Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday addressed the BRICS online summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as the leaders made their first joint appearance at a global forum since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow faces severe criticism and censure from the US-led global alliance over its actions in Ukraine, but New Delhi because of its historical links to the Russia has so far resisted calls from the West to condemn the Kremlin.
BRICS is a major alliance of five emerging economies ― Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — comprising 41 per cent of the world’s population and a quarter of the global gross domestic product.
The multilateral mechanism, formed in 2009, is aimed at promoting peace, security and development in the countries but comes at a time when the global economy is struggling because of the war in Ukraine.
The theme of this year’s summit is "Foster High-quality BRICS Partnership, Usher in a New Era for Global Development". The summit is being hosted by Beijing, with President Xi Jinping criticising the western nations.
Along with Mr Xi, Mr Modi, Mr Putin, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro joined the two days of discussions.
Mr Putin called upon the BRICS leaders to co-operate to be able to navigate the global economic crisis as he accused the West’s economic sanctions against Russia as “ill-conceived” and "selfish actions".
"Only on the basis of honest and mutually beneficial co-operation can we look for ways out of this crisis situation, which developed in the global economy because of the ill-conceived, selfish actions of certain states," Mr Putin said.
Mr Modi, however, steered clear of the Ukraine invasion and focused on the pandemic-induced global economic crisis as he emphasised the importance of the alliance for economic recovery.
“We are meeting virtually amid the challenges of the Covid pandemic. Even though the scale of the epidemic has reduced globally ... many of its ill effects are still visible in the global economy,” Mr Modi said. “We, the BRICS member countries, have had a very similar view of the governance of the global economy. And so our mutual co-operation can make a useful contribution to post-Covid global recovery,” he said.
The summit is significant for Beijing, which has been using the forum to counter the US-led global order as it expands its economic and political footprint around the globe.
New Delhi and Beijing have explicitly refused to condemn Moscow over the military invasion and have increased their energy purchases from Russia despite sanctions by the West.
But India and China are engaged in a tense border dispute in the Himalayas that turned deadly in 2020.
While speaking online at the opening ceremony of BRICS Business Forum on Wednesday, Mr Xi, without naming the Biden administration, criticised the US-sponsored sanctions on Moscow and accused the West of “weaponising” the world economy.
"It has been proved time and again that sanctions are a boomerang and a double-edged sword,” Mr Xi said.
“To politicise, instrumentalise and weaponise the global economy, and to wilfully impose sanctions by taking advantage of one's dominant status in the international financial and monetary systems will only end up hurting one's own interests as well as those of others, and inflict suffering on people around the world," he said.
Indian analysts say New Delhi has adopted a neutral path at the forum as it seeks to secure its energy needs during the global crisis.
“India is kind of guarded in this forum, because there is a lot of double talk by the Chinese on that. But again, the issues of energy security for prizes, those are the things India is concerned with. We are entering into a turbulent phase and so this is seen as a cushion,” Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert in New Delhi, told The National.