With an eye on a divided leadership in the West — as was evident in the recent G-7 summit — the BRICS leaders have committed with unprecedented emphasis to the principles of “democracy” and “multilateralism” in the Johannesburg declaration. Democracy is mentioned half-a-dozen times in the declaration, which, Indian government interlocutors feel, is noteworthy, since at least two member-countries in the grouping are socialist and non-democratic countries. In the Xiamen declaration, democracy was mentioned thrice, mostly in the context of a democratic global order.
Multilateralism was mentioned 23 times in the Johannesburg declaration, as against seven times in the Xiamen declaration last year. This assumes significance in the wake of the US, under President Donald Trump, acting unilaterally on several occasions — from the Israel-Palestine issue to Iran, and withdrawing from multilateral pacts like JCPOA and TPP. It has also withdrawn from UNESCO and UN Human Rights Council.
Indian interlocutors said that the seeping of democratic order, and the consequent democratisation of the BRICS order, has been an Indian imprint on the Johannesburg declaration, which is different from previous BRICS declarations. The emphasis on inclusivity has also increased in the Johannesburg declaration, as “inclusive” was mentioned 19 times, as compared to 9 times in the Xiamen declaration.
“These are the most important takeaways from the Indian point of view, that we have been able to put democracy and inclusiveness in the lexicon in a more pronounced manner,” one of the Indian interlocutors told The Indian Express. Sources said that the Chinese lexicon of a prosperous, shared future and win-win cooperation from previous SCO summits has now given way to a more Indian and South African lingo — of a representative world order approach.
The BRICS leadership has also given a message of solidarity and geopolitical maturity, officials privy to the negotiations told The Indian Express, as against the rancour and divisive tone in the G-7 summit.
Sources said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the above issues with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Xi said that as major emerging market economies, as well as vindicators and contributors of the current international order, China and India should strengthen bilateral cooperation while exploring a new model for regional cooperation, upholding multilateralism, championing economic globalisation and striving for a more just and rational international order, Xinhua reported.
“We have provided a top-level design for bilateral ties in a macroscopic perspective and a timely fashion, which is conducive to mobilising the positive elements of all sectors in both countries and uniting the wills of the 2.6 billion people of the two countries, so as to form a force that would push bilateral ties into the future,” Xi told Modi.
“It is important to maintain this momentum and for this we should, at our level, regularly review our relationship and give proper instructions whenever required,” Modi told Xi in his opening remarks. At Wuhan, Modi and Xi had decided to issue “strategic guidance” to their militaries to strengthen communications to build trust, a move aimed at avoiding another Doklam-like situation.
In Johannesburg, the two leaders reaffirmed their readiness to give the necessary direction to their militaries to enhance communication between them and maintain peace in border areas. Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said the two sides had agreed at Qingdao that the Chinese ministers for defence and public security would travel to India this year. “It was decided that these two visits would take place in August and October, respectively,” he said.
In Beijing, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang confirmed that State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe “plans to pay a friendly official visit to India” at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman.
Xi also conveyed to Modi that he was very happy to accept his invitation to visit India for an informal summit, the second one, next year and both sides agreed to follow up on a number of issues, the foreign secretary added.
Xi and Modi will meet again at the margins of the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of