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A Broad But Shallow Success: The BRICS Goa Summit 2016

Research Report by Courtney Hallink, Research Analyst, and Alissa Wang, Chair, Summit Studies
BRICS Research Group
October 31, 2016

This research report relies in part on the work on dimensions of performance conducted since 2010 by members of the BRICS Research Group at the University of Toronto and the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow. The authors are grateful for their work.


The 2016 BRICS Summit took place on 15-16 October, in Goa, India. The summit was spread over three sessions and produced a final declaration of 110 paragraphs.


The 2016 BRICS Goa Summit was significant in many ways and for many actors. For the host, India, the summit was an opportunity to condemn Pakistani terrorism and enlist support from fellow BRICS members. In addition, the Goa Summit was a platform for developing and advancing bilateral relations among BRICS members, the most important of which were those between China and India over the issue of Pakistan and between Russia and India over defence issues. In light of the global economic slowdown and stagnating growth in BRICS countries, especially in China, the summit was significant as a way to respond to challenging global economic conditions, discuss economic cooperation and reinvigorate growth. In terms of global problem solving, the Goa Summit was significant for offering a mechanism for BRICS members to coordinate on the international stage, for example, in addressing the imminent threat of terrorism and the recent Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The summit's broad agenda touched many new issue areas, which is significant in shaping the direction of BRICS governance and the relationship between the BRICS and other international organizations such as the G20 and the United Nations. With the Goa Summit taking place soon after the G20 Hangzhou Summit in China in September, the two summits examined together can offer insights into the contribution of developing countries and emerging economies in global governance.

Schools of Thought

The Goa Summit's performance and its causes are the subject of a debate among several competing schools of thought.

Intra-BRICS Conflict-Driven Failure

The first, dominant school, sees a failure due to internal BRICS conflicts. Focusing on the intra-BRICS political conflicts that overshadowed the summit, this school argues that Russia's recent military interactions with Pakistan, Russia's siding with China and China's backing of Pakistan created conflicting interests within the BRICS. Because China blocked India's attempt to name Pakistani terrorist groups in the final declaration, and Russia failed to support India's case, the Goa Declaration failed to address the host's core concern.

The "India isolation" variant of this school argues that India was isolated after the BRICS summit because no member supported its stand on Kashmir. The "China-India conflict" variant of this school argues that the India-Pakistan conflict dominated the Goa summit. China's response implied that Indian prime minister Narandra Modi was politically driven in his counter-terrorism motivations and did not fully back India's stance. Thus, the Goa summit "hinted at growing tensions between India and China."

The "opportunity lost" variant argues that Goa failed because Modi concentrated too much on terrorism. The more he brought attention to the issue, "the more distant became India's aspiration for a world role, struggling as it seemed to be with a major neighbourhood problem." This failure was reflected in the "form of an anodyne declaration." Because of this, India missed a great opportunity to discuss world problems affecting BRICS members in the context of a changing world.

Counter-Terrorism Success

The second school argues that Goa was a counter-terrorism success. The Goa Declaration contained the "strongest ever" language on the issue. India's external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that terrorism was at the centre of Goa in a more substantive manner than the G20 Antalya Summit in 2015. He noted that terrorism was mentioned 37 times in the Goa Declaration and that this shows an "unprecedented condemnation" of terrorism. The "India's outmanoeuvring success" variant argues Goa was a tool used by India to outmanoeuvre Pakistan. The Goa Summit was a success in this respect for India because Pakistan was branded a "regional pariah."

BRICS Shift from Economic to Political Forum

The third school argues that Goa brought a shift from being an economic forum to a political one because terrorism was the main item on the agenda. This contrasted with the previous seven BRICS summits where economics had dominated the agenda.

G20-BRICS Joint Success

This fourth school sees a G20-BRICS joint success. This school places the Goa Summit in a broader context of the two recent summits held by emerging economies, the other being China's G20 Hangzhou Summit. At Hangzhou, Xi had urged BRICS countries to step forward in improving global governance by reforming international institutions, implement the first projects funded by the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) and jointly support G20 agreements. Goa did all these actions.

Development-Focused Success

The fifth school sees a development success. It claims that the Goa Summit focused on development and made progress on the NDB. The Goa Declaration reaffirmed the BRICS approval of the first set of NDB loans and began the mobilization of the NDB's Africa Regional Centre (ARC). A "NDB model institution" variant argues that Goa institutionalized the NDB as a model multilateral development institution for lending development finance.

Balanced, Comprehensive Success

The sixth school sees a balanced, comprehensive success, as Goa created an "all-encompassing, reasoned and very balanced declaration on a wide range of issues involving themselves and the world at large." This school highlights the BRICS confirmation of its "unequivocal faith in the existing international order, coupled with a desire to make it more equitable and fairer" as demonstrated by reiterations of UN and G20 agenda items. Other achievements include the outreach with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, which constitute the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), as well as considerable attention paid to terrorism and the creation of new institutions. An "overcoming differences" variant argues that BRICS members reached important consensus despite sensitive political differences. Achievements include reiterating the dedication to openness in the global economy, setting up research networks for railway and agriculture development, giving full consent to crack down on economic crime by fighting tax evasion, and reaching important consensus on climate change.

Institutionally Stabilizing Success

The seventh school sees an institutionally stabilizing success. It argues that the Goa Summit successfully steadied the BRICS as an institution, maintaining the momentum for intra-BRICS cooperation and sustaining BRICS achievements. Even though each country brought its own agenda encompassing a wide range of divergent geopolitical interests, the summit in the end was able to show that BRICS countries are capable of reaching common ground and remain the leader in promoting the interests of the developing world for a more equitable world economy.

Bilateral India-Russia Success

The eighth school sees a bilateral India-Russia success, as Goa marked a significant chapter in relations between the two countries. This success was reflected in the readiness of India to seek maximum collaboration from the Russian government in the energy sector. The Goa agreements nullified the impression that India was siding with the United States on defence. A stronger variant asserts that the main achievement at the Goa Summit was the "announcement of measures to give new momentum to [India's] relations with Russia." These agreements included the Russian agreement to invest in India and establishing joint defence ventures.

India's Unilateral Success

This ninth school argues that Goa was India's unilateral success, as through the summit, India "turned over a new leaf and is rightfully asserting itself." The summit and its bilateral interactions thus succeeded not only because the group found common ground on many key issues but also because India made large gains from the deliberations from the summit, especially in bilateral relations with Russia and in areas of defence and energy.


Since terrorism was a central priority of the Goa Summit and there was much anticipation about how the issue would be addressed, scholarship on the performance of the Goa Summit is dominated by the discussion of the India-Pakistan issue. Performance on the issue of terrorism was thus the lens used by a majority of scholars to assess whether the Goa Summit was a success. However, terrorism takes up only a small section of the declaration and one of many issue areas that the summit and declaration addressed. Thus, existing assessments lack discussion on the summit's performance on the many other substantive issue areas on the BRICS agenda.

In addition, existing scholarship focuses predominantly on foreign policy conflicts and cooperation between BRICS members, bilaterally and multilaterally, as a measure of performance and success. However, beyond the realm of foreign policy, little has been done to assess the performance of the BRICS summit from a multidimensional, systematic, quantitative empirical perspective (Cooper 2016). For example, how successful were the BRICS leaders in domestic political management, in making decisions and in developing global governance? This research report takes up this task by empirically assessing the Goa Summit on the six dimensions of performance in the concert equality and systemic hub models, developed for use on the G7/8 and G20 summits respectively and recently applied to the BRICS (Kirton 2013; Larionova and Kirton forthcoming).


The Goa Summit successfully broadened the agenda into new issue areas and the outreach to BIMSTEC countries was a significant step forward. However, there was a notable decrease across most dimensions of performance, save for domestic political management as measured by communiqué compliments. India's attempt to further its domestic agenda by rallying the unwilling BRICS partners against Pakistan could explain the decreased amount of time spent on other aspects of the agenda, and thus explain the overall decrease in performance. Despite India's efforts, Pakistan was not explicitly mentioned in the official documents and only a general condemnation of terrorism was made. At Goa, the focus on domestic agendas and the incompatibility of BRICS members' foreign policies seemed to diminish from the group's usual and generally rising success.


The Goa Summit's broad but shallow success is seen in its specific results in both the traditional BRICS agenda areas and in Goa's newer ones. In the traditional areas, Goa's highlights started with its welcoming the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, supporting "a wider use of natural gas as an economically efficient and clean fuel to promote sustainable development as well as to reduce the greenhouse emissions," reiterating the BRICS health ministers' commitment to "achieve the 90-90-90 HIV treatment target by 2020," and advancing cooperation and action on HIV and tuberculosis. They extended to advancing the progress of the BRICS Network University and the BRICS University League, establishing the BRICS Agricultural Research Platform, condemning recent terrorist attacks, and creating the new BRICS Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism.

Goa's newer areas broadened the BRICS agenda and actions. For the first time, the BRICS discussed the common challenges brought by urbanization and advanced cooperation between cities. The declaration recognized that the BRICS is home to 43% of the world's population and "among the fastest urbanising societies" and thus are facing "multi-dimensional challenges and opportunities of urbanisation." The BRICS affirmed its engagement in the UN's New Urban Agenda and called for cooperation in "strengthening urban governance, making [cities] safe and inclusive, improving urban transport, financing of urban infrastructure and building sustainable cities." The leaders also addressed biodiversity and the protection of endangered species by welcoming South Africa's 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In addition, the Goa Summit advanced the outreach agenda "in order to reach out and enrich [its] understanding and engagement with fellow developing and emerging economies." To this end, the leaders announced that the BRICS would hold an outreach summit with BIMSTEC members. Pakistan was thus excluded here.

Dimensions of Performance

This judgement of a broad but shallow success is confirmed by a systematic assessment on Goa's performance across the six dimensions by which such summits are assessed. The BRICS summits have had increasing performance across most dimensions of performance since the first summit in 2009 (see Appendix A). However, Goa's performance significantly decreased across almost all dimensions of performance, save for domestic political management. A similar outcome had come at the New Delhi Summit in 2012, which had featured a notable decline in domestic political management, decision making, delivery and development of global governance outside.

Domestic Political Management

On domestic political management Goa performed well, as measured by the number of communiqué complements it issued to its member, with a total of 21. This total is considerably higher than the eight-year average of 9.38. India received the majority of the compliments, with a total of 15 (See Appendix B).


On deliberation, as measured by the total word count of the official