Leaders of five emerging world economic powers convened on Thursday for a one-day diplomatic meeting, pledging to expand mutual trade while urging faster reforms of the Western-dominated global financial system. They also called for dialogue, not military intervention, in addressing the violence in Syria and Iran’s disputed nuclear ambitions.
The leaders of the five countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called BRICS nations — emphasized their mutual good will and their growing economic power, but fell short of achieving the tangible goal most discussed before the gathering: the establishment of a new development agency to rival the World Bank.
Instead, the leaders created a high-level working group to examine the issue and report back when they meet next year. As expected, they signed agreements to enable the greater use of local currencies, rather than the dollar, in trade among their countries. Such arrangements are partly intended to reduce transaction costs.
“We are united in our desire to promote sustained and balanced global economic growth,” India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, said during the meeting’s plenary session.
Thousands of police and paramilitary officers were sent to New Delhi for the meeting, not only to safeguard the visiting leaders, but to prevent Tibetans from demonstrating against the presence of the Chinese leader, Hu Jintao, and against Beijing’s rule in Tibet.
At least 316 people were being held under “preventative arrest” at the city’s Tihar Jail, according to an administrator, who added that they did not face any charges. On Wednesday, a Tibetan monk from the Kirti Monastery in western China died after setting himself on fire, as did a Tibetan man in New Delhi who was protesting Mr. Hu’s visit .
Tibetan activists and human rights advocates criticized New Delhi’s crackdown as a violation of free speech. On Thursday, the police tried to thwart demonstrations near the summit meeting by blocking surrounding roads. But around noon, two Tibetans managed to run onto a footbridge several hundred yards from the Taj Palace Hotel, the setting of the meeting. They shouted slogans and unfurled a banner reading, “Hu Jintao Failed Leader Free Tibet Now.” The police quickly intervened.
Other minor Tibetan protests were held elsewhere in New Delhi during the afternoon.
In statements during the session, the five leaders expressed concern about the global economic situation and called on “advanced economies to adopt responsible macroeconomic and financial policies,” according to their joint statement . Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, cautioned against low interest rates and easy lending by central banks that she said had made commodity markets volatile.
The BRICS nations held their first summit meeting in 2009 with the aspiration of reforming the global financial system and becoming a diplomatic counterweight to the West. But their internal divisions have stalled the group’s evolution into a potent diplomatic alliance . On Thursday, the leaders reiterated their calls to speed up reforms to the International Monetary Fund and create a more inclusive process for selecting the World Bank’s president. They also endorsed the Group of 20 major economies as being the “premier forum” for addressing financial issues.
But as for reforming the United Nations Security Council, their agendas remained divided. India, Brazil and South Africa each aspire to permanent seats on the Council. In the past, Russia has endorsed their bids, a position repeated on Thursday by President Dmitri A. Medvedev.
China has remained noncommittal on the issue, especially regarding India, and Mr. Hu was noticeably silent on that point during his remarks.
In the joint statement, the five leaders also expressed “deep concern” about the situation in Syria, endorsing the joint mediation efforts of the United Nations and the Arab League and calling for a dialogue that respects “Syrian independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.” They also expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program , which much of the West believes is a weapons program, but they supported Iran’s right to civilian nuclear energy. And they warned of “disastrous consequences” if the situation escalated into conflict.
Source: New York Times