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Critical of BRICS nations' authoritarian tendencies, India's civil rights groups soft on China at Delhi panel discussion

By Our Representative
A panel discussion in New Delhi by a network of people’s movements, trade unions and NGOs under the banner of Peoples' Forum on BRICS (acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), appeared to have gone soft on China, even as opposing “authoritarian” tendencies in three other countries – Brazil, Russia and India.
The discussion was organized by the Peoples' Forum on BRICS, a collective effort of several people’s movements, networks and civil society organisations from across India and BRICS countries (click HERE), to raise “critical voices from below on social, ecological, political and economic concerns that are often ignored at big summits such as BRICS.”
BRICS summit is proposed to be held in Goa on October 15-16.
While it was also critical of South Africa for what some panelists described “neo-liberal policies” and “land grab”, one of the top participants, Prabir Purkayastha, editor, newsclick.in, emphasised what he called “the importance of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative to create an alternative to the current control of maritime trade by the West.”
The discussion took place a week ahead of the Government of India-sponsored Civil BRICS meet, where civil society groups are said to have been asked to participate. To be held next from October 3-4 in New Delhi, panelists said, Civil BRICS is “unlikely” to discuss critical issues such as the attack on human rights in India or implications of the coup in Brazil, and raise of “corporate land grabs” in various BRICS countries.
Called to discuss foreign policy issues to be discussed at the BRICS summit,  panelists did not once recalling human rights violations in China, even as expressing “lack of coherence in BRICS” countries, pointing out they were working “at cross purposes.”
Critical of India's record, senior journalist Seema Mustafa, editor, thecitizen.in, said that the Modi government's “domestic posturing around nationalism, attacking Pakistan for terrorism and increased collaboration with the US through initiatives such as the Logistics Exchange Memorandum Agreement (LEMOA)” would isolate India from “groups such as Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Group of 77 countries.”
Achin Vanaik from the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) said that foreign policy is “an extension of national policies and priorities”, adding, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy is mostly about self-projection and masculinity. He warned against what he considered “a reductive policy, caught in the discourse of nationalism and terrorism.”
Prof Ajay Patnaik from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) argued that that Russia has a keen interest in a multi-polar world and, therefore, is intent on preserving BRICS.
Speaking on Brazil, Prof Sonya Gupta from Jamia Millia Islamia said that the progressive role of Brazil in establishing a post-hegemonic regional order in Latin America is being “undermined by interim President Temer who has already initiated measures to further privatize key sectors of the Brazilian economy.”
A day before the panel discussion took place on September 27, all central trade unions, except the BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), boycotted the high profile BRICS Labour Ministers' Meeting, held in New Delhi, citing “lack of due process and attempts to restrict meaningful participation.”

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