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Transcript of Special Briefing by Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister’s visit to South Africa and Greece (August 24, 2023)

August 25, 2023

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Nice to see such a large turnout of journalists here in Johannesburg. As you are aware, this is a special media briefing on the occasion of the visit of Honorable Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi for the 15th BRICS Summit. Even as we speak, one of the elements of this event is still underway at the Convention Center nearby. However, since Prime Minister would be leaving later today evening, we have organized this media briefing. And we have the privilege of having with us Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary of India, to give us a sense of the conversations that have taken place and answer your questions. We also have with us Mr. Prabhat Kumar, High Commissioner of India to South Africa as well as Mr. Ninad Deshpande, Joint Secretary of the Multilateral Economic Relations Division of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. Sir, may I give you the floor.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much, High Commissioner Prabhat, friends from the media. Thank you very much for coming here this afternoon for this special briefing on the ongoing visit of Honorable Prime Minister of India to South Africa for the 15th BRICS Summit. As you all know, Prime Minister arrived in South Africa on August 22nd, the day before yesterday, to participate in the 15th BRICS Summit. And you also know, as has been announced much earlier, that the Summit is being held under the theme ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth’, a theme which has been captured, reflected across various sessions of the BRICS, including the latest session, which is currently ongoing, which is essentially the BRICS Africa outreach, as also the BRICS Plus format, where more than 64 participating countries, international organizations are currently engaged in discussion.

Prime Minister's first engagement soon after his arrival was the BRICS Business Forum Leaders Dialogue. A very important and a significant part of intra-BRICS cooperation is the BRICS Business Forum, held a day-long session, which was concluded by the BRICS leaders themselves in the evening of 22nd, in which they outlined their own respective visions of how their respective economies can interface with the business ecosystem, business forum ecosystem of the BRICS countries, and in turn contribute to the growth and prosperity of the BRICS countries themselves.

In his address, Prime Minister highlighted several key aspects, but I would broadly touch upon four. One, which I just said, that the Honorable Prime Minister highlighted, that the BRICS Business Forum is one of the key pillars of intra-BRICS partnership among the BRICS countries. Two, what is the significance of India's growth story? What is its value for the intra-BRICS cooperation through the modality of the BRICS Business Forum? The opportunities that the India growth story presents, the value proposition that it brings, whether it is in terms of trade, technology, capital, or all elements of that. Three, given the kind of larger churn and uncertainty that we are all experiencing around the world, he did speak about an important element of the need to develop resilient and inclusive supply chains. We all saw during COVID how the disruption in the pharmaceutical supply chains so adversely affected many of the countries' efforts to provide health security to their citizens. So it was something, a prime example of that. And for last, of course, the importance of mutual trust and transparency as the intra-BRICS countries cooperate and grow forward. Later that evening, on the 22nd, the Honorable Prime Minister participated in the Leaders Retreat, which was a closed-door session meant only for the leaders.

Yesterday, Prime Minister attended the structural sessions of the BRICS Summit. And later in the evening yesterday, the dinner and the cultural event hosted by the Honorable President of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa. Today, as I just mentioned a little while ago, the BRICS leaders are currently participating in the BRICS Africa Outreach and the BRICS Plus Dialogue, which (inaudible) 65 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In his address today to the BRICS Africa Outreach and to the BRICS Plus event, Honorable Prime Minister highlighted what he is a very strong believer in and he has led this right from the front, is what the BRICS brings on the table for the Global South, for the Larger Global South. Honorable Prime Minister himself led the first Voice of Global South Summit ever earlier in January this year, ahead of substantive and intense engagement of G20 leadership beginning. And the whole idea was to really understand from the countries of the Global South as to what are their priorities, what are their concerns, what do they want from G20, which is of value to them. Yes, some of the countries of the Global South are member of G20, but most of them are not. What are their developmental priorities? How do they see financing from the world for their developmental priorities across different areas? And that's in a way, he sort of captured a very distilled sense of it in his remarks today. And he also emphasized, as he himself has been, that BRICS should also be a voice for Global South, the larger Global South, not just for the priorities of the BRICS countries themselves. And he also stated what has always been one of the driving impulses of India's policy, which is a close partnership with Africa and to be a very strong, reliable, and dependent partner of Africa's development journey.

