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October 14, 2016

BRICS and the Emerging World Order: The Game Changers of the Twenty First Century World Politics

The Twenty First Century world politics is seeing a sea change in the power calculus through the emergence of some of the major economies of the world in the form of BRICS. It leaves us with no doubt that this new phenomenon in  International Politics has created a new constellation and has been challenging the existing notion of the super power on several fronts. It needs to be noted that the West has been constantly making an effort to put down the BRICS initiative through different propaganda and several academic writings. The Wall Street Journal came up with a series of articles warning the readers and investors across the world to be wary of  growth and also not to get carried away. Today, BRICS together account for 30 per cent of global land, 43 per cent of global population, 17.3 per cent of the world’s merchandise trade, 12 per cent of global commercial services and 45 per cent of the world’s agricultural production and yet the West does not accept the fact that others are growing along with the United States and other developed economies. A question would emerge then-why is the West wary of the rise of BRICS?

The answer to the above question is quite interesting as it is not just the economy that is making the West to behave in a particular manner, rather it has to be credited largely to the courage and effort from the BRICS nations to boost their economies and the confidence in their approach to the world order. If we  look at the present scenario of the BRICS nations, on several counts  it is challenging the present world order. Firstly, on the economic landscape; secondly, on the leadership component, and lastly, the alternate view on politics which they have discovered from within and have not  borrowed from the West unlike  in the past. Each of these issues need elaboration to make a case that these factors seems to be unsettling the West and making them to go out of their way to somehow destabilise  BRICS as an entity.

If we look at India, China, Russia and to an extent South Africa with an exception of Brazil for the time being, all of these countries are economically doing well. India under the leadership of Narendra Modi has found a new direction in its economy. Though there are detractors who would not want to give credit to his economic reforms,  statistics prove otherwise. The present economic condition of India is considered one of the best since the adoption by India  of the LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation) strategy in 1991. One may argue that the economy during UPA I was also good but the conditions were different as the world financial crisis came only in 2008 and by then the UPA I was finishing its last lap of the term in office. By the end of UPA II, the economy had gone from bad to worse and the scam ridden government was unable to sustain growth in a scenario of high inflation. It is at this juncture that Narendra Modi had to step in and take the mantle of the country . The type of radical economic reforms Modi has been able to bring in whether it is GST or transparent auction of the telecom spectrum, has put the country in the right direction ensuring high growth rate. No doubt that these reforms were also part of the mandate of the previous government, unfortunately they were unable to garner enough support of the legislators and States and also to a large extent,  willingness too was  lacking. One of the senior economist of the country said ‘If the Monsoon in 2016 is as expected, then the first three years of Modi will be the best three years since 1996, and possibly the best three consecutive years for Indian economy since independence’. It is this achievement that West did not anticipate with regard to India and also did not expect radical reforms in the economic sector. India has been steadily growing at 7.6 %, though  this was expected only in the beginning of 2016. The vibrant Make in India campaign and boosting the manufacture sector is a cause of concern for the Western market  as they have had monopoly in certain sectors for centuries now.

Same is the case of China, which since 2006 has been the largest holder of foreign currency reserves, estimated in 2015 to be more than 3.8 trillion dollars. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China’s gross domestic product (GDP) surpassed that of the United States in 2014, making it the world’s largest economy in purchasing-power parity terms.

Even when there is constant propaganda against Russia from the West, there are some scholars who have taken realistic view of the economy and what Putin has done to Russian economy after Boris Yeltsin. One of the scholars opines that ‘net private capital outflows in 2014 stood at $150 billion, which is equivalent to 8 percent of GDP.  This is a record high for Russia, a country well-known over the past couple of decades for its capital flight, owing to an erosion of the population’s confidence of investing at home’. Yet the world goes blind as it wants to demonise Russia and its influence in the continent in particular and world in general. Another scholar says that ‘according to data from Bloomberg, some 78 percent of Russian companies on the MICEX index showed greater revenue growth in the most recent quarter than their global peers did. And Russian companies on the whole are now more profitable than their peers on the MSCI Emerging Markets index’.

There can be an argument that the other two members, Brazil and South Africa, are in trouble and not doing so well .  Similar is also the case of the European Union and yet it is  acceptes it as a success. The RIC (Russia-India-China) of the BRICS are capable of helping Brazil and South Africa.  Also there is a hope that very soon with political stabilisation there would be recovery.

With regard to the second argument, namely  the leadership component, the RIC countries have probably  the strongest leaders of the world at this juncture. United States, probably by default being the super power might want to call its President a strong leader but the RIC countries have leaders who are capable of speaking their mind and ability to back  their words with deeds. Xi Jinping and Putin were anyway known as strong leaders whereas India has got one now in the form of Narendra Modi. Without any hesitation and probably with the lone exception of some of his detractors in India, the rest of the world has accepted him as one of the most charismatic leader, who is part of the agenda setting in the international affairs. Meeting with Barack Obama  six times over last two years of him since coming to power  proves that even Obama seems to be convinced of the leadership qualities of Modi. Xi Jinping is experimenting with his country and the people have accepted him. He is even hailed as the greatest after Mao by many. Jonathan Fenby says ‘Projecting a folksy image domestically as “Xi Dada” (Uncle Xi), he appears popular, as a leader with ambitions that match China’s economic weight, the strongest chief of the world’s most populous nation since Mao Zedong’. This is a considerable achievement in international politics to lead a country of the might of China. Putin has been made to look like a villain and also has been dubbed by the West as the next Hitler. Putin is much more strategic than Hitler;  for that matter he is the Mr. Cool and task master in the international politics. One just needs to  to remember what he has done to Syria where the Western powers seem to have  no clue about their mission. Look at someone like Erdogan and see how he has succumbed to pressure and has gone back to Putin, and not to the Western powers, to fight the ISIS and extremists.

Though  the spark of  great leadership  was seen in Dilma Rousseff and Zuma, off late these two have fallen prey to corruption charges. This is seen as the only  rough patch in managing BRICS leadership. The RIC countries are confident than ever before to take the mantle and move further. This has been done so even when the two leaders of Brazil and South Africa have been in trouble.

The last argument to put forward is that of the alternate politics and ideology being provided by the RIC leaders of the BRICS. Putin has proved his mettle as a strong leader and has proved this against all his opponents in Russia and abroad. His politics is still not understood by many in the world; he has continued to remain as one of the strongest leaders of the world. He has strengthened his United Russia as one of the strongest political parties in Russia. When everybody wrote Russia off, it was he alone who believed that he could bring stability to the political situation of his country. His tactics and manoeuvrings can be called as his politics from within. He is least bothered about the glorified concepts of the West used to abuse him. He has convinced his people to accept him as he is and  he has proved through  elections every time. Xi Jinping believes that China’s “consultative democracy” – or system of consultative conferences – as the country’s unique way of fostering public consensus and reaching out to citizens on important matters. He does not see the democracy envisaged by the West as the model. Though it may sound that China is an authoritarian country and it has to become democratic, the Chinese leader feels that the Western model need not be the only model. He is one who has been able to be popular as a leader by taking up issues of corruption and many other evils of the society without copying everything from the West. The urge to come up with their own model and ideas itself is a point of departure from the hegemony of the West in some concepts based on ideology. In case of Narendra Modi, though he endorses the present day ideals such as democracy and human rights, he feels that these have been practiced and preached by India much before the West was a civilised society. He would every time get back to ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ and ‘Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanthi’ rather than ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ slogan. He fought against all the odds that came in his way to the most powerful office of India. The West painted him as a villain with the Godhra incident, yet he did not spew venom on them and grew beyond their expectation by embracing them and calling them good. This itself is seen as one of the biggest failures of some of the Western countries. His ‘country first’ slogan, Make in India to Clean India have gone past regular rhetoric’s used by the leaders of the world. His politics is not borrowed one but a genuine understanding of his country and the soil. This component of politics from within is highlighted to prove the point that these leaders are not in dearth of ideas and are capable of pulling their respective countries out of crisis.

The emerging world order is shaped by BRICS due to their capability to give alternate options to the present system in the world and that emerging world order would be shaping the politics of the Twenty First Century. Every step of BRICS, whether it is a bank or university or for that matter even thinking beyond the boundaries to create alternate politics from finance to literacy, would be the greatest point of departure in world politics.


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