Address by External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj at the Inauguration of BRICS Media Forum.
Here’s the full text:
Foreign Secretary Dr. Jaishankar,
Secretary (East) Preeti Saran
Our honoured guests – Senior editors and journalists from the BRICS nations
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the Indian media
I am delighted to join you all at the inauguration of the BRICS Media Forum.
Just two days ago you have seen the successful completion of the BRICS Summit in Goa – some of you were there, and others would have observed it through the work of your colleagues, in digital or print media. There is a certain appropriateness in the conduct of a Media Forum at the conclusion of a Summit – an opportunity for review and evaluation, for marking one more milestone along our common journey. For after all it is through your eyes that much of the world has seen the Summit, through the prism of your words that they have interpreted it.
We have always looked upon BRICS as a template for a new approach to global governance in the 21st century. The five nations represent the voice of the changing world and our approach to global issues signifies a convergence across different continents on the opportunities and challenges that await us.
Nine months ago, when India took over the Chair of BRICS, we laid out an ambitious agenda. Premised on the theme of Building Responsive Inclusive and Collective Solutions, we unveiled plans to raise the level of our engagement across sectors. As we approach the end of the Chairmanship, the record speaks for itself. A total of 115 events – two Parliamentary meetings, fifteen Ministerial Meetings, fifty-six Senior Officials/Working Groups/Expert Groups, twenty-seven Workshops/Seminars/Conferences, three Track-II, and five events along the business pillar were held. Through each of these meetings not only have we raised the number of our cross-cutting interactions, but we have also sought to focus on the output from the various discussions. I myself have been fortunate to inaugurate some, and to meet with the participants of others. Each workshop and seminar, each conclave and conference have in turn renewed and re-energized our sectoral engagements. The networks of connections that have been built and the partnerships that have been conceived in their wake assume a life of their own in the days to come.
India this time brought a practical, informal and effective approach as the Chair to the BRICS. Let me share with you that at Goa, this was recognized and appreciated by the other nations. It was reflected not only in the quality of the discussions at the Summit but in the activities preceding it. Essentially, we took the BRICS outside the conference room and endeavoured to instill it in popular thinking. To do that, we partnered organizations and activities across the breadth of civil society. We were conscious that the BRICS not only represents a sixth of humanity, but is also a powerful voice of hope for future generations. It is for this reason that, in line with Prime Minister Modi’s vision, we have sought to lay particular emphasis on the people-to-people linkages that will bring our nations closer. So a unique aspect of the 115 meetings was that they were not only held in Delhi and our major cities, but through the length and breadth of this country. So from the BRICS Film Festival to the Under-17 Football Tournament, from the Friendship Cities Conclave and Urbanization Forum to the Handicraft Artisans’ Exchange Programme and Digital Conclave, from the Young Diplomats Forum to the Youth Summit and Young Scientists Conclave, India’s Chairmanship has sought to build a new constituency amongst our peoples and our youth, a ‘building BRICS’, if you will, for the future.
From its very inception, BRICS has focused on issues of development and economic growth, addressing challenges confronting the world and encouraging the emergence of a more equitable and sustainable global architecture. Initially, its deliberations concentrated more on economic and financial issues. But over the years, it has broadened to cover larger global issues, even as it has promoted the creation of BRICS institutions and mechanisms. Key initiatives like a BRICS Rating Agency that can complement the New Development Bank, or the Railways Research Network and an Agriculture Research Platform that will allow us to leverage our specific strengths for mutual benefit are tangible goals that we believe can take the group forward.
There has always been an overarching political context for the BRICS meetings which essentially underlines that a serious global discourse cannot be the preserve of a few countries with a narrow agenda. The 8th BRICS Summit represented a further advancement in terms of the breadth and focus of its discussions. While our economic engagement and political cooperation remained key factors, there was a sharp realization that global development and prosperity was very much dependent on continued peace and security. Terrorism was universally recognized as a key threat to stability, progress and development. Consequently, it featured strongly in the conference narrative and its eventual outcome. Indeed, what we saw was not just an understanding of the dangers posed by terrorism to the economic aspirations of the world but a growing recognition that this has now become a truly global challenge that the international community can only ignore at its peril.
There is a developing consensus that it cannot be business as usual. We must be prepared to extract costs for those who sponsor and support terrorists, who provide them sanctuary, and who, despite their own claimed victimhood, continue to make the false distinction between good and bad terrorists. BRICS has always been global in its approach and today, there is no bigger global challenge than state-sponsored and state-protected terrorism.
The selection of BIMSTEC as the outreach group for the Goa Summit of the BRICS is also worth reflecting upon. Members of BIMSTEC- Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand – today represent the polar opposite of a terrorism promoting polity. They are focused on improving the quality of life of their people, on skills and employment, on education and health, and on the quality of governance and the deepening of democracy. These are nations who are actively promoting connectivity, cooperation and contacts amongst themselves. Their interface with the BRICS has a message in itself. This is that a world changing in a positive direction as reflected by the BRICS has its regional expression in a community like BIMSTEC that is able to visualize a prosperous collective future. There cannot be a greater contrast with those who reject even trade and connectivity for political reasons.
One aspect of the BRICS engagement is the interaction of our respective national media. As interpreters and communicators, all of you play that critical role of not merely keeping us informed but in influencing opinions and shaping outcomes. Through your work, we are reminded of our shared goals and our common challenges. And on account of your always critical eye, we are mindful of the opportunities that remain, of the paths that remain untravelled. So I am certain that the panel discussions that will follow will no doubt be an enriching source of debate and discussion as we go forward.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, in Goa we have strengthened the institutional foundation of the BRICS and set it on the path of seeking collective solutions which will not only help propel the BRICS nations forward but also be a voice of hope, peace and prosperity for the entire world. Now, over to you to carry this message as far and as wide as possible. I am sure the BRICS Media Forum will mark an important milestone in this, our shared journey.