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A Broader Foundation
BRICS members share extensive common interests and cooperation potential in security
By Lin Minwang | NO. 40-41 OCTOBER 5, 2017

Representatives from BRICS members pose for a group photo during the Seventh Meeting of BRICS High Representatives for Security Issues held in Beijing on July 28 (VCG)

The BRICS cooperation mechanism, which can be traced back to 2006, has become a shining symbol of cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries as well as an important force fueling the world economy. Alongside economic cooperation, people-to-people exchanges and mechanism construction, BRICS nations have also engaged in a good deal of security cooperation over the last decade.

BRICS security cooperation centers on maintaining a unanimous opinion on major international matters. Declarations made by successive BRICS leaders express the bloc's attitude on major global issues. Internal changes can lead to differences on regional issues, but the bloc's stances on the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan have remained consistent.

Common ground

The most solid foundation for security cooperation among BRICS nations is the five states' similar positions on global governance and order. They are all committed to a fair and just international order based on the principles of the UN Charter and to push the international order in a more just and reasonable direction. BRICS promotes making economic globalization more fair, mutually beneficial and inclusive. Especially since Donald Trump took office, BRICS nations' common ground on international trade has become more pronounced. All five members support a rule-based, transparent,

non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system. They all follow the existing rules and obligations required by the World Trade Organization and oppose trade protectionism. They call for the international community to implement the Paris Agreement, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and to fulfill its commitment to the provision of financial and technical support to developing countries to help them address climate change.

At the same time, the BRICS nations have all expressed similar appeals for reform of the existing international system. For example, they called for comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including its Security Council, to make the body more representative, effective and efficient and to increase within it the representation of developing countries. They promote the reform of the IMF to strengthen the voice of emerging markets and developing economies. They require developed European economies to fulfill their promise to give up two IMF executive board seats to enhance the voice and representation of the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. BRICS members also appeal to the international community to make greater efforts to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Progress achieved

As for specific security issues, BRICS nations have started cooperation and achieved some progress in fields such as the fight against terrorism, space exploration, network security and energy security. In 2016, during India's presidency of the BRICS Summit, member states set up the first cooperation mechanism on counterterrorism and in September 2016 organized the first meeting of the Working Group on Counter-Terrorism in New Delhi. On May 18, 2017, the second meeting of the BRICS Working Group on Counter-Terrorism was held in Beijing. BRICS members found extensive common interests and broad cooperation space in fields including terrorism suppression, and they should make full use of the BRICS anti-terrorism mechanism to gradually expand pragmatic cooperation in anti-terrorism information exchange, law enforcement, capacity building and protection of overseas interests as well as to strengthen multilateral communication and coordination to make greater BRICS contributions in the global fight against terrorism.

In the Ufa and Goa declarations, BRICS' cooperation in space exploration received considerable attention. The declarations documented the members' common position that international law gives all nations the right to peacefully explore outer space and utilize its resources, and no arms or force should ever be used in outer space to ensure the sustainability of outer space activities. To promote space cooperation among the BRICS states, the first meeting of the heads of the BRICS space authorities was held in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, on October 31, 2016. All parties agreed that space cooperation would inject new vitality into BRICS strategic cooperation and confirmed that BRICS nations would jointly build a BRICS sharing mechanism for remote sensing satellite data to help with challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, environmental protection, and the sustainable development of BRICS economies.

In terms of cybersecurity, BRICS members have plenty of common ground. Based on international law such as the Charter of the United Nations, which outlines political independence, territorial integrity, equal state sovereignty, settlement of disputes by peaceful means, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and privacy, all BRICS states have deep interest in developing information and communications technology and advocate an open, unified and secure Internet.

As for the realm of energy security, in November 2015, the first BRICS energy ministerial meeting was held in Moscow, which laid a framework and foundation for energy cooperation between the five nations. On June 7, the second BRICS energy ministerial meeting was held in Beijing. Participants of that meeting discussed issues like energy security, energy transformation and a platform for BRICS members' energy research cooperation, culminating in the publication of a joint statement.

In general, compared to cooperation in economy and trade, security cooperation among the BRICS nations still has many limits. Although they can reach consensus on global issues and policies, cooperation in specific areas often requires more work and is expected to experience further growth. BRICS security cooperation has a long way to go. Fortunately, at the Seventh BRICS Security Meeting, all parties recognized that only by continuously strengthening the role of the BRICS Security Meeting mechanism will in-depth development of security cooperation among BRICS states be promoted. n

The article first appeared on the China-India Dialogue magazine

The author is a research fellow with the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University

Copyedited by Chris Surtees

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