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BRICS leaders welcome economic partnership progress card, but where is the progress?

Have India and China, the biggest economies among the BRICS group, moved ahead in all areas mentioned in the BRICS Economic Partnership, adopted two years ago?

twitter-logo Joe C Mathew   New Delhi     Last Updated: September 5, 2017  | 17:43 IST
BRICS leaders welcome economic partnership progress card, but where is the progress?

Going by the joint declaration of the BRICS Leaders in Xiamen, China on 4th September, there has been some quantifiable progress in the economic partnership among the member BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - ever since the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership was adopted at the 7th BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, two years ago.

The declaration welcomes the first report on the implementation of the partnership strategy and the broad package of outcomes delivered by the sectoral ministerial meetings. BRICS Strategy itself mandates annual presentation of such a progress report to the BRICS Leaders.

While a review of the contents of the report on the implementation of the strategy may not be possible, one can revisit the BRICS economic partnership strategy to realise the complexities involved in its implementation.

First of all, the priority areas identified in the partnership strategy itself is very broad and cover the entire gamut of economic engagement and not just the formation of a New Development Bank to fund sustainable projects in developing countries. The strategy includes trade and investment, manufacturing and minerals processing, energy, agricultural cooperation, science, technology and innovation, financial cooperation, connectivity, institutional connectivity, people-to-people connectivity, education, tourism, business and labour mobility and ICT cooperation.

Have India and China, the biggest economies among the BRICS group, moved ahead in all these areas in the last two years?

India's dependence on China in trade and investment, manufacturing, product import and energy sector have not seen much change during the period. In spite of the tall promises made by China, there has been no visible change in the trade deficit pattern between the two nations. The Chinese investments zones in India is still on the drawing board. At the same time, Chinese telecommunication equipment suppliers or pharmaceutical and chemical raw materials suppliers to India are unlikely to talk about any positive change in India's attitude towards accepting the import of such items to the country.

There has been no recent breakthrough partnerships in science and technology, innovation or agriculture  either. The only major country in the region that stayed away from China's mega connectivity programme - the One Road One Belt project - was India.

However, despite the slow pace of progress, both countries, and BRICS members seem to have taken positive steps towards strengthening  their economic partnership. That is what the message from Xiamen suggests.

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