Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 11.2022
2022.03.14 — 2022.03.20
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
China comes up in talks between Modi, Kishida (Китай вступает в переговоры между Моди и Кисидой) / India, March, 2022
Keywords: top_level_meeting
Source: The Indian Express

Days after Beijing reached out to New Delhi to revive bilateral dialogue and set the stage for the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) summit in China later this year, India told Japan on Saturday that the India-China ties "cannot be business as usual", until and unless the Ladakh standoff is resolved.

This is the first comment from New Delhi after Beijing's outreach, made by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla who was briefing on the discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japan counterpart Fumio Kishida.

Briefing reporters, Shringla said, "In the discussions, the issue of China did come up and both countries did inform each other of their perspectives. He (PM Modi) did inform the Japanese side about the situation in Ladakh, the attempts at massing of troops, attempts at multiple transgressions."

He said, "We also made it clear that until and unless we had a resolution of the issues involved with the peace and tranquility in the border areas, we could not consider the relationship to be business as usual. And, normalcy in the relationship would depend on progress on the said issues."

"The Japanese Prime Minister also briefed our Prime Minister on Japan's own perspective, vis-a-vis, the East and South China Seas," Shringla said.

The joint statement said that they highlighted their commitment to working in tandem towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous world, based on a rules-based order that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations.

The Prime Ministers appreciated the significant progress made in security and defence cooperation and reaffirmed their desire to further strengthen it.

The Prime Ministers also emphasized that India and Japan, as two leading powers in the Indo-Pacific region, had a "shared interest in the safety and security of the maritime domain, freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce and peaceful resolution of disputes with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in accordance with the international law".

It also said that they reaffirmed their determination to continue prioritising the role of international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and facilitate collaboration, including in maritime security, to meet challenges against the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas.

Two years into the military standoff along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, The Indian Express had reported that Beijing had reached out to New Delhi to revive bilateral dialogue and set the stage for the BRICS summit in China later this year.

Beijing has proposed a series of events to kickstart the dialogue, proposing a visit by Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to India as early as this month. This is to be followed by a reciprocal visit by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

But China's ultimate and clear objective is to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the in-person BRICS summit which will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin as well. China, which also holds the chair for the RIC (Russia-India-China) trilateral this year, could also host the leaders' summit on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.

In the current circumstances, it is politically difficult for Modi to attend an in-person meeting with Xi — when the border standoff has still not been resolved. Their last face-to-face meeting was in Brazil for the BRICS summit in November 2019. In October 2019, Xi had visited India for an informal summit in Mahabalipuram.

The last BRICS summit to take place in China was in Xiamen in September 2017 which was attended by Modi. In fact, the Doklam border standoff was resolved after two-and-half months, just before the BRICS summit.

A potential window of opportunity to unlock the standoff exists: the 14th BRICS summit in 2022 is going to be hosted by China. Just like Doklam border stand-off was resolved days before the summit in September 2017 in Xiamen, officials feel there is a lever to be used.
Ramaphosa chats with another Brics partner about Ukraine (Рамафоса беседует с другим партнером по БРИКС об Украине) / South Africa, March, 2022
Keywords: top_level_meeting, political_issues
South Africa

'We discussed the need for humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine,' the president says.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Chinese president Xi Jinping while on official business in South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Deaan Vivier

President Cyril Ramaphosa says China's President Xi Jinping agrees with South Africa that there was a need for humanitarian assistance to the people of war-torn Ukraine.

On Friday, Ramaphosa engaged in a telephone conversation with Xi and both countries expressed similar views that Ukraine as a sovereign country has the right to decide its own position independently.

"We expressed our concern about the conflict in Ukraine and the need to end hostilities and find a lasting peace," the Presidency said in a tweet after the call.

"We discussed the need for humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine, and the plight of African students in Ukraine. President Xi and I also discussed the role Brics and the G20 in promoting a stable international order and equitable global recovery," it added.

South Africa has repeatedly called for Russia and Ukraine to maintain the momentum of peace talks and resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiations, which has placed government under fire for its neutral stance after failing to condemn the war.

Nato to blame

Ramaphosa on Thursday blamed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) for the conflict in Ukraine.

