SCO-BRICS summits in Ufa will help improve economies, relations between countries’ leaders

June 24, 2015 4:42 pm

Less than a month remains until the 14th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the 7th BRICS summit. Both events will be held in the Russian city of Ufa on July 8-10, 2015.

The meetings will take place at a joint discussion platform for up to 3,000 guests where the leaders of member-states plan to continue expanding their countries’ mutual ties in various areas of cooperation.

A new economic partnership strategy is expected to be one of the main topics of the BRICS summit, while the leaders of SCO countries aim to discuss the 2016-2018 cooperation strategy in countering terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as the upcoming expansion, where India and Pakistan are pronounced the main candidates for the full-fledged membership.

The foreign observers are closely monitoring the situation before the summits, some of them not holding back their opinions. In particular, Greg Shtraks from the United States writes in his article, published by The Diplomat, that the Ufa talks may change the power structure in the region, weaken the American influence, change the geopolitical world map and define the future developments of the Eurasian concept.

“The last (and only other) time that SCO and BRICS combined their summits was back in 2009, in the midst of the global financial crisis, when the two organizations held simultaneous meetings in Ekaterinburg. […] But whereas the Ekaterinburg conference was a rather prosaic affair, the meetings in Ufa promise to culminate with several major agreements,” the journalist stresses.

The experts worldwide are also excited over the upcoming summits: just like the observers, they are closely watching the economic and political situation and making forecasts over which issues will be discussed in Ufa.

One of them, Dosym Satpayev, Cand. Pol. Sc., a Kazakhstan political analyst and director of the Risk Evaluation Group, listed the most important tactical questions for SCO and BRICS countries to talk over during the upcoming summits.

In his opinion, the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will focus on security issues, just like three years ago. At the same time, the expert stressed, many expect SCO to move towards increasing its internal economic cooperation, a step actively endorsed by China.

“I remember talking to Chinese experts when I was in Beijing a few years ago, and they, too, were asking: ‘What will we do with this structure, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in the future? Is there a way to make it more competitive?’ By the way, it was then when the ‘Two Wheels theory’ was proposed, where he first ‘wheel,’ the original foundation of SCO, is the security issue, while the second ‘wheel’ that would make it more stable is economy. That means, SCO is more likely to undergo some degree of transformation into an economic structure,” the political analyst said.

He also pointed out that the full-fledged future membership of two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will increase the latter’s authority on an international level: however, the politicians should not forget about the current territorial and political disputes in the region, including those between Beijing and New Delhi.

Moreover, Dosym Satpaev thinks that the discussions at the 7th BRICS summit should include such issues as establishing actual partnership relations between its members, recruiting new members, and creating plans to reform the international financial system.

“The experience shows that the current international system is a proof of the crisis of international law. Basically, we see ‘gunboat diplomacy’ and violations of any and all international agreements possible de-facto becoming new rules of the game once again. Therefore, if BRICS wants to make a name for itself, it should announce its world order restoration plans at an international level,” the political analyst stressed.

He also reminded that the meetings on July 8-10 will be held in the midst of the current sanctions against Russia imposed by Europe and the US, along with the presently low oil prices – the factors that created an excellent opportunity for the country to become less dependent on the Western markets with the help of cooperation with its partners in all parts of the world.

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At the same time, the expert said that China, a country that currently holds the leading position both in SCO and BRICS, is likely to transform into a full-fledged economic and political superpower within the next 10-15 years and compete with Russia for influence in Asia and ex-USSR countries, which is why Moscow must remain vigilant.

“Russia should keep a very important notion in mind: competition is never truly gone. Even though these states are connected through their regional groupings, the experience shows there are no true friends in world economy and international policy issues – only partners. The thing is, the partners can also be opportunistic,” Dosym Satpayev explained, adding that Moscow should first of all concentrate on increasing the state’s internal competitive performance.

Joaquim Ramos Silva, international economist and macroeconomist, head of the Department of Economics at the School of Economics and Management in the University of Lisbon, shares this view.