In terms of bilateral engagements on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, Prime Minister met with President Ramaphosa yesterday, first thing in the morning, before the Summit proceedings began. And today held bilateral meetings with leaders from Ethiopia, Senegal, Iran, and the last one was Mozambique. Later this evening, he's also expected to meet some of the thought leaders, I'm told, from South Africa.

We all witnessed yesterday a historic occasion, and Honorable Prime Minister joined millions of Indians and the entire global community to watch the historic, flawless moment of landing of Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-3, a soft landing on the surface of the moon. And he joined this momentous event through video conferencing, and as we all heard, subsequently addressed the nation regarding this scintillating achievement of India and Indian science and technology. Prime Minister was very warmly received when we saw right on the day of his arrival by the Indian community and Indian diaspora here. And another round of welcome and felicitation was there yesterday in the evening after the successful landing of Chandrayaan.

A major outcome of the BRICS Summit, as the Honorable President of South Africa highlighted in the press briefing earlier this afternoon, is the decision of the BRICS leaders to expand its membership to include six new members. These six members are, as was announced, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. As my Prime Minister has said, India has been fully supportive of the BRICS expansion based on whatever consensus is arrived at between the BRICS member countries. We would like to believe that expansion of the BRICS would make it stronger, will bring in the value proposition of the six new members to the functioning and to the engagement, intra-BRICS engagement.

If I was to capture what Honorable Prime Minister said across his various remarks in terms of specifics, I would say he broadly made, across different sessions, 15 broad key points. And the significance of these 15 points is that they are one, very, very deeply anchored in India's own capabilities, India's own economic growth and potential. And two, they interface in a very, very complementary way with the countries of the Global South, economies of the Global South, in terms of our cooperative structures in which this operates. Just to briefly, and also an element which is that how the overall international ecosystem of partnerships, cooperation, particularly the UN reforms are significant. So if I was to just very quickly run through these 15 key points, first being a need to define timelines for the UN Security Council reforms. Two, something which we have been pushing very strongly even in the G20, the need to reform multilateral financial institutions. Why so? Because that's one of the key needs of developmental financing for the developing world. Three, reform of WTO, longstanding, seemingly not moving. Four, which we already achieved a successful outcome today, which was the consensus among the BRICS countries to expand and include six new members. Given, as I said, the geopolitical and the economic churn all around, Prime Minister urged BRICS to send a global message of unity and not polarization. Prime Minister proposed creation of a BRICS Space Exploration Consortium. Coming as it did in either the backdrop or in the context of India's successful landing of Chandrayan-3, this couldn't have been more timely and more apt.

We made a very specific offer and we have been making this offer to pretty much any country and every country which is in need and which is offering the digital public infrastructure stack of India. And not necessarily on commercial terms, but more on value terms, whatever value you can extract. We call it public infrastructure for a particular reason because it is more or less public good generally available for the countries of the Global South. Important requirement as we go along essentially of all the BRICS countries has been that how do you map your own skill set availability within the country in the interface with the rest of the world. So he talked about need to undertake skill mapping, skilling and promoting mobility among the BRICS partner countries. He also spoke of something which is very, very deeply at the heart of South Africa and many of the other African countries. That is the protection of the big cats, the five big ones in South Africa, of course, under the International Big Cat Alliance. Established also again something which is very important for all the BRICS countries, repository of traditional medicine among the BRICS countries. Also something which he has again firmly believed in, led from the front, even wrote to all the leaders of the G20 which is inclusion of African Union in the G20. We have strongly proposed it, led from the front, offered our support as a permanent member of the G20. So it should probably become G21 if it all goes through in that sense.

