The BRICS summit meeting at Johannesburg has ended with a ringing call for multilateralism. This is noteworthy, considering that the grouping contains China which has been at the receiving end of US protectionist measures under the Trump administration, and also Russia whose leader Vladimir Putin noticeably took the upper hand in his one-to-one meet with Trump recently. With Trump aggressively pursuing his ‘America First’ policy and brusquely pulling his country out of trade groupings like Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and even threatening to do the same with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Indian diplomats were hardly surprised that the Johannesburg declaration focused on the benefits of multilateral trade. In particular, the Indian side has taken much satisfaction at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with President Xi and President Putin about strengthening ‘bilateral cooperation while exploring a new model for regional cooperation, upholding multilateralism and economic globalisation and striving for a more just and rational international order’. India-Russia strategic relations are already on an upswing over the S-400 missile deal despite Trump’s disapproval. Carrying on from their earlier informal summit at Wuhan, Prime Minister Modi and President Xi have also decided to further build on ‘strategic guidance’ to their militaries to strengthen communications and build trust. This is highly encouraging from the Indian perspective to avoid any further Doklam-like situations at the border. But how New Delhi negotiates the presently unfavourable terms of trade with Beijing remains to be seen.
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