRICS-Plus, they affirmed, would enable the organisation to play a more decisive role in global governance.

More strikingly, all of them praised China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying it would usher in a new age of globalisation, more inclusive, more democratic and win-win for all.

Also Read: Debate I Clouds of War or Just a War of Cloudy Words?

Building ‘Strategic Mutual Trust’

The seminar paid little attention to the ongoing India-China military stand-off. Obviously, the Chinese hosts did not want a divisive bilateral issue to get any kind of focus in the midst of deliberations at a BRICS seminar. However, I raised it explicitly by saying there is an urgent need to peacefully resolve current crisis between India and China at Doklam.

I said the very credibility of BRICS would be called into question if our two countries allowed the dispute to be escalated into an armed conflict.

I stressed the crucial need for “an early and amicable resolution of this crisis because peace and friendship between India and China is very precious for our two countries, for all the neighbouring countries in Asia, and of course for the entire world”.

I further said: “I hope and pray that the leaders of our two great nations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, choose to be guided by the Asian wisdom – the wisdom of our two ancient civilisations – and find a non-military solution to the current crisis.”

Also Read: Doklam: Simultaneous Withdrawal of Troops is Still a Possibility

To achieve this goal, I stated that the two strong-willed leaders should develop “strategic mutual trust” so that such crises never erupt again between the two countries.

Equal Partnership in Belt Road Initiative

I made two other points, reiterating what I had said at the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing. First, India should join China BRI as an equal partner ─ I underscored the caveat “as an equal partner”.

Jointly with other participating nations, India and China should make BRI (also known as the One Belt One Road or OBOR initiative, a short hand for a massive infrastructure-economic-cultural connectivity project linking Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond) truly democratic, inclusive, consultative and participative with win-win benefits for all.

Second, as part of joining BRI, India should not only support the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but suggest its extension to India, Afghanistan and Iran.

Moreover, India and China should cooperate in early implementation of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor, and interlink it with the CPEC and thus create a grand South Asian Economic Corridor (SAEC).

It would be history’s greatest project to economically integrate South Asia. “This will lift the largest number of poor people in the world out of poverty and underdevelopment,” I said.

To my surprise, Chinese participants in the seminar warmly welcomed both the idea of a peaceful resolution of the Doklam crisis in light of the “Asian Wisdom” and also the proposal for India-China-Pakistan cooperation to change the destiny of South Asia.

Also Read: How Can India & China Move On From Doklam? Easy: Soft Power

(The writer, who was an aide to India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is chairman of the Observer Research Foundation Mumbai. He can be reached @SudheenKulkarni . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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