Although media in countries that for centuries have got accustomed to dominating the world, downplay the importance of the BRICS Summit in Goa, the reality is that the meeting is hugely consequential for the rest of the world. Or will be, should the five countries gathered under the blue skies of one of India’s most attractive states decide to race forward rather than limp along towards their objective of closer coordination and interaction. This can only happen if bilateral relations between each of the BRICS countries become strong enough to ensure that suspicions bred from past mistakes get overcome by the potential of future synergy. Four decades ago, a concept was floated in Kerala by a student of geopolitics that it would make sense for India, Russia and China to work closely together, a view that was endorsed by Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov a decade later, and which has since been formalised in the Russia India China (RIC) group, which meets periodically in any of the three countries. The Goa meeting is seeing the Heads of Government of these three great nations meet together in a congenial atmosphere. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has worked hard to ensure that a close rapport be established between himself and both Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping. The three leaders are in contact with each other with a frequency unknown in the past, save for a brief period in the 1950s between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his counterpart in Beijing, Zhou Enlai. Since then, there has been a sharp difference in the growth trajectories of the two countries. While China’s economy was half that of India during the 1950s, by 2010 it was five times our size. The challenge before Narendra Modi is to ensure that double digit growth not only begin, but get established for a generation, so that the hundreds of millions of Indian citizens still in poverty will be rescued from such a situation.
With deft handling, BRICS could become an effective vehicle for higher growth in India as well as in the other four BRICS partners. For this to happen, there needs to be a well thought out road map, which brings together the strengths and opportunities present in each of the five countries. Each has complementarities with the others, and what is called for is a strategy that would ensure that such opportunities not be ignored any longer but utilised for the good of the more than three billion people who are resident within the BRICS grouping. Prime Minister Modi has time and time again demonstrated his pragmatism, and all his skills will need to be called upon to ensure that the 2016 BRICS Summit at Goa become a path-breaking exercise that would ignite economic growth through business, commercial and other linkages between the five partners. The Goa meeting needs to represent the era when BRICS moves from promise to performance, and hopefully the five Heads of Government getting together at Goa will not just discuss how to achieve that, but ensure that a practical way forward gets found to ensure just such a result.