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Inaugural Address By External Affairs Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Academic Forum : IBSA Partnership For Shared Prosperity & Inclusive Globalization

October 13, 2008

Dr. Arjun Sengupta, Member of Parliament and Chairman, RIS,

Academicians from India, Brazil and South Africa,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. It gives me great pleasure to inaugurate the Third IBSA Summit Academic Forum organized by RIS. The meeting of minds of academics and members of think-tanks of the IBSA has to contribute a lot to the IBSA process by constantly providing ideas and visions. I believe that over time the Academic Forum of IBSA should evolve into a think-tank of the IBSA process.
  2. IBSA represents an important milestone in the area of South-South Cooperation (SSC) bringing together three leading democracies in the developing world representing the three continents combining between them substantial developmental experiences.
  3. Developing countries have talked of the philosophy of South-South Cooperation for development for a very long time. A number of initiatives were launched during the 1960s and 1970s. However, progress was modest because of lack of resources and institutional weaknesses in developing countries. With the emergence of countries like Brazil, India and South Africa in this millennium with considerable capabilities and collective development experiences that South-South cooperation has begun to be seen as a viable strategy. Recent trends suggest that developing countries are revitalizing South South Cooperation as a new engine of growth. Developing countries in different regions are also establishing their own schemes of regional economic integration, e.g. Mercosur, Comesa and SACU, AFTA, SAFTA and BIMSTEC. The Bangkok Agreement and the GSTP are being revitalized. The South-South trade is growing rapidly. With the emergence of new dynamic enterprises in these countries even South-South investments and technology transfers have begun to increase.
  4. IBSA is among the latest developments with respect to South-South Cooperation set up to explore the possibilities for closer economic cooperation in a Trilateral Dialogue for mutual benefit and for international development.
  5. India, Brazil and South Africa share common economic and political history and have stood together in different multilateral fora on more than one occasion for the cause of developing world. India’s contribution to South Africa’s struggle against apartheid has been widely acknowledged. India and Brazil, though separated by geographical distance, found close to each other on various issues of concern for the developing countries and worked together in the GATT/WTO negotiations for many years. Three of us were instrumental in setting up of the G-20 group of developing countries in the WTO at Cancun Ministerial Conference in 2003 that has since become an important coalition of developing countries to articulate collective interests of the South in a critical area of negotiations viz. agriculture.
  6. Apart from shared political and economic history there are significant synergies between these countries that offer fertile ground for economic cooperation. Over the years these countries have built up substantial capability in different spheres. The capabilities of these countries in different spheres could be shared among them and fully utilized for the development of the South in general.
  7. I believe that our trilateral cooperation has much potential for reinforcing the economic strengths of each other by synergizing their complementarities in areas of industry, services, trade and technology. We are moving towards a comprehensive economic cooperation arrangement bringing together members of South African Customs Union - India and members of MERCOSUR countries. Such an arrangement would create a large and expanding economic space and provide a framework to exploit our synergies in trade, technology and industrialization for our mutual advantage. In a number of sectors of industry and services, IBSA countries have developed considerable expertise which can be shared for mutual benefit. Studies conducted by think-tanks such as RIS point to fruitful opportunities for cooperation in many areas such as energy, agriculture and food processing, tourism, transport infrastructure, mining, ICT, among others. We can also benefit from each other’s development experiences such as in development and promotion of small and medium enterprises, or expanding universal education as in Brazil, empowerment of weaker sections in South Africa, or Indian experiences in e-governance, among others. IBSA partnership will help in exploitation of this potential.
  8. The recent rise in oil and food prices the world over has also led to a major concern about development as it affects poor the most. In that context a discussion of the issues concerning food and energy security is most timely. We need to consider ways and means of our mutual cooperation contributing to enhanced food and energy security.
  9. We should also exploit the strategic potential of IBSA partnership in building a more inclusive and equitable global economic order. This would include our cooperation along with other co-developing countries in shaping a more development-friendly world trading system that is responsive to our developmental aspirations. IBSA cooperation can also expedite the long-pending reform of the international financial architecture to serve our requirements. Need for such a reform has become all the more critical in view of the current financial crisis in the US leading to turmoil in the capital and financial markets the world over.
  10. Such turmoil in the global markets further enhances the imperative of South-South cooperation. In these times, we can serve as growth poles for each other. India-Brazil and South Africa, being amongst the leading economies of the three continents are also conscious of their responsibility to other developing countries. Hence they have set up an IBSA Fund for Poverty Alleviation. This Fund has begun to support projects of cooperation in some of the poorest countries such as Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Burundi, Laos, etc. I believe that the IBSA cooperation has a potential to emerge as a new role model for the South-South Cooperation in the new millennium.
  11. I am happy to learn that the IBSA Academic Forum will be discussing some of these issues in your deliberations.
  12. I wish you all the best in your endeavours.
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