"The war could've been avoided if Nato had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less instability in the region," the president said during a Q&A session in Parliament.

He also took a swipe at the United Nations (UN) and certain member states.

"There is a tendency of the most powerful countries to use their positions as permanent council members to serve their national interests rather than the interest of global peace and stability. The UN Security Council needs to be overhauled."

Earlier this month, South Africa abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion.

Government said it was the UN's responsibility to take decisions and actions that will lead to a "constructive outcome" conducive to the creation of sustainable peace between the countries.

Putin call

Ramaphosa recently had a call with Russia's leader Vladimir Putin to express South Africa's support to the ongoing negotiation efforts between the federation and Ukraine.

"We had a conversation, he explained to me what was going on. He also explained to me why they took the action that they took, and he appreciated the position that we have taken of abstaining from the vote.

"And we abstained because the resolution did not address all the issues that would engender and encourage mediation and peaceful negotiation," said Ramaphosa.

Meanwhile, Deputy President David Mabuza told MPs in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Wednesday that Ramaphosa was open to talking with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky having done the same with Putin.

Mabuza insisted that government won't turn blind eye on Russia because it is part of Brics, which is an economic grouping alongside Brazil, India and China.

The deputy president also indicated the ongoing war between the two countries was a result of Nato's expansion towards eastern Europe.

China ready to move ties with South Africa to deeper level: Xi (Китай готов перевести отношения с ЮАР на более глубокий уровень — Си Цзиньпин) / China, March, 2022
Keywords: top_level_meeting, cooperation, quotation

BEIJING -- China stands ready to work with South Africa to move their ties forward toward a deeper level with higher quality and broader scope, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday afternoon.

Xi made the remarks during his phone conversation with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Noting that China and South Africa share a special friendly relationship of comrades and brothers, Xi said consolidating and developing their relations is of great significance to guiding China-Africa relations as well as solidarity and cooperation among developing countries.

The two sides should continue to firmly support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests and major concerns, step up efforts to implement the nine programs of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the 10-year strategic plan on cooperation between the two countries, and strive for new achievements in bilateral cooperation in various areas, Xi said.

China welcomes more imports of high-quality South African products, supports the two sides in expanding cooperation in emerging fields such as new energies and e-commerce, and encourages Chinese enterprises to conduct investment cooperation in South Africa and to help South Africa achieve the development goals of the new investment drive, Xi said.

China is ready to discuss cooperation on vaccine production with South Africa, and support South Africa and other African countries in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Xi said.

Xi noted that China, which chairs the BRICS this year, is ready to work with South Africa to maintain the development momentum of the BRICS cooperation mechanism, build a high-quality partnership that is more comprehensive, closer, more pragmatic and inclusive, realize the development of member countries and promote stronger, green and healthy global development.

China stands ready to work with all parties to uphold true multilateralism, safeguard international equity and justice, and safeguard the legitimate rights and common interests of emerging economies and developing countries, so as to actively contribute to the steady recovery of the world economy and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, Xi said.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Ukraine War: Why Rupee Is Depreciating While BRICS Currencies Hold (Война на Украине: почему рупия дешевеет, а валюты стран БРИКС держатся) / India, March, 2022
Keywords: economic_issues

Amidst the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and a surge in crude oil prices, the depreciation of the Rupee against US dollars has been relatively stable unlike in the past, according to a CRISIL report.

In its report titled, 'The rupee through three lenses,' the rating agency points out that despite being resilient, Rupee has seen the sharpest depreciation compared to its peer currencies and will continue to do so as the geopolitical tension escalates. The sanctions imposed on Russia by the west, and the hike in key interest rates by the US fed by 25 basis points, further add to the depreciation of Indian currency against the US dollar.

Notably, Rupee advanced 32 paise to 75.89 against US Dollar in the early trade, on Thursday. The Indian currency crossed Rs 76 per dollar mark on March 16, compared to Rs 74.5 per dollar before February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Over the past few weeks, the crude oil prices have also touched the seven-year-high at $140 per barrel, adding to further depreciation in Rupee against the dollar.

