External affairs minister S. Jaishankar and minister of state for roads V.K. Singh (right). Singh will attend the BRICS foreign ministers’ meet in Brazil.pti
External affairs minister S. Jaishankar and minister of state for roads V.K. Singh (right). Singh will attend the BRICS foreign ministers’ meet in Brazil.pti

Countering unilateralism on agenda of BRICS meet in Brazil, says Russian envoy

  • Ahead of the meet, Russian diplomat Roman Babushkin terms US action against Huawei’s 5G services as unfair
  • Countries like India are also impacted by sanctions imposed by the US on Iran after Washington pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal

The BRICS group of developing countries will discuss ways to counter unilateral moves by the US to impose sanctions against countries, as well as ways to strengthen multilateralism at preparatory meetings leading up to a summit of leaders in November.

Talking to reporters in New Delhi ahead of a meeting of the foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) in Brazil on Thursday, Roman Babushkin, the newly appointed deputy chief of mission at the Russian embassy, criticized US actions to keep out Chinese telecom company Huawei from offering 5G services in American markets. Washington has also been cautioning friendly countries from using Huawei’s 5G services, and restricting operations of the Chinese telecom firm.

“We are against unfair means of competition. What the US is doing (against Huawei) is inappropriate," Babushkin, whose country was one of the founding members of the grouping, said. The comments come as India is examining whether to allow Huawei to participate in 5G trials.

According to Babushkin, BRICS as a grouping values multilateralism and the centrality of the United Nations (UN). The group rejected “unilateral approach to world affairs, including illegal unilateral sanctions, double standards and hidden political agendas," he added. Russia is to take the chair of BRICS after Brazil.

Last year, the US had imposed sanctions on Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which mandates Washington to punish entities engaging in significant transaction with the defence or intelligence establishment of Russia. This has put India in a difficult spot, considering that New Delhi had signed a pact to buy the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia, besides other military hardware.

Countries like India are also impacted by sanctions imposed by the US on Iran after Washington pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. India, which sourced a large quantity of its crude from Iran, has brought its Iranian imports down to zero following the US’s refusal to extend a waiver from sanctions for eight countries, including India after 2 May.

According to Babushkin, “this subject (of unilateral sanctions) is a very important part of the agenda of forthcoming meetings of the BRICS."

The importance of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be one of the things stressed by the BRICS given that all countries in the grouping support open trade, said Breno Hermann, deputy chief of mission of the Brazilian embassy in New Delhi. “We need a strong WTO," he said, against the backdrop of the US putting unilateral tariffs against countries it claims are engaged in unfair trade.

Babushkin added that ways of strengthening the international financial system would also be discussed at the meet. BRICS had already declared a Contingent Reserve Arrangement operational a few years ago, and had also set up a New Development Bank in a bid to finance development and infrastructure projects.

Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar was to travel to Brazil for a meeting of BRICS foreign ministers, but his trip has been cancelled, and India will be represented by MoS for roads V.K. Singh who was formerly the MoS for external affairs.

The talks in Brasilia come after an informal meeting of the leaders of BRICS countries on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. An Indian foreign ministry statement said that India attached high importance to its engagement with BRICS and has continued to engage the grouping at the highest levels. “We believe that BRICS has emerged as a valuable forum for consultation, coordination and cooperation on contemporary global issues of mutual interest and has helped promote mutual understanding," the foreign ministry statement added.

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