BRICS Extraordinary Meeting and Failure of Modi Doctrine

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With the conclusion of the BRICS + extraordinary meeting hosted by South Africa on the conflicts in West Asia, it has been clear that India will continue its alignment with the West and Israel. While most of the members reiterated how Israel’s settler colonialism is the root cause of the conflict, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar stood firm on blaming Hamas. He also stated that there can be no compromise to terrorism. The Modi doctrine of diplomacy for the past nine years has stagnated India’s internal reputation and aspirations. Narendra Modi had skipped the online meeting due to the election campaigns in poll-bound states. Though the officials stated that Modi was preoccupied with the campaign schedules, it is obvious that the outcome of the extraordinary meeting was anticipated.

In a close examination of recent diplomatic events by India, one can categorically see how the Modi doctrine is failing to capture its promised achievements. While the economy is trailing and seldom benefitted through trade agreements, the only resort of Narendra Modi and Jaishankar was their self-projection as the leader of the Global South. It is noteworthy that the extraordinary meeting succeeded the Voice of Global South Summit which had references to ongoing genocide in Palestine. BRICS + comprising of mostly countries from the global south has proved that India is isolated for its stand on the Israel-Palestine issue. This isolation has a serious impact on the future geo-political prospects of India. In evaluating the BRICS extraordinary meeting Iran urged the members to cease economic and military interactions with Israel. Vladimir Putin who attended the meeting criticized the US monopolization of mediation efforts. He urged the international community to unite in an effort to achieve a speedy de-escalation and a ceasefire in Gaza, as well as a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and added that the BRICS nations and regional actors could play a leading role in this process.

Xi Jinping in his address said “ The root cause of the Palestinian-Israeli situation is the fact that the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, their right to existence, and their right of return have long been ignored. I have emphasized on many occasions that the only viable way to break the cycle of Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies in the two-state solution, in the restoration of the legitimate national rights of Palestine, and in the establishment of an independent State of Palestine. There can be no sustainable peace and security in the Middle East without a just solution to the question of Palestine. China calls for early convening of an international peace conference that is more authoritative to build international consensus for peace and work toward an early solution to the question of Palestine that is comprehensive, just, and sustainable.” Saudi Arabia called for the cessation of arms and ammunition supplies to Israel. Argentina’s newly elected president Javier Milie condemned Hamas and demanded that Israel must adhere to international humanitarian law.  This can be a possible indication of Argentina’s disassociation from BRICS as Milie, a far-right economist is a proactive supporter of dollarizing the economy.

India had three diplomatic events before this extraordinary meeting. The ICC World Cup, Voice of Global South Summit, and ministerial dialogue between India and Australia. During the World Cup Modi tried for cricket diplomacy by inviting his counterparts of the UK and Australia. Though Rishi Sunak expressed his readiness, due to some reasons he didn’t make his presence. A sideline discussion with Anthony Albanese prior to the 2+2 ministerial dialogue was expected to boost talks in favour of India. But Albanese prioritized the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit over his QUAD partner. The core weakness of Modi doctrine – neglecting the neighbours was visible in the failed innings of cricket diplomacy. In the interview given to The Hindu, Australian finance minister Penny Wong in reply to a question on whether India’s urge to take action against the Khalistan group was fulfilled, she said “ ….In relation to that I’d say is we respect your sovereignty. And we also are very clear about the line between peaceful protests, freedom of expression, and violence and vandalism.” She has already clarified that the cooperation with India is for the balancing of power to counter China. The failed cricket diplomacy, Australia’s stand on the India-Canada standoff, and the statements by Wong have accurately proved how India has turned into a vassal of the Western countries under the Modi doctrine.

The current stand of the union government has isolated India in the Global South. Meanwhile, China is on the verge of emerging as the new dominant player in West Asian geopolitics. In the background of the Saudi-Iran peace deal that was brokered by China, Arab countries held direct talks with Beijing.   The officials holding meetings with China were from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, Palestinian authorities, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, among others. Succeeding this South Africa, one of the strongest allies of China in the African continent hosted the virtual meeting of BRICS. Joining the dots, China is set to emerge in the role of mediator. Arab countries met Chinese diplomats to give a strong message to the USA too. With the BRICS extraordinary meeting, China was able to successfully entrap the USA between the Zionist pressure for continuous aggression and the Middle East pressure for a ceasefire. One will not be mistaken to assume that China is working to diminish the outreach of USA in West Asia.

Though a joint declaration was not issued from the statements of various leaders except Jaishankar all others demanded a ceasefire and held Israel’s settler colonialism as the reason for the conflict. They endorsed the initiatives of Arab countries for establishing peace. South African parliament has voted for the closure of the Israel Embassy in Pretoria.

Undoubtedly India has trailed from its glorious legacy of being the voice of global south. China emphasized on the strategy that India forgot during the Modi era. In the past, India’s diplomacy focused on creating a New Economic World Order based on the liberation of Asian, African, and Latin American countries from neo-colonialism. The Non-Aligned Movement led by India comprised countries that gained independence from colonial regimes. They were not powerful countries but had the potential of multiple dimensions. It was never the service or submission to power that helped India and NAM to develop their influences. China has built deep economic cooperations with African, and Asian post-colonial countries than with the Western countries. Bharath Karnad assessed Modi’s foreign policy as “bowing to the powerful and bullying the weak.” Such policies only result in the rupture of the country’s power.

In an article written by Rahul Nath Choudhary in East Asia Forum, he noted that the majority of free trade agreements signed by India failed to cater better results. In the period between 2017 and 2022, India’s exports to its FTA partners increased by 31 per cent, while its imports increased by 82 per cent. India’s FTA utilization remains very low at around 25 per cent, while utilization for developed countries typically sits between 70–80 percent. The alternative for this – bilateral agreements and multilateral forums can be achieved if India could revamp another NAM based on multipolarity and de-dollarization. If the escalation continues in West Asia the future of India’s Middle East Corridor will be forever at a crossroad. Even a peace treaty based on the intervention of China and BRIC countries will bring the same fate.

Alan Paul Varghese is an independent foreign affairs and geopolitical analyst based in New Delhi

The article was published in the Countercurrents.