“It will be very important for Russia to be less energy [export]-dependent (oil and gas), and this requires time to transform the country in that way,” he noted, adding that the economic advantages may push Moscow towards putting away defensive and military issues for a time.

At the same time, the expert stressed that the current situation will make political and financial flexibility vital for everyone.

“After 2014, the situation in BRICS and emergent economies became less rosy with the fall of price of commodities, exchange and financial troubles, the shrinking of Chinese rate of growth et cetera. So it would be good for BRICS and SCO countries to become more realists and also prepare to change,” the economist advised.

From his point of view, it would be the best for the Ufa summits participants in the current international climate to form an open inter-state structure with a common peaceful external policy.

“I also support more representation of all these countries in international institutions, and I think plainly legitimate that they take regional and global initiatives, but this can be done in cooperation with the rest of world not through breaking the links with the West,” the Portuguese researcher said, adding that many states such as Brazil and India maintain good ties with the US and Europe.

Moreover, he reminded that the SCO and BRICS countries still seem to be unable to reach full consensus over a series of vital topics, such as security issues, in spite of public announcements of political and economic unity.

At the same time, Miguel Griesbach de Pereira Franco, consular minister, advisor at the Brazilian Embassy to Russia, expressed his belief that the mutual cooperation of the states at the upcoming Ufa summits will only grow and have a beneficial effect on world peace and security.

He also suggested that the decision to hold the BRICS and SCO summits together may be seen as an attempt to boost cooperation between the two groupings and join the forces to promote common interests for the sake of mutual objectives more effectively.

“As you know, this started at the V summit in South Africa, when the host country invited countries of the African Union. This was followed by Brazil that invited countries of UNASUR to take part in the VI Summit in Fortaleza,” the consular minister of the Brazilian Embassy to Russia recalled.

In his opinion, the states represented at the summits have great development potential and become more and more responsible for the dynamics of the world economy, which is why they have everything required to improve their ties.

“The main reason behind [the meetings] is an opportunity to discuss issues of common interest with other countries, specifically those related to promotion of economic and social development,” Miguel Griesbach de Pereira Franco explained.

He also stressed that the reaction to the Western unipolar world order is very unlikely to become the main leitmotif of the upcoming summits at Ufa.

At the same time, Alexander Gabuev, senior associate and chair of the Russian in the Asia-Pacific program for the Moscow Carnegie Endowment Center, noted the importance of the July 8-10 meetings for Russia due to its current tensions with the US and the EU, as the successful talks will serve as a diplomatic response to the Western actions.

However, he added that he expects no unprecedented proclamations or breakthroughs during the BRICS summit.

“The main breakthrough was a year ago when they announced the creation of a joint bank and a reserve currency pool. Perhaps these initiatives will be fleshed out, because there have been no notable events before that, except plans and some management meetings,” the analyst told “PenzaNews” agency.

From his point of view, the main topics of discussion at the SCO meeting will include the Afghanistan issue and the potential to bring together the economic programs of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Chinese Silk Road initiative. In spite of that, the Moscow Carnegie Center researcher pointed out that even these talks may merely result in a round of discussions.

Moreover, he added that the promised SCO membership for India and Pakistan will be the next key issue at the summits. According to Alexander Gabuev’s opinion, the increase in numbers will do well for the organization’s authority, but impede its effectiveness due to increased potential of internal disputes arising.

He also stressed that the members of both organizations as a whole are at a disadvantage compared to China in their mutual cooperation levels, while Beijing actively utilizes its status to promote its own interests.

“China has more connections with the rest of BRICS countries than they have with each other as a whole,” the speaker explained.

At the same time, Christopher Wood, researcher with the Economic Diplomacy Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs, reminded that the current financial status of many countries leaves much to be desired, which will be a defining element in their cooperation.

“Brazil, South Africa and Russia [are] struggling economically; and even China [is] slowing slightly,” the expert said, adding that their cooperation potential still remains high.

In his opinion, the discussion of the upcoming meetings in Ufa on July 8-10 requires a background in the form of current geopolitical climate in Europe and Asia.

