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Will Wang Yi’s visit to India bring back focus on BRICS again?

Foreign ministers of India and China S. Jaishankar and Wang Yi hold talks

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi’s low key pitstop visit to India could set the stage for bigger things–such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Beijing to attend the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS). But that can only happen if China pulls back from the friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, observers say. For China, which also holds the chair for the RIC (Russia-India-China) trilateral in 2022, the importance of BRICS and the New Development Bank (erstwhile BRICS Bank) has only risen.

Amid rapidly shifting geopolitical and geoeconomic contours with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two independent analysts told India Narrative that Wang’s low profile visit –an unannounced one– was a deliberate move essentially to keep expectations low. But this underscored one moot point—China maybe trying to ease relations with India, they said.

This is Wang’s first visit since relations between India and China nosedived following the bloody Galwan Valley clash in 2020.

Also read: Why China may begin to respond to India’s core concerns during Wang Yi’s visit

“However now with the rapid geopolitical shifts which have impacted the global supply chain, China perhaps feels the need to strike a chord with India,” Aravind Yelery, senior research fellow at the Peking University and visiting faculty at Fudan University in Shanghai told India Narrative.  “The bottomline is that China is keen to get Modi though New Delhi has made it clear that relations cannot be improved unless the border issue is resolved,” Yelery said.

The BRICS block remains an economic force to be reckoned with, accounting for 25.7 per cent of world GDP, 42 per cent of the global population, and 17 per cent of total trade. The World Economic Forum noted that the BRICS countries attract more than 18 per cent of the global total of foreign investment, hold 40 per cent of all foreign-exchange reserves, and account for 30 per cent of total foreign holdings of US Treasury bonds.

Importantly the BRICS consumption markets are worth more than $4 trillion, “equivalent to those of the eurozone.”

Incidentally, India and China have taken the same position in relation to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, despite US’ pressure on countries to take sides and condemn Moscow.

Also read: NSA Doval’s message to Wang Yi—Complete disengagement in Eastern Ladakh to normalise India-China ties

"Frictions, tensions rising from Chinese deployments since April 2020 cannot be reconciled with a normal relationship. Restoration of peace and tranquillity must find full expression in talks,” foreign minister S Jaishankar meanwhile told the media.

"If you ask me if our relationship today is normal, then my answer is 'no it is not normal' (because of the Chinese deployments). Our effort today is to sort out the issue in its entirety," he said.