The other important thing which as I touched upon briefly also was that importance for the BRICS countries to be sensitive to the needs of the rest of the Global South. Particularly in terms of developmental challenges that they face. BRICS, we all know what it stands for, which is the names of the countries. But the Prime Minister of India also gave a substantive underpinning to what each of the letters of the BRICS could stand for. In which he said, B could stand for Breaking barriers. You can call it economic, social, political barriers. Revitalizing economies, a central thrust, given the kind of difficult times which the post COVID period has brought for all economies of the BRICS. Inspiring innovation, naturally a direction which all countries of the BRICS want to lead to in the future. Creating opportunities and of course Shaping the future.

Prime Minister also called for cooperation among the BRICS countries to address this persistent, serious challenge to the ways of our society, which is the challenge of terrorism. So cooperation to counter terrorism. Another global challenge, climate change. So environmental conservation, cyber security, food and health security, a great challenge; and to build the resilient supply chains. We also, Prime Minister also extended invitation to all the countries to become part of many of India's international initiatives. International Solar Alliance for example. Many of you may recall that International Solar Alliance was launched in COP15. I think it was in Paris in 2015. And it was just two countries, India and France which launched it; President Hollande and Prime Minister Modi. And now it is 120 plus member organization, essentially spreading the capacity and the knowledge relating to harnessing of solar energy for economic gains. Whether it is the drawl of solar energy or other ecosystem. He also spoke about One Sun One World in that sense in One Grid. Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, given the increasing intensity of natural disasters. We all talk of disaster mitigation, but one of the key elements of the disaster mitigation is to build disaster resilient infrastructure, which is really crucial. One Earth One Health and Big Cat Alliance as I also spoke about as also the Global Center for Traditional Medicine.

Earlier this afternoon Honorable President of South Africa gaveled the adoption of the BRICS Johannesburg II Declaration. The document is available in the public domain for all of you to peruse. But if I was to just single out in few sentences key things there. One, position on UNSC reform, BRICS position on UNSC reform to expedite it, make it democratic, make it representative of developing countries in the Council memberships, not just in general reforms. And to support the legitimate aspirations of, of course South Africa but also Brazil and India to play a greater role in the UN Security Council. Permanent solution on the public stock holding IN the WTO, something which I touched upon earlier. Our emphasis on dialogue and diplomacy in the resolution of conflicts, which is posing challenge. Need for the BRICS countries to cooperate on counter-terrorism, particularly the cross-border movement of terrorists, safe havens the countries that provide, to deal with them. Other important area which is there in this is the cooperation in the field of medium scale, small and medium enterprises. Now while the definition of small and medium enterprises may vary from each country of BRICS to another. But the central trust is to move forward in cooperation in key areas of development through the small and medium industries. Cooperation in traditional medicine, nuclear medicine, financial inclusion. One of the key, I would say, felt need of the communities within the BRICS which are not part of the financial system, financially excluded communities. So how do you include them financially through technology, through the digital means. Space cooperation, you will not blame me for putting that forward. Green tourism, localization of SDGs, women empowerment. In fact my Prime Minister speaks not just of women empowerment but also women led development, which is qualitatively very different from simply, I would say, part passive, part active promotion of women empowerment. He actively espouses women led development in all aspects. And climate adaptation.

Prime minister did spend some time in laying before the BRICS and also earlier today, India's role in the G20, since we hold the Presidency of the G20 this year; and how G20 should also not just put forward but also integrate the priorities of the Global South into the functioning of the G20, which we are trying very, very comprehensively to do. And inclusion of African Union in the proposed leadership of India to put forward the idea of including African Union as a member of the G20 at the New Delhi Summit.

Prime minister received and he is very grateful for that, extensive congratulations from all the members of the BRICS and also the others at the outreach today on India's successful Chandrayaan Mission. But more importantly it was seen not as India's success but success of the developing world as such. Why? Because the capacities and the capabilities that such a successful mission brings are of considerable value for the rest of the world also, particularly the developing countries.

