Modi listening, Xi: Cold War mentality, bloc confrontation must be abandoned

WITH PRIME Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin listening, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday said the world “must abandon Cold War mentality” and “bloc confrontation” — and “oppose unilateral sanctions and abuse of sanctions”.

Xi’s references to the Cold War and blocs at the annual summit of the five-nation group appeared to target NATO and the Quad, of which India is a part. And, his mention of sanctions seemed to have been aimed at the US and European curbs targeting Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Putin also raised the issue of sanctions but Modi steered clear of any specific references and spoke about “governance of the global economy” in the context of the pandemic.

“Even though the scale of the epidemic has reduced globally…many of its ill effects are still visible in the global economy. We, the BRICS member countries, have had a very similar view of the governance of the global economy. And so our mutual cooperation can make a useful contribution to post-Covid global recovery,” Modi said.

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Later, in a carefully worded joint statement, the BRICS leaders said they “support talks between Russia and Ukraine”. They also committed to “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of all states and “peaceful resolution of differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation”.

Earlier, Xi, who was chairing the summit, said: “We must abandon Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation, and oppose unilateral sanctions and the abuse of sanctions. And it’s important for the world to recognize that forging a community with a shared future, like a big family, is so much better than building exclusive circles.”

The reference to “exclusive circles” is also an oft-used term by China for groupings like the Quad.

In his remarks, Putin said BRICS “can find solutions to the crisis situation” in the global economy because of “ill-conceived and self-interested actions” by some nations that have been “using the financial mechanisms” — a clear reference to the West’s sanctions.

“I am convinced that…BRICS leadership is relevant in order to design a truly positive, unifying force to form a multipolar system…based on the universal rules of international law and the key principles of the UN Charter,” Putin said.

Modi did not respond to or share these concerns in his statement.

While the Prime Minister’s statement was audible to the domestic audience, there was a technical glitch that prevented the BRICS leaders from hearing his remarks. Xi urged Modi to repeat the opening statement later, during the closing remarks.

Modi said BRICS initiatives, including establishment of a vaccine R&D centre, coordination between Customs departments, establishment of shared satellite constellation and mutual recognition of Pharma products, have direct benefits for people.

He said that BRICS youth summits, sports, and interaction between civil society organisations and think-tanks, have strengthened people-to-people contact.

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also attended the virtual summit.

In the joint statement, the leaders said: “We have discussed the situation in Ukraine and recall our national positions as expressed at the appropriate fora, namely the UNSC and UNGA. We support talks between Russia and Ukraine. We have also discussed our concerns over the humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine and expressed our support to efforts of the UN Secretary-General, UN Agencies and ICRC to provide humanitarian assistance….”

The statement, or declaration, also made an important point in the context of the war in Ukraine as well as the border stand-off between India and China. “We commit to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, stress our commitment to the peaceful resolution of differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation, and support all efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of crises,” it said.

On Afghanistan, the leaders emphasised that territory should “not to be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan to finance terrorist acts”. They stressed on the need for all sides to encourage Afghan authorities to achieve national reconciliation through dialogue and establish an inclusive and representative political structure.

On terrorism, the statement said: “We are committed to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the cross-border movement of terrorists, and terrorism financing networks and safe havens. We reiterate that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic group.”

Modi’s participation at the 14th summit took place after New Delhi opted for a virtual summit instead of an in-person event in China. The decision was taken in view of the strained bilateral ties over the two-year border stand-off in eastern Ladakh.

China is hosting the summit in its capacity as the chair of BRICS this year. Beijing had made an outreach to revive bilateral dialogue and set the stage for the BRICS summit in China, with Foreign minister and State Councillor Wang Yi coming to New Delhi in an unannounced visit on March 24.

Beijing had proposed a series of events to kickstart the dialogue, starting with possible high-level visits from both sides. China’s ultimate and clear objective was to host Modi for the in-person summit. But the move did not succeed.

The last BRICS summit to take place in China was in Xiamen in September 2017, which was attended by Modi — this was soon after the Doklam border standoff was resolved. The last face-to-face meeting between Modi and Xi was in Brazil for the BRICS summit in November 2019.

The BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) brings together five of the largest developing countries, representing 41 per cent of the global population, 24 per cent of global GDP and 16 per cent of global trade.

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