Closing India


Dated Published: August 2023


Dr Samir Saran; ORF

Thank you, Sarah. And thank you, Sarah, and the entire team, in fact, for the warmth and the hospitality. The moment that we could all meet again post the pandemic and continue with our journey as a community, as a family. Sarah always says my family, my Briggs family, and we are all family. I think that's important. But that doesn't mean that families are not dysfunctional. And therefore, I think one of the ideas to take forward based on what Slava just mentioned in his intervention, we should also discuss the difficult things that are happening within the house. And we cannot pretend that it's business as usual when it is not. And therefore, I would suggest that as Slava has agitated in his previous intervention, we should have some of these questions on the table in discussions, having scholars from all of our countries coming in and airing their thoughts and views and possible solutions, outcomes, directions, etc.


We are academics; we are not political leaders. We should not be making political statements in our outcome document. We should be making research-based statements. We do not want to be the B team of the political leadership. We want to be the A team of the ideas leadership. And therefore, first of all, I'm glad to share with you that all of us have agreed to put together this research hub, this knowledge hub, this academy, university, whichever way you want to define it, something that we will flesh out in the days ahead. But this gives us a chance to put teeth into conversations that we want to engage with. There is no point coming and reading a New York Times headline and repeating it. They are the ones who are proposing a BRICS currency.


There is no point repeating The Guardian, which is arguing for a BRICS+. Where are our research papers? Where are the scholars from our countries who have put together the pros and cons, the merits and the implications of doing any of these? Unless we invest in research that is indigenous to the group, we are only parroting someone else's market-based mantra. By the way, Jim O'Neill was the one that created the BRIC. And I don't think it has changed thereafter. We need to invest more in research, research within this family, research that comes out of this family, and I hope the South African initiative and something that all of us wholeheartedly support, endorse and want to take forward, results in more research on these crucial questions that Nikonov has outlined in his intervention.


What is the format, arrangement, criteria and purpose of expansion? How will we make it happen, who will we choose, who will we keep outside? Saying that we will become BRICS Plus is not good enough; that is a leadership statement; a researcher needs to do more. Saying that the dollar system is not good and not good enough is fine; we all know it; the weaponisation of the dollar has happened in front of our eyes multiple times, not once, it has happened on multiple occasions, currency has been weaponised, the Swiss system has been weaponised, sanctions have been used as weapons of conflict and contest. We know about it. But as an academic community, we need to find the better way, the better path, its implications, its costs, its benefits.


And have we done it in the last one year? We must do it in the next. When we meet in Russia, I suggest many of the points raised by Professor Nikonov should actually see a flurry of papers being produced by the BRICS community, by those in the room. In fact, I would present an offer from my foundation that for any of you who want to write, I am very happy to commission papers to give you incentives to write. We want more BRICS papers coming on each of these crucial questions so that when we meet in Kazan, we can come up with an informed recommendation for a leader saying that there is an X per cent benefit of this path; there are these hurdles if you want to do this. We must be able to come up with concrete.


We must not parrot what the leaders already say. We are not their amplifiers. And that's why we are lagging, because we wait for cues from our leaders. We wait for our strategic positions of Track I and our formal community. We are not leading them to certain directions based on our own thinking. And I think that needs to be an innovation we need to introduce now. And I'm glad that Sarah has proposed this idea, and I am glad, Professor Nikonov, that you have underlined the urgency of research, researching these areas, discussing these areas and coming up with propositions that are not just headlines but are actually lines that will rewrite our trajectory as nations.


I want to also point to two other ideas that I think we discussed in the closed rooms with the permission of the rest of the delegation. One, of course, was the idea on technology, and this is something that we are going to hopefully agree to as well in our conclusion. But emerging technologies, critical technologies, chat GPT, AI, you know, large language models, etc., are moving at a rapid pace. All of us in our industries are busy and engaged with it, but policymakers don't have time to necessarily get their teeth into the problem and come up with frameworks that would keep society safe, economies inclusive, and growth secular and widespread.


And I think it is important as a BRICS community to be actually working on these cutting-edge, blue-skies domains that are now upon us. We should not only be looking back and correcting what happened in the 20th century, but we should now be looking ahead to the 21st and writing norms, rules and indeed principles that will define domains that have not yet been governed, where no incumbent has any significant power of position, and this allows us to become the front runners and actually be the harbingers of the frameworks and of the governance models that will define the 21st century. So, even as we look back and correct what is wrong, let us look ahead and build what is new.


And build that house in a manner that is different to how it was built in the 20th century post-World War II. Let us be exemplars of the reforms that we want by building models that are inclusive and indeed plural and democratic, that recognise culture, civilisation, sovereignty and indeed the, diversity. Let us celebrate diversity as we build new templates for our digital futures and technology; therefore, it is very important and something we must focus on. Our world is digital; our governance will be digital, and our rules will have to manage this new digital age. And the final point is on the benefits that we can, as individual nations, offer to the partners that engage with the group as a whole.


Let me try and explain to you. And I think Professor Nikonov alluded to it. All of us are in some ways a pole in the multipolar world. The 21st century will not have a neat, single multilateral system underwritten by one or two superpowers. It will have a confluence of multilateral systems that would be engaging with each other based on the relationship of these multiple poles. Countries such as South Africa, India, perhaps Brazil, China and certainly Russia will all have to engage different sets of networks in this new multilateral and multipolar world; we will all have to be bridges in some sense, removing the distance and difference in critical domains by reaching across these particular networks.


We all have a bridging function, we all have a pole function, and we will all have to understand that there is going to be no homogeneous group that will be able to manage a diverse world such as ours. The BRICS is going to be one very important group that can reach out to a number of other arrangements that will emerge. China has a few. India is investing and engaging with a few. South Africa has their own. Brazil is, of course, one of the oldest international actors in the group, and Russia was the original superpower.


We will have to engage with others. Our engagement with others is not a burden on the group. We have to stop treating our partnership with others as a problem for the richness of this group. In a multipolar world, we will have multidimensional relationships. We will engage with countries in the Atlantic system; we will engage with countries in East Asia; we will engage with countries in Africa and certainly in the Middle East. And we will enrich the BRICS because of our participation in these other groups and let us enrich the other groups by bringing what the BRICS has to offer to them.


I think we need to get over this cult culture. BRICS is not a cult. BRICS is ground zero for us to go and engage with others and take the message of pluralism of diversity of celebrating difference, and this time around last night, we celebrated exactly that. So thank you, Sarah, for allowing us to celebrate our differences for feeling loved for feeling comfortable and for feeling at home till the next time Thank you very much, South Africa.


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