The BRICS Summit By Imran Khalid

The BRICS Summit By Imran Khalid

Alongside the long list of traditional topics like trade expansion, health, and climate change, the upcoming BRICS summit is anticipated to delve into numerous unconventional subjects. Although a central feature of this summit is the discussion on the BRICS membership expansion process and BRICS unified currency, it is also exploring fresh opportunities for cooperation, particularly in the digital economy— an arena of increasing importance in today’s interconnected world.

The essence of BRICS cooperation lies in equality, mutual benefits, inclusivity, and common development. It is not a means of confrontation against any third party but a collaborative effort aimed at fostering economic growth and shared prosperity. While BRICS nations exhibit varying levels of economic development and priorities, shared interests bind them. Overcoming challenges requires unified efforts beyond isolated initiatives. Prioritizing shared concerns like infrastructure, tech R&D, and industrial transformation can foster practical cooperation. Similarly, embracing the digital economy holds the potential to forge a strong cooperative path forward. The digital economy presents an immense arena for future cooperation, bolstered by the collective economic might and vast market potential of the BRICS nations.

These countries together constitute over 40 percent of the world’s internet users and possess abundant digital resources. China’s 2022 data achievements, contributing 10.5 percent and 14.4 percent to the global tally, underscore the group’s prowess. Furthermore, the ongoing membership expansion will further amplify opportunities for enhanced BRICS cooperation within the digital economy. Yet, the BRICS cooperation in this realm remains at an embryonic stage, trailing behind the global average in indicators such as digital GDP and digital trade. However, over the past decade, the BRICS members have made tangible strides in digital collaboration. Notable examples include China’s AliExpress, commanding a remarkable 25.8 percent of Russia’s e-commerce domain. Further, Russia’s e-commerce giant Ozon is also collaborating hand in hand with China Post, forging a strategic cross-border e-commerce logistics network that unites the strengths of both nations. This dynamic synergy exemplifies the potential for BRICS nations to propel each other forward in the vibrant landscape of the digital economy, carving a path of cooperation and mutual growth. Bilateral investments are also on the rise, evident in China and Russia’s joint Sino-Russian Research Center for the Digital Economy and other projects.

Developed nations like the USA and Europe have advanced digital cooperation from “first-generation” basics like internet and e-commerce to “second-generation” realms: artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, IoT, open source, and digital security. BRICS’ digital collaboration, however, remains in “first-generation” infancy. Disparities persist, including e-commerce rules and authentication of e-payments. In contrast to the second-generation digital cooperation witnessed among developed nations, BRICS cooperation still predominantly centers around first-generation policies, with disparities even within the bloc itself.

Nationalist sentiments and skepticism are the two reasons that have impeded the development in this domain. Growing suspicion among certain members, driven by external influences and domestic developments, has tested the bloc’s unity. Lately, India has championed a “India first” and “data localization” ethos, bolstered by escalating nationalist sentiments within its borders. This stance has extended to “data localization” policies, reflecting the nation’s determination to safeguard its digital domain.

Initiatives should transcend mere symbolism, resonating tangibly in areas crucial to all constituents. Infrastructural bolstering and technological innovation incubation are emblematic. The formulation of prototype projects within these domains could breathe life into the collaborative spirit, surmounting the challenges that often obstruct bigger projects. Yet, the digital economy, emblematic of our interconnected era, stands as a pinnacle. Within its vast domain, the BRICS’ collective weight could spark new dimensions of collaboration. The intricate task is reconciling their unique national interests with a collective agenda.

Taking a more punitive approach, India has reined in Chinese digital entities operating within its borders, aiming to restrain their activities devoid of ethical standards. This crackdown, while domestically justified, disrupts the unity of BRICS’ digital economy cooperation, challenging the coalition’s cohesiveness and shared objectives. Primarily, India has escalated its endeavours to align with the US-led West, in a bid to counterbalance China’s ascent. However, this pursuit undermines the cohesiveness of the BRICS coalition, eroding its solidarity.

Amidst these challenges, the BRICS nations must summon political courage and wisdom, transcending divisive forces. By utilizing the potential of the digital economy, they can overcome these obstacles and pave the way for cooperative solutions. The summit serves as an opportunity for displaying resolve, charting a course toward cohesive growth. Unlike trade and investment in other sectors, the digital economy triggers greater sensitivity due to its impact on development and security. Recent years have seen China’s ascent provoke suspicions among certain BRICS members. The US-led West’s efforts to woo BRICS members have caused divisions.

As the political landscape shifts and trust between nations wavers, the BRICS bloc must rise above the tide of conflict and polarization. A commitment to common ground, underpinned by digital cooperation, could break the cycle of declining trust and foster a renewed era of mutual understanding. While challenges abound, the BRICS nations’ collective endeavour in the digital realm offers a hope— a testament to their commitment to inclusive development and cooperative progress. In an increasingly interconnected world, the BRICS members should look beyond differences and work together for the common good, ultimately redefining the contours of global economic and digital cooperation.

Amidst the BRICS, economic disparities, policy disparities, and strategic discrepancies cast shadows. However, amidst these differences lies a nexus of shared interests and mutual dependencies. Escaping the current gridlock of myriad initiatives and implementation hurdles requires decisive action. The path ahead necessitates a robust allocation of resources towards joint concerns, notably infrastructure, technological R&D, and industrial metamorphosis.

Crafting prototype ventures of practical collaboration within these realms could inaugurate fresh avenues for raising the collective cooperation threshold. The digital economy looms as a ripe sphere for bolstering their joint endeavours. The amalgamation of BRICS’ multifaceted landscapes – their unique socio-economic trajectories, divergent visions, and shared aspirations– dictates a roadmap that deftly manoeuvres through these intricacies.

Initiatives should transcend mere symbolism, resonating tangibly in areas crucial to all constituents. Infrastructural bolstering and technological innovation incubation are emblematic. The formulation of prototype projects within these domains could breathe life into the collaborative spirit, surmounting the challenges that often obstruct bigger projects. Yet, the digital economy, emblematic of our interconnected era, stands as a pinnacle. Within its vast domain, the BRICS’ collective weight could spark new dimensions of collaboration. The intricate task is reconciling their unique national interests with a collective agenda.

The BRICS Summit By Imran Khalid

Source: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2023/08/20/the-brics-summit-exploring-digital-cooperation/

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