Adding mortar to the BRICS

Updated: 2013-01-15 07:53

By Rup Narayan Das (China Daily)

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There has been meaningful progress in India-China relations recently and this year has begun on a positive note. This is significant given the leadership change in China.

The Economic and Security Dialogue between the two countries was held in New Delhi in November, while India's National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon met his Chinese counterpart State Councilor Dai Bingguo in Beijing in December to exchange notes on bilateral and regional issues. The two diplomats then met on the sidelines of the meeting of the High Representatives on National Security in the BRICS in New Delhi last week.

Dai is no stranger to Menon. As China's chief negotiator on the India-China border talks, since the Special Representatives Talks were established in 2003, he has repeatedly met with Menon to discuss the complex India-China border issue. During his visit to India Dai Bingguo also called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Although BRICS, which groups together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is primarily an economic entity, in a globalized world of mutual interdependence security issues cannot be divested from issues of economic prosperity and development. In fact, a threat to security anywhere is a threat to security everywhere.

Terrorism afflicts many countries in the world, including the BRICS countries, particularly Russia, China and India. But piracy and cyber security have added new security concerns to the threats from terrorist, extremists and separatists. The possibility of terrorists gaining access to chemical and biological weapons and even nuclear fissile materials exacerbates security concerns. The problems are further compounded by the links between terrorists and organized crime. So it's sensible to include security and strategic issues in the BRICS' core concerns.

Against this backdrop the Meeting of High Representatives on National Security assumed great importance. Although the BRICS national security advisors have been meeting on the margins of the BRICS summit since 2009, this was the first time that they had a standalone meeting.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Menon said that the discussions focused on regional and global issues, such as West Asia and North Africa. Referring to Syria, he said that it is for the Syrian people to choose their future, the international community can only be a facilitator. He said that although the increasing violence there is of great concern, there is no military solution to the problem.

At a time when Sino-Indian relations have gone beyond the perimeters of bilateralism, and have acquired regional and global ramifications, the two countries can play an important role in facilitating peace, stability and prosperity not only regionally, but also globally. The joint statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Wen Jiabao in 2005 that highlighted the two countries have a consensus that their relations have now acquired a global and strategic character and transcend bilateral issues.

Although the BRICS security architecture is in embryonic stage, it has a great deal of promise and potential, encompassing a wide range of both traditional and non-traditional security issues, including energy security and responding to natural and manmade disasters. It will also enable the BRICS members to calibrate a common position with regard to the world's hotspots. Besides, developing the ways and means to have a collective response to these problems, the member countries of the BRICS can learn the practices available in their respective countries.

The author is senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. The views are those of the author alone.

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