Leaders of the fast-growing BRICS nations have gathered to discuss how to combine their powers better. But questions over whether they can resolve their differences linger.
Leaders of the BRICS countries met in India on Thursday to discuss ways to combine their economic clout through closer cooperation, including the creation of a new development bank.
The group's relationship "aspires to create a new global architecture," according to India's Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.
The leaders of the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, are attending the bloc's fourth meeting. The term BRIC was coined by the US bank Goldman Sachs in 2001 as a collective term for the world's fastest growing economies, and they first met for talks in 2009. South Africa joined at the group's third summit last year.
South African President Jacob Zuma expressed his happiness on Thursday that South Africa has been welcomed by the other countries.
"In BRICS, we have a place where we feel that Africa is being treated with respect. Our views are treated equally among the partners. There is no feeling that some people are looking down on the continent of Africa," he said.
The prospect of creating a “BRICS Bank” aimed at funding development and infrastructure projects in emerging countries is top of the agenda. Leaders are anticipated to confirm their commitment to setting it up to rival other multilateral lenders, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
"It would be a very powerful financial tool to improve trade opportunities," Brazil's Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel said on Wednesday.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is also expected to push for a summit communiqué against US and EU monetary policies, which she contends has driven up currencies in countries like Brazil, undermining the competitiveness of their exports.
The contingent of emerging powers are keen to ramp up trade with each other as well, which jumped by 28 percent last year to $230 billion. Two agreements to streamline processes and give credit facilities to exporters are planned to be signed, according to the Indian foreign ministry.
Top political issues, including Syria and Iraq, are also due to be discussed.
Overshadowed by protests
The lead-up to the meeting at a luxury hotel in Delhi was overshadowed by protests against Chinese President Hu Jintao by hundreds of Tibetan exiles. On Wednesday, a 20-year-old Tibetan activist set fire to himself in Cha township in Sichuan, the latest self-immolation protest against alleged repression by China in Tibet. This follows the self-immolation of a Tibetan protester in New Delhi on Monday ahead of the BRICS meeting.
India's sizeable exiled Tibetan community, estimated at 80,000, is a strong source of tension between India and China, adding to pre-existing strains in a relationship which observers argue is defined by rivalry. Competition between the world's two most populous emerging superpowers is seen by some commentators as one of the biggest stumbling blocks for BRICS to overcome. The radical differences between the BRICS nations' political and economic systems as well as the large physical distances between them are also seen as serious quandaries.
“Aside from impressive economic growth over the past decade and an individual desire for a greater say in the institutions of global economic governance, these disparate countries have little in common," wrote Walter Ladwig from the British think-tank the Royal United Services Institute in a recent editorial in the New York Times.
"The major emerging economies gathering in New Delhi will certainly shape global governance in the future. But it will be as individual nations, not as an artificial bloc founded on a Goldman Sachs' catchphrase."
sej/mz (AFP, DPA, Reuters)