On the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, Prime Minister had interactions with other BRICS leaders. In a conversation with President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister highlighted India's concerns on the unresolved issues along the LAC in the Western sector of the India-China border areas. Prime Minister underlined that the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas and observing and respecting the LAC are essential for the normalization of the India-China relationship. In this regard the two leaders agreed to direct their relevant officials to intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation.

In all, Prime Minister's visit to Johannesburg, still continuing, has already been very fruitful and productive. As I mentioned he will be having a meeting with South African thought leaders a little while later and would be departing South Africa later this evening.

I would stop here and if there are questions we will try and take them. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much sir. Before I begin to open the floor, ground rules, please introduce yourself and the organization that you represent. Also please be brief.

Amrit Pal Singh: I'm Amrit Pal Singh, I'm from DD India. So my question is, you said that the Prime Minister conveyed his message to the Chinese President, did the two have a formal bilateral meeting?

Speaker 1: Thank you very much, [Inaudible], Inside Politics. Two questions, the first one is on the, let me start with this one, what is India's position on the conversation on the use of local currencies? Or perhaps I should put differently and ask, would you support such an idea? The last question…..

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: My apologies, on the first question, your specific point was, what was India's position on the use of national or stroke local currencies? Correct?

Speaker 1: Yes. The last one would be the proposal on the space consortium, how will it be funded? Thank you.

Dozo Kumalo: Dozo Kumalo from Newsroom. His second question is one of the questions that I had and the second question I have, if you could get a little bit more detail. But it's obviously in business, so maybe to add to that question is how would we navigate that space for the block in that race of the global space race? And then the second question, just to give a little bit more detail on the collaboration around traditional medicines and whether SMEs from South Africa specifically would be part of that collaboration in that space?

Speaker 2:
Thank you very much. [Inaudible] from ENCA. What is India's position on calls and proposals for one BRICS currency? And number two, your take on calls to de-dollarize the global economy?

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary:
Let me just get the question which the colleague from the DD asked about the formal interaction or the formal meeting. Look, as I read out to you, it was a conversation with President Xi Jinping and as I said on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, Prime Minister had interaction with other BRICS leaders and in that conversation with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister highlighted India's concerns at the unresolved issues along the LAC in the western sector of the India-China border areas.

A set of questions relating to common currency, national currency, how would you navigate this space, great opportunity, etc. Look, the BRICS have been discussing for quite some time on how to make, I should say, how to put in place a mechanism through which each of the BRICS countries can at least start with doing trade settlements in the national currencies. I'm assuming that was the thrust of your question. So, that is one perspective of it. I'll give you another perspective of it which is that India has recently started taking strong steps in trying to put structures in place for trade settlement in national currencies. So most recently, just a couple of months ago, we signed India Dirham Rupee trade settlement mechanism with the United Arab Emirates. Now India's trade with UAE is roughly $90 billion, more or less balanced. It opens up a good opportunity for both India and UAE to explore that space. Now, so if you were to say conceptually, trade settlement in national currency, we have already started working on it, not just as a discussion or a talking point, but also actually on the ground cooperation. We are also pursuing trade settlements in national currencies with several other countries. So if it becomes a point of highly advanced discussions in the BRICS and the BRICS countries agree to do trade settlement in national currency, I think something which is of a great promise to within BRICS, but you do have to keep in mind that it is each country's decision to do the trade settlement in the national currency. It's not the BRICS decision. It's each country's decision. The reason for that is because there is an extensive universe of regulatory framework that you need to put in place before you do trade settlements in national currencies. After you have done that, you then need to do extensive positioning of your commercial banking channels to be able to do that, because they are the front end, the cutting teeth where the national currency trade settlement actually takes place. I mentioned this earlier someplace also, something of great promise for BRICS, and I think I believe the discussions have been very positive and constructive, within the BRICS framework. Now, how each country progresses on that is something for each country to decide. We ourselves, even outside the BRICS, have been very, very forward leaning in moving on trade settlement in national currencies. So far as the BRICS common currency is concerned, look, you can look at BRICS currencies in a common currency. Don't look at it as a BRICS common. Look at it as a common currency as a conceptual framework. Common currency as a conceptual framework requires a large degree of prerequisite steps before you even begin to discuss that. Currently, it is our understanding that the BRICS systems, the BRICS mechanisms and the BRICS leaders are focused principally on national currency’s trade settlement and not on anything else with regard to this particular aspect.