However, compared to the taper-tantrum episode of 2013, and the 2008 global financial crisis of 2008, Rupee has remained resilient. Between November last year when and March 14, the Rupee depreciated 2.6 per cent as compared to 8.5 per cent and 11.3 per cent during the 2008 global financial crisis and the 2013 taper tantrum, respectively. Meanwhile, the volatility in Indian Rupee is far lower at 0.9 Rs/dollar during the November to March period, compared to the 2008 global financial crisis and the 2013 taper tantrum when the volatility was 2.4 Rs/dollar and 5.2 Rs/dollar, respectively.

A reason behind the stability in Rupee is a combination of adequate forex reserves, the RBI interventions, and lower external account vulnerability. Moreover, in December last year, the central bank not only sold dollars amounting to $2.9 billion in the spot market but also bought dollars worth $49 billion in the spot market, in order to accumulate foreign exchange (forex) reserves.

However, even though the Indian currency has been resilient, it has depreciated more compared to other emerging markets currencies. It has witnessed the sharpest depreciation compared to other Asian and BRICS currencies.

"Much of the weakness, though, was seen in the past month as foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) withdrew funds amounting to $5.1 billion owing to risk-off sentiment arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and tapering of global liquidity," the report said.

Moreover, the rupee will further depreciate and is likely settle at around 77.5 per dollar by March 2023, due to mean reversion amid global tensions and rate hikes by the US Fed.

"Two factors will play a pivotal role in driving the weakness: higher energy prices widening the current account deficit, and rate hikes by the US Fed resulting in some capital outflow. But with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) expected to continue intervening in the forex markets (thanks to larger forex reserves) to manage volatility, a sharp depreciation in the rupee may be avoided though it could face volatility near term so long as geopolitical tensions persist," the report added.

The international crude oil situation and India's reliance on exports from the Black Sea region will also play a major role in the Rupee outlook. With the global supply chain disruption, CRISIL expects the current account deficit to widen to 2.4 per cent of GDP in fiscal 2023, compared with an estimated 1.6 per cent in fiscal 2022. Moreover, with the rising demand for dollars to pay for expensive oil imports, the depreciation pressure on the rupee will intensify, as per CRISIL.

Meanwhile, with an increase in key interest rates by the US fed, US long-term yield would be hardened, thus reducing the interest rate differential between US assets and emerging markets. This, in turn, will increase the purchase of US assets, leading to capital outflows of riskier assets of emerging markets. As a result demand for domestic currencies will reduce, thus putting depreciating pressure.

World of Work
'We Are Together. Sports' Paralympic Games may be held on regular basis — sports official ('Мы вместе. Спортивные Паралимпийские игры могут проводиться на регулярной основе — спортивный чиновник) / Russia, March, 2022
Keywords: social_issues

The upcoming tournament is expected to be attended by athletes from Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Armenia and Kazakhstan

KHANTY-MANSIISK, March 17. /TASS/. The upcoming Paralympic Games 'We Are Together. Sports' in Russia may be organized in the future on a regular basis, Pavel Rozhkov, the acting president of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC), said on Thursday.

"We are pondering the organization of the Games on a regular basis," Rozhkov told journalists. "A matter of their frequency would be decided later. We plan organizing such Games for the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] and SCO [the Shanghai Cooperation Organization] member states. Participation invitations to other countries, including from Europe, are also possible."

"We have grand opportunities for hosting such tournaments and they include the infrastructure, the refereeing staff, the organization and, most importantly, our desire to host them," the RPC high-ranking official stated. "Khanty-Mansiisk is currently the most prepared region and they are willing to host the tournaments."

Rozhkov also said that the city of Khanty-Mansiisk managed to prepare for the Paralympic Games in a very short period of time and its facilities are in compliance with the up-to-date international standards.

"Our Chinese partners were preparing [to host the Paralympics] for seven years, while it took Yugra only seven days," Rozhkov said. "We have inspected all sports facilities and they are in compliance with the international up-to-date standards."

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said last week that Paralympic Games 'We Are Together. Sports' in the Russian city of Khanty-Mansiisk would be held between March 18 and 21.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced a decision on March 4 to ban athletes from Russia and Belarus from their participation in the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games, which kicked off later that day in China's Beijing. The 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in the Chinese capital of Beijing were held between March 4 and 13. The IPC cited Russia's special military operation in Ukraine as a reason for its decision.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Chernyshenko, who oversees issues of sports, culture and tourism in the Russian government, announced on March 5 that he tasked the Russian Sports Ministry and the Finance Ministry to start working jointly with the government of Yugra, located in the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Area, on the organization of the Paralympic Games 'We Are Together. Sports.'