“I think these summits must be understood in light of Russia’s ongoing tension with the West, and the perception that Western powers are attempting to isolate Russia by, for example, removing the country from the G8. […] I think these summits demonstrate that isolating countries is very difficult in a multipolar world. Attempts by certain groups to isolate a country can result in that country simply shifting focus to other groupings,” the researcher said.

From his point of view, Russia hosting the high-level BRICS and SCO summits is not only a demonstration of the Kremlin’s remaining authority, but also a signal about the emerging massive alternatives to Western blocs in the form of strong political groups from emerging countries.

At the same time, the expert stressed that reaction to the US and Europe cannot be seen as the main motivation that caused such international organizations to appear, as many countries maintain close ties with them.

“Brazil, notably, refers to itself as a member of the West; while India under President [Narendra] Modi has reached out notably to the United States,” added the researcher of the South African Institute of International Affairs.

Discussing the agenda of the upcoming Ufa summits, he stressed the importance of cooperation between the countries – an issue particularly important for China, Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa right now.

“I think the key to the long-term success of BRICS is for the group to be accepting of disagreements amongst friends. The BRICS is an extremely diverse group, with as many differences as common objectives. The group must be accepting of disagreements, and embrace common opportunities. This will allow the BRICS to demonstrate to the world that fruitful cooperation is possible even in light of great diversity,” Christopher Wood elaborated.

Meanwhile, Vinod Anand, senior fellow of Vivekananda International Foundation and author of a series of articles on geopolitics in Asia, remarked that the stance of SCO and BRICS on many issues, including that of national and global security, remained nearly unchanged over the last few years.

“The then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev had commented upon ‘The artificially maintained unipolar system.’ Similar sentiments are expected to be expressed this time around. Furthermore, Russia, China and India are part of both platforms, and there is a congruity between the three on the nature of the emerging world order,” the expert said.

From his point of view, the most vital topics for the Ufa summits will be the stimulation of mutual contacts, as well as reaching and maintaining the peace, and such changes as SCO expansion through India and Pakistan will bring over the much needed support in this situation.

“The SCO members remain wary of the developing situation in Afghanistan as any spillover of instability from Afghanistan will have concomitant negative impact on them. Regional cooperation – whether through Heart of Asia process, where both India and Pakistan are also members, or through SCO – would contribute to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” Vinod Anand said.

The expansion of mutual ties will also positively affect trade relations, he added, as the countries that will be represented in Ufa augment each other’s potential perfectly.

The analyst expressed his belief that the July summits signify a natural evolution of the world order towards a multipolar geopolitical strategy and a shift of power from the West towards the East.

“In the long term, both groupings could become an important block in the UN and contribute their bit to the evolving world order. Such multilateral groupings would have a positive impact and impart a degree of balance to the prevailing strategic discourse both at regional and global level,” Vinod Anand concluded.

BRICS is a group that unites China, Russia, Brazil, India, and South Africa – the five major emerging national economies.

The group received its first title, BRIC, in November 2001 as an acronym after the first letters of the four initial states – Brazil, Russia, India and China. After South Africa joined the group in 2011, it was renamed BRICS.

The first brief meeting of the leaders in the grouping was held in July 2008 in Toyako Onsen, Japan, and the first full-scale annual summit took place in Ekaternburg, Russia, on June 16, 2009, right next to the SCO meetings.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was formed in 2001 by the leaders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Before its formation, the aforementioned countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, a political union found in 1996 and formed through the Agreement on Enhancing Trust in the Military Area on the Border (Shanghai, 1996) and the Agreement on Mutual Reduction of Armed Forces in the Border Area (Moscow, 1997). After Uzbekistan joined the grouping in 2001, the Five turned into the Six and subsequently took its current name.

Currently, five countries (Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan) have the observer-nation status, while three more (Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka) have dialogue partner status.

Among the major goals of SCO are improving mutual trust between its members; assisting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, science and development, culture and other areas of cooperation; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace; and moving towards a new democratic, just and rational political and economic international order. 

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