With regard to the BRICS space consortium, second question, also cooperation in space. Look, there is already a BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation which was established by BRICS during India's chairmanship. Space is a domain in which we have been very forward leaning in offering our capacities in a cooperative framework with other countries. So, for example, India has SAARC satellite which we built essentially for the South Asian Association of Regional Countries. BRICS, as I said, BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation and the Space Exploration Consortium that we have proposed will essentially take that as a base layer and build on it. Now, obviously, for any such concept to be successful, it has to address the priorities which each of the BRICS countries would have. So, the relevant working groups of the BRICS which would deal with this would look into this aspect, identify its elements and the space of cooperation in space, in the field of space or space in the field of space is actually so extensive. It's so, I would say, productive in terms of how we integrate the capacities in the space with our own economic endeavors. This can be a very, very promising area of cooperation and something in which, as I said, India has always been forward leaning in terms of offering its capacities.

I think the question of de-dollarization is in a way indirectly inserted. I said BRICS are focused more on trade settlement in the national currencies. The details on the traditional medicine and also the involvement. Look, the traditional medicine is, I would say, civilizationally anchored in the Indian society in terms of how society would address the needs of health security. It's a civilizational. It has its own, not many people may believe, has its own pharmacopoeia, a well-established pharmacopoeia, well before other structures or the systems of the medicine came on board. It is holistic medicine because it is entirely a plant-based system by and large, holistic and which can provide not just, you know, the people who use it but also the larger global community with the form of medicine which is very healthy, holistic, had the full-fledged pharmacopoeia which is purely research-based. We think traditional medicine going forward, I mean, as an interesting aside, I would say, as the world moves forward, it begins to rediscover more and more of its original roots. In the field of health domain you go, traditional medicine is one such root which a lot of scientific community also relies on. So this is something which we think can be of great use and yes, it's open to all segments of industry. In India, there is a fair substantial segment of traditional medicine which is medium-scale industry, reliant in that sense. Also, if you look at other countries of the BRICS, South Africa for example, Brazil, China, each one of us have their own rich support of traditional medicine. I mean, I have lived in South Africa. I lived in Durban for three years from 1994 to 1997. I know South Africa has rich traditions for that. So this is something which each one of the BRICS countries has. So, and my Prime Minister is a very strong believer that this can be a good pillar for intra-BRICS cooperation and partnership.

Speaker 3: Thank you very much. Good evening. My name is [Inaudible] from the Sunday World. I've got two brief questions. The first one, Foreign Secretary, as it relates to the expansion of BRICS, on the other side of the institutions like G20, isn't there some form of duplication? I mean, for instance, G20 has been accused by critics of usurping the powers of existing international governance bodies. Isn't this a further duplication of duties that are already done by bodies like the G20, like the UN? That's number one. Number two, on the calls for the reform of the UN Security Council, what is the precise position of India? You speak of, of course, there's a talk of the addition of one permanent seat, which I assume is Africa, and then you speak of India and Brazil having to play a role. What kind of role do you foresee for Brazil and India? And do you agree that the permanent seat for Africa should be created and by when? Thank you.

Sudhi Ranjan: Sir Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg. So, one clarification. If you could give us an understanding of the criteria and the guidelines that have been accepted by the leaders for expansion of BRICS, and specifically when the BRICS was expanded, was this applied? Number two, sir, there were some local reports that we came across which said that there was a minor faux pas when the Prime Minister landed, a diplomatic faux pas . Could you confirm or deny that, sir?

Speaker 4: Good evening, Foreign Secretary. My name is [Inaudible] from the Business Day. So, on expansion, could you kindly elaborate which countries India sponsored to be a part of BRICS out of the six member states that were admitted? And then, in terms of the countries that applied but were not successful to be admitted, what happens to them, now going forward? Will BRICS create perhaps a two-tiered member system in order so that the countries that had applied but weren't successful can also be a part of the block? Thank you.