Sergey Artamonov, the head of the physical culture and sports of Yugra, said last week that up to 70 athletes would take part in six sports competitions - cross-country skiing, biathlon, curling, snowboarding, alpine skiing, sledge ice hockey. The competitions would be held under the Russian state flag and to the tune of the national anthem, the head of the physical culture and sports of Yugra added.

The upcoming tournament is expected to be attended by athletes from Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Armenia and Kazakhstan.

Covid pandemic and its impact on journalists across BRICS countries (Пандемия COVID и ее влияние на журналистов в странах БРИКС) / India, March, 2022
Keywords: COVID-19, media, expert_opinion

New Delhi: It is almost impossible to find any industry or profession that has been immune to Covid-19. The pandemic has touched almost every sector in one way or the other, and its impact on journalism is immense.

Most journalists and newsrooms across the world have suffered due to the pandemic. Whether it's burnout from working extra hours, layoffs, or fighting against the "infodemic" of fake news, this virus has taken a toll on the news industry.

The arrival of coronavirus made it difficult for publishers across the globe to find a sizable audience. With businesses paused or no longer willing to pay for advertisements, a vital part of the industry's support system cracked, The New York Times reported.

However, while discussing with my 24 other fellow journalists about the impact of Covid-19 on the news sector across Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa at the BRICS Media Forum, I realised that the pandemic has not only disrupted their business models, but also their newsroom structure.

While smartphones and mobile technology made news gathering, live broadcasting and content distribution easier, working from home increased communication gaps and reduced productivity for some people.

Addressing the challenges faced while conducting virtual meetings, Olga Dmitrieva, from Russia's Sputnik News, said: "Being a producer you can basically work from anywhere. All you need is a good smartphone with an internet connection and international roaming. So, for me, it was easy to adjust to the 'new normal'."

"However, during virtual meetings via Skype/Zoom, I always felt that you get more friendly while interviewing someone from home. So even business relations tend to become more open," she added.
About how the virus upended the normal routines of life, Ilia Goncharov, from Sputnik News, said: "Before the pandemic, as a columnist, I often went to places, interviewed people, made reports, interacted with foreigners, artists, musicians, etc. But with the emergence of the novel Coronavirus, all of those things suddenly changed.

"It seemed like a joke, a bad dream, at first. However, when we came to our senses, we were able to get the job done. All the aspects of my work were then done under the prism of the epidemic. I studied how Moscow restaurants helped doctors from the Red Zone, how gyms started online training, etc. One of my most unusual experiences was at a painting exhibition by the famous Chinese artist Zhang Huang, who barely managed to send paintings to the Hermitage (a major art museum in St Petersburg) as all the museums in the country were closed. I interviewed him online and we both agreed that during these unprecedented times, what the world needs more is love."

Highlighting the problems of the pandemic-induced restrictions, Zhao Zhao, from China's Xinhua News Agency, said: "Due to the pandemic, the Chinese media industry was strongly impacted as many important events had to be cancelled, postponed or held virtually. Therefore, journalists in China missed having physical interviews or interactions with one another."

On the challenges of remote news reporting, Rodrigo De Moraes Vargas Ramos from Brazil's CMA group said: "The hardest part was staying away from the newsroom, and not physically meeting other journalists daily. However, our work itself was not harmed. We pulled off the same performance as we did in the newsroom."

However, for Jehran Naidoo, from South Africa's Independent Media, productivity had gone for a toss while working from home.

"Staying indoors affected me a lot. The four walls kept closing in on me. And that in turn affected my productivity to some extent. I became more agitated and less focused. Trying to find balance again was the new challenge I faced," Naidoo said.

About how his journalistic work buckled under the pandemic pressure, he said: "I like interacting with people, hearing their voices. It intrigues me. But this very part, which made being a journalist such a cool job, was taken away from me and I had to adjust to a faulty internet connection and robotic voices on the other end of my screen."

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