In a parallel BRICS Leaders meeting, held on November 15, 2015 on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Antalya, Turkey, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi put forward India’s vision for BRICS in 2016. India will take over BRICS presidency from Russia and assume the Chairmanship starting February 1 till December 2016. Under this tenure, India will host the VIII BRICS Summit. Given this, the 11 months of Chairmanship will be very crucial for India in two ways: first, in terms of shaping BRICS as an institution in general and second, building its role as a responsive global leader in particular. Therefore, what will encompass India’s 2016 BRICS agenda in fulfilling these twin objectives calls for an immediate deliberation.

With an embedded emphasis on linking India’s “highest importance to BRICS”, PM Modi put forward the strategic vision of India’s BRICS Chairmanship themed under “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions”- which is comprehensively equivalent for the acronym ‘BRICS’. What is noteworthy is that, adopting such a comprehensive approach India wants to implement a diversified tactic towards shaping BRICS, which is, shifting the priority from a limited economic rationale to build global economy to that of engaging with imminent global concerns. In which, ‘terrorism’ is the key challenge to global security as with the recent spiraling of terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Ankara, combating terrorism has emerged as a key objective for the global leaders. In this context, in addition to the emerging global profile of BRICS as an important multilateral institution compounded with the BRICS countries own state of casualty to the growing act of terror- security has become a priority. In this spirit, India’s 2016 BRICS roadmap will provide a new direction to the building blocks of BRICS, wherein ‘combating terrorism’ will be accorded priority along with economic interests. This is reflected in PM Modi’s strong condemnation of recent terror attacks at the BRICS leaders meeting and his call for “the need for a united global effort to combat terrorism”. This very statement outlines the vision that shapes India’s 2016 objectives as the BRICS Chairman.

Given the indicative expansion of the BRICS institution since its inception in 2009, important outputs have been reached in terms of the New Development Bank, the Currency Reserve Arrangement, and Strategy for BRICS Economic Cooperation and so on. Given this outcome, it has become imperative for BRICS leaders to further elevate the role of the institution. In this view, it is important to note that in 2016 apart from assuming the BRICS Chairmanship, India will also take the first presidency over the BRICS nations USD 50 billion New Development Bank which is headquartered in Shanghai. What makes the BRICS development Bank important is that it aims to become a more responsive alternative to the west dominated World Bank. And in this view, for India as its President, the key objective lies in addressing the “inclusive and responsive” needs of particularly emerging economies- hence, fulfilling the core objective of BRICS in developing a global financial institution where developing countries will have greater influence.

Having a broader vision of building greater engagement among BRICS nations, Indian PM Narendra Modi crafted India’s 2016 BRICS agenda by proposing a plan called “Dus Kadam” or ten steps to boost cooperation, during the VII BRICS Summit at Ufa, Russia in July 2015. Wherein, the ten steps involve: BRICS trade fair, a railway research centre, cooperation among supreme audit institutions, a digital initiative, an agricultural research centre, a forum of state/local governments among the BRICS nations, cooperation among cities in the field of urbanization, a sports council and an annual sports meet, first major project of New Development Bank to be in the field of clean energy and a film festival. Given this agenda, the ten steps aim to build greater connectivity by tapping the potential among the BRICS countries. Besides, this approach India also aims to build greater people-to-people contacts, creating deeper engagements and expanding the scope of the multilateral institutional ties.

With this agenda in hand, the 2016 BRICS Chairmanship provides a great strategic opportunity for India, both literally and figuratively. What makes it highly significant and symbolic is the fact that if India under its chairmanship is able to succeed in strengthening its given alternate vision of building BRICS in a comprehensive way that goes beyond the economic logic, then India will significantly elevate its stature as a responsible global leader. In this, most importantly, India’s role in the BRICS Development Bank and its vision of a united front to combat terrorism will pave new dimensions of India’s strategic role in the international arena. Therefore, BRICS under India will be an important turning point for India’s multilateral diplomacy.

(by Amrita Jash, a Doctoral Candidate in Chinese Studies at the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University)