Queenin Masuabi: It's Queenin Masuabi from the Daily Maverick. My question is around the inclusion of Iran on the forum. I just want to – there's a lot of criticism around that, backlash in particular. I just wanted to get a reaction from you around that. And then, the other issue around expansion is about the inclusion of Ethiopia. Why was there a push for this particular country opposed to countries like Kenya and Nigeria?

Godfrey Mutizwa: My name is Godfrey Mutizwa, CNBC Africa. My first question, in part, has been asked, but I was going to frame it slightly differently. I wanted to ask the criteria that was used to accept the members that were taken in at this meeting and then also to ask the question around why Nigeria is not part of – or not on that list. Thank you.

Bhargav Acharya: Hi, Bhargav Acharya from Reuters. So, I have one question. Russia's Foreign Minister said that BRICS plans to set up an alternative payment system. Does India support this? And if so, have BRICS countries consulted the financial industries?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I thought Foreign Secretary did answer your question in the sense of we are looking at national currency.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: I can spend the entire evening answering to you the alternative payment system and all the national currencies.

Manish Chand:
Manish Chand, India Writes Network. Sir, I was surprised by the exclusion of Indonesia from new members. It does not figure in the list. It was supposed to be the top contender. Could you tell us what is the story there? And number two, in the meeting with Xi Jinping, did Prime Minister invite him for G20 summit? Did he indicate that he would be coming to Delhi for the G20 summit? Thank you.

Amanda Khoza: Thank you. I am Amanda Khoza from the Sunday Times. Mine is also related to the bilateral that the Prime Minister had with President Xi. I just would like to know how would you describe the current relations between the two countries? Would you say that they are strained?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: China-India relation broadly?

Amanda Khoza: Yes.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. Look, before I hand over the floor to Foreign Secretary, couple of questions which I could try to respond immediately.

One was I think, Sudhi, your question on faux pas you said. Look, I saw the story, it was from some outlet that I am not aware of, it's a South African outlet, it's completely wrong. Frankly, I would say, I don't know where figment of imagination of someone, I think the South African Government has denied that, Deputy President was at the airport to receive Prime Minister, I am very happy that he took the trouble to come to the airport and receive him. I don't think we should read into these kind of stories. I certainly have seen some social media stories going around, so let me on record deny such a story, that it is completely fabricated.

The other element was a query on UN Security Council reform, right? The question was actually in two parts, the reason I am taking the floor before Foreign Secretary is to say, look, India's position on the reform of the UN Security Council is being consistent, it's been steady, it's about, as part of the G4 or with the African Union, we have argued for expansion in both categories, both a permanent and non-permanent, we have put forward countries which we believe would fulfil the criteria, including India, we believe that Africa should have a seat there, a permanent seat, and so on, and we also have argued for reform of the working methods, and so on. Today's conversation actually is more of what, when Foreign Secretary is talking about is, BRICS had a position for a long time and we are happy to see that it has made progress, it has moved ahead on the issue of UN Security Council reform and Foreign Secretary was highlighting what are the changes that have happened in the text that you have seen today, the Johannesburg II Declaration vis-a-vis any of the other texts over the last five, seven years. And that gives you (inaudible)….

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: A large set of questions relating to the BRICS expansion in one form or another. So let me just, you know, there are a large number of questions, but I'll try and give short answer to that entire set of questions. You know, first of all, all of you know, I'm sure, that BRICS works on the principle of consensus, so there has to be a consensus among the BRICS members on any decision that they take, and that applies also to the BRICS expansion. So when the question of BRICS expansion came up, as you know, there is a fair degree of strong international interest in trying to associate with BRICS in one form or another. Many of them were interested in becoming the BRICS member as part of the expansion. So when the BRICS leaders started discussing this, obviously the expansion has to be one, based on a consensus and naturally based on a certain criteria, otherwise it would be very difficult to determine what the modalities of the expansion would be. I am sure you heard carefully when the Honorable President of South Africa said, announcing this, that this is the first phase of expansion. I'm sure you focused on the first phase part of it. So in the first phase, there was consensus among the BRICS leaders on the six countries, and those six countries were invited to become new BRICS members. So that is all I would say in terms of the expansion. And the idea essentially here is that insofar as criteria standards are concerned, this is essentially an internal document of the BRICS system, which they will continue to flesh out sort of as they grow, there have been agreement on it. Strong economic element of the expansion is there. Countries that come in as new members bring in very strong… contribute to the strengthening of the BRICS. Naturally there was an extensive consultation among the BRICS members and then the consensus was reached on including six of them as the new members of the expanded BRICS.

Your question on the alternative payment system, I think I have already said that the principal focus of the BRICS members' discussion, leaders' discussion, has been on national currencies. And going forward, we'll see what form it takes, but as I said, this is something which is an area of promise.

On Prime Minister's interaction, conversation with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of BRICS, wherein Prime Minister had interaction with other leaders, I think I've already said what I needed to say and I have nothing else to add to that. What I mentioned about the sense of this, one of the interactions which the Honorable Prime Minister had, captures the sense of the relationship between India and China. Our leadership, my Foreign Minister, has made India's position on India-China relations clear, ample number of times, reiterated several times, and I don't think that position needs to be repeated here, because it's amply clear.

With regard to the question on the Security Council issues… the crisis of various kinds, you talk of humanitarian crisis, national disaster crisis, we already spoke of COVID-related health security crisis, which we went through. Discussion on these crises of one kind or another is always one of the priorities of the BRICS member states, and the perspective is what can BRICS countries do to mitigate many of these challenges that we face. For example, when the COVID hit, the BRICS country did collaborate very closely, particularly with regard to the COVID vaccine, and India was in the forefront of it. If you really want to see the specificity of what all was talked about, if you look at, I think it is, I'm told, paragraph 16 of the Statement, which talks extensively about a different crisis across Africa and other parts of the world and some other paras falling thereafter, and the members, BRICS leadership, this document clearly captures the consensus which has been arrived among the BRICS countries on that.

BRICS duplicating G20, look, you know, that is definitely one frame of reference in which to look at that particular, the work and the functioning and the substance of cooperation of one body, whether it duplicates or...[inaudible] feeding complementary value chain elements into other organizations rather than looking at it as more in the context in which the question was put. If you look at what the BRICS countries stand for, both in terms of their demographic strength, in terms of their economic capabilities, both in terms of agricultural systems, industrial systems, if you look at the wide world of geography that they represent, I think the cooperation and strong engagement among the BRICS, as BRICS, intra-BRICS as also how BRICS countries interface with the rest of the world, including other organizations, I think is a very, very strong value proposition on its own and I think it adds even value to other organizations. Likewise, I think G20 has a strong merit and a value proposition of its own, not just what G20 countries do among themselves, but what, and this includes the BRICS countries, but how they engage with each other bilaterally within the larger context of G20 and how, when G20 interfaces with the outside world, how the collectivity of thinking of G20 becomes a value proposition when it interfaces with the outside world. So, G20 membership is also… for example, G7 membership, G7 even has an outreach program. If you look at Shanghai Cooperation Organization, many of the Shanghai Cooperation… well, two of them are, three of them, actually now four of them if you want to go on, Iran in that sense, are member of the BRICS, some of them are also member of the G20, and I think each organization, given the historical context and political context in which they are shaped, given the substantive mandate they have, whether it's of economy or polity, I think each one brings a value proposition of its own and stands on its own. I don't think we should try and diminish work of one organization or the other just by making certain assumptions of duplication going forward.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, sir. Thank you for spending so much time on answering these questions. My thanks also to Mr. Prabhat Kumar, High Commissioner, as well as to Mr. Ninad Deshpande, Joint Secretary (MER). Thank you all for joining us. Good evening.

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