Goa: "One old friend is better than two new ones," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, using an old Russian proverb to describe the solid, seven decade long friendship with Moscow, dating back to the Soviet era, after the two leaders held summit-level talks on the sidelines of the BRICS meeting in Goa today.
Along with President Vladimir Putin, PM Modi watched the signing of 16 agreements, including key defence deals for purchase and manufacturing of helicopters, the purchase of the S-400 air defence system and naval frigates - all worth billions of dollars. The two sides also signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on developing smart cities, transport logistics, shipbuilding and railways in Andhra Pradesh, and cooperation in oil and gas among others. The two leaders also announced the launch of phase two of the Kudankulam nuclear reactor, done via video conference, as well the foundation stone for phases three and four.
During their talks, Indian officials said PM Modi had expressed his appreciation for supportive statements from Moscow after last month's Uri attack, in which 19 soldiers died. Today's meeting precedes the main BRICS summit, and Indian officials working on the Goa declaration have been pushing for terrorism as a common challenge to find its way into the final document.
Responding to a question on how the other nations feel about India bringing in Pakistan-sponsored terrorism high on the BRICS meeting agenda in Goa, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said while BRICS was "envisaged as a global grouping located in different parts of the world with a united approach to global issues of development and economics, it has never shied away from political issues of the day." In the past, BRICS declarations have included statements on the Middle East crisis. "No country anywhere in the world is agnostic on the issue of terrorism," he said.
BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - which was inducted in 2010, was intended to be a forum for developing and fast growing economies with an agenda for development, working with international systems and boosting global trade. The term BRIC was coined by an economist from Goldman Sachs in 2001- the bank even had a fund specifically for these emerging economies until 2011 when it expanded it to include other emerging markets as BRICS countries have been impacted by significant slowdowns, scandals and recessions. While it can be argued that terrorism is often an impediment in the way of growth, BRICS's relevance today hinges on its ability to bring the focus back on its original mission, in spite of the challenge.