Modi hosts BRICS leaders amid bloc’s economic woes


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host leaders of the BRICS emerging powers on Sunday at a summit seeking to boost trade ties and help overcome the bloc’s economic woes.

Modi and the other leaders of the BRICS club of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa donned traditional Nehru jackets for a group photograph on Saturday night, before enjoying a closed-door dinner.

But the leaders face the most sombre task of working to reinvigorate their bloc when talks get underway Sunday morning in the Indian tourism state of Goa.

“We hope that when the BRICS discussion happens tomorrow, there will be the discussion on how we can increase intra-BRICS trade and cooperation. It is an important issue,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup told reporters.

BRICS was formed in 2011 with the aim of using its growing economic and political influence to challenge Western hegemony.

The nations, with a joint estimated GDP of $16 trillion, set up their own bank in parallel to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund and World Bank and hold summits rivalling the G7 forum.

But the countries, accounting for 53 percent of world population, have been hit by falling global demand and lower commodity prices, while several have also been mired in corruption scandals.

Russia and Brazil have fallen into recession recently, South Africa only just managed to avoid the same fate last month while China’s economy — the recent engine of world growth — has slowed sharply.

India, by contrast, is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy in an otherwise gloomy environment and its GDP is expected to grow 7.6 percent in 2016-17.

After a flurry of bilateral meetings with BRICs leaders on Saturday, Modi will be seeking the group’s cooperation on enhancing trade as well as climate change, while Russia is expecting talks on Syria.

But Modi will also be seeking discussion on regional security, including recent cross-border attacks blamed on militants in Pakistan that have spiked tensions between the neighbours.

Modi is seeking to isolate archrival Pakistan internationally following fury at home over the attacks that have left Indian soldiers dead.

Analysts, however, are sceptical of India’s chances of securing a joint BRICS condemnation given China’s strong diplomatic support for Pakistan and Russia’s efforts to forge closer defence ties with Islamabad.

Taking place at the same time in Goa is a meeting of heads of a seven-nation grouping called BIMSTEC loosely based around the Bay of Bengal.

Myanmar’s Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as well as the leaders of Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal are set to hold talks focused on trade. Thailand’s prime minister is not attending following the death of the nation’s king.

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