NEW DELHI -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves today for the seventh BRICS Summit to be held in Ufa in Russia on Wednesday and Thursday this week. This is the third time Modi will meeting his peers in BRICS, after attending the previous summit in Fortaleza last year and meeting the BRICS leaders in Brisbane during the G20 meeting.
The theme this year will be on global development, emphasising on economic cooperation.
"We regard this as a very important forum for consolidating positions among five significant economies in the world on issues of common interest," said Secretary (MER) Sujata Mehta. "The most significant issues in this format are issues of governance as well as of coordination and cooperation on global economic and financial issues."
Modi is expected to meet the leaders over dinner on Wednesday, followed by the formal summit on Thursday. The leaders will also meet members of the Business Council that day, with five business leaders from each member state. First President of the BRICS Development Bank and eminent Indian banker K.V. Kamath will also be at the summit.
There will also be a BRICS outreach session that day, where leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) have been invited. India has expressed its interest earlier to be part of the SCO, and its inclusion is expected this time.
India had formally applied for membership of the SCO prior before the Dushanbe summit in September last year. While the SCO Foreign Ministers, who met in June in Moscow, have made a positive recommendation regarding India’s membership to the summit, further developments are awaited. Modi has received an invitation from Russian President Putin to attend the summit this time.
Before and after the BRICS Summit, Modi will also visit five Central Asian countries — two of them before the summit, and three post Thursday.
On Monday, he is scheduled to visit Uzbekistan, followed by Kazakhstan on Tuesday. On his way back from Russia, he will make short visits (about a day-long each) to Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. He is expected to meet Indologists and Hindi language students, visit a business event, inaugurate a Yoga centre, as well as a virtual link between a hospital in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan with hospitals in India.
Explaining India's interest in the region, Secretary (West) Navtej Sarna said that it has historical, cultural linkages which can be traced back at least 2,500 years. While India has been working for the development of these countries since 1991, these are also resource-rich nations with potential for a great partnership for India for oil and gas.
While Turkmenistan has the fourth largest gas reserves in the world, Kazakhstan is one of the major oil producers as well as the largest uranium producer in the world. So far, lack of surface connectivity has hampered India's trade and investment in these countries.
"So far it is patchy and it is not at the level that we would like it to be," said Sarna.
Modi is planning to address this concern by pushing the North-South Corridor which India has been working on for a few years now. By getting wider membership in the corridor by linking other strategic connections (India recently announced that the Chabahar Port will be made operational by end of next year) there is hope that this will become a straightforward connection between India and other Central Asian countries.
Meanwhile, India can provide other development-related benefits to these countries, making these visits critical for everyone concerned. There are plans to build counterterrorism linkages to remove instability and threat from extremist groups, said Sarna.
"The impact of what happens in Afghanistan concerns this area, concerns India," he said. "So, we are looking forward to having extensive discussions on the regional issues, particularly in the context of the SCO which is a regional organization also concerned with issues like terrorism and drug trafficking and so on."