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Behind the scenes: India shaped BRICS position on West Asia, Afghanistan

Delhi,Diplomacy, Sat, 31 Mar 2012 IANS

New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) Amid differing perceptions, India played a crucial role in shaping the collective stance of the BRICS countries on the need for dialogue to resolve the festering crisis in West Asia and to push continued regional and international cooperation in stabilising Afghanistan.

 

The Delhi Declaration at the end of the fourth BRICS summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa Thursday supported moderation and dialogue in resolving the Iranian nuclear standoff and the Syrian crisis amid threats and sharp rhetoric emanating from Western capitals.

 

Although there are sceptics who say the political content of BRICS remains thin, the New Delhi summit is by far the most ambitious one as it seeks to reinforce the economic heft of the emerging economies with calls for greater diplomatic clout in setting the international agenda.

 

Well informed sources said while each country has its own interests to safeguard, India is broadly satisfied with attempts at injecting political content on issues of immediate concern to its security and economic wellbeing. For example, there was no mention of Afghanistan in the earlier BRICS declarations and limited reference to West Asia in the 2011 Sanya declaration.

 

On Iran, the BRICS countries collectively warned against allowing the situation to escalate into conflict - a veiled reference to the speculated plan by the US-Israel to target Iranian nuclear facilities.

 

In the restricted discussions between the leaders that preceded the plenary session, which was open to the media, there were intense discussions among the delegations of the five countries on these sensitive issues, informed sources said. There were differences of perception as well as convergence as none of the BRICS countries wanted to openly defy the West by taking a confrontational stance.

 

However, India took the lead in the discussions, with Russia and China agreeing that any escalation of the already tense situation in Iran will have corroding spillover effects on the global economy triggered by the rise in oil prices.

 

The position on Iran is significant as it also calls for roping in Tehran as a responsible member of the international community. This is bound to upset the US which has been trying to isolate the Iranian regime, Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary and envoy to the US, told IANS.

 

The escalation of the Iranian situation is bound to impact India, Russia and China in different ways. India gets nearly 10-12 percent of its oil imports from Iran. China imports around 20 percent of its oil requirements from Iran. Both China and Russia have extensive business interests in Iran.

 

On Syria, India feels that the larger logic behind its vote on the UN resolution has been vindicated by the BRICS resolution which calls for "a Syria-backed democratic transition" in that country.

 

Any flare-up in the Middle East will have additional complications for India as the region is home to over six million Indians who account for a bulk of $58 billion in remittances sent by overseas Indians. These concerns were reflected in the BRICS position on not letting transformation in the Middle East and North Africa as "a pretext to delay resolution of lasting conflicts but rather as an incentive to settle them, in particular the Arab-Israeli conflict".

 

Similarly, India played a proactive role in getting other BRICS leaders to advocate continued international international engagement in Afghanistan against the backdrop of the phased pulldown of coalition troops in the violence-torn country. The post-withdrawal situation in Afghanistan will also impact Russia and China, but any instability in that country will have an immediate bearing on India's security, said the sources.

 

Taking a long-range view, the BRICS leaders affirmed their commitment to support Afghanistan's emergence as "a peaceful, stable and democratic state, free of terrorism and extremism" and underscored "the need for more effective regional and international cooperation for the stabilisation of Afghanistan, including by combating terrorism".

 

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

 


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