India, Brazil, South Africa discuss international crisis

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The leaders of the emerging economies of India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) met here Tuesday in a summit dominated by the global economic crisis amid questions over the group's relevance.

"The three economies contribute to the strengthening of the South-South cooperation and shared values for reform in the UN Security Council," said South African President Jacob Zuma at the summit opening, also attended by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

"We have similar views on many global issues such as the primacy of the development agenda, a just and equitable international order, a rule based international trading system, climate change and the reform of the UN," said Singh.

The IBSA countries discussed trade, the international economic crisis and the G20 summit scheduled for November 3-4 in the southern French city of Cannes.

The countries managed to surpass an intra-trade target of $15 billion set during the forum's inception in 2003, achieving $16.1 billion in 2010 and on track for a 2015-target of $25 billion.

But critics call into question IBSA's importance after South Africa joined the BRICS group of countries last year, which include emerging heavyweights Russia and India.

"Given the explosiveness of the relationship between India and China, China has done a very skilful job in neutralising India by inviting SA to join BRICS," Mills Soko, associate professor of international political economy at the University of Cape Town told Business Day newspaper.

IBSA has often been seen as India's project to increase its influence. The three are the so-called "real" democracies in the BRICSA stable.

"We share the principles of pluralism, democracy, tolerance and multiculturalism," said Indian Prime Minister Singh said in his opening notes on Tuesday.

As non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, the countries led by South Africa's Jacob Zuma, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff are also expected to discuss the political situation in Syria.

Forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have killed more than 3,000 people in a fierce crackdown on people who took to the streets calling for greater freedoms since March this year, according to the UN.

The three nations have recently taken coordinated actions on Syria. All abstained in the UN Security Council vote to slap sanctions Syria, triggering a walk-out by the United States.

In August the IBSA countries sent a joint mission to Damascus and demanded an end to the violence.

Climate change is also probably an important theme ahead of the UN climate talks, which South Africa will host from November 28 in Durban.

The Durban meeting is seen as a last chance to find a way forward on fighting climate change, with the Kyoto Protocol's commitments to cut carbon emissions expiring after 2012.

The three countries formed a united front in demanding emissions reduction and climate aid money at the last talks in Copenhagen in 2009.

According to 2008 figures, the IBSA nations boast a combined population of 1.384 billion people, with an average growth of 5.4 percent.

© 2011 AFP

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