Terrorism, coronavirus pandemic on the agenda as BRICS leaders meet

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Leaders of five major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are expected to endorse a counterterrorism strategy when they meet for their annual summit via video link on Tuesday.

Post-pandemic economic recovery and cooperation in public health are also likely to be high on the agenda at the BRICS meeting to be hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian embassy in Beijing on Monday said the bloc’s counterterrorism strategy would define how the member countries could work together on measures to prevent people from taking part in terrorist activities and financing terrorism.

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Under a working group, each member state has already set up a subgroup to handle a specific area, with Russia in charge of countering foreign terrorist militants and China focusing on radicalisation, according to the embassy.

The new strategy will be the first official document on counterterrorism for the BRICS countries, which together account for about 23 per cent of the world’s economy and 43 per cent of its population.

This year’s summit was originally due to be held in St Petersburg in July but was postponed because of the coronavirus crisis, and it comes as the global economy is reeling from the pandemic.

It also comes as a protracted border stand-off between China and India continues in the Himalayas, casting a shadow over the meeting.

Those tensions were apparent last week when there was no bilateral meeting held between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit – another virtual gathering hosted by Putin.

The China-India border dispute: its origins and impact

But Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, dismissed the suggestion that the China-India rift could affect the BRICS grouping, saying the bloc had “never thought of being a universal platform” to resolve bilateral disputes.

“There are regional platforms, each of them have their own record and agenda,” Ryabkov said at a press briefing in Moscow.

“For BRICS, it has its consolidating role in encouraging consensus … I am sure both India and China could benefit from participating in the BRICS and in the future they would find common ground … and work on an acceptable approach.”

The Russian embassy also said the five leaders would announce an economic partnership strategy to 2025 that would set out priorities to develop cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, finance, the digital economy and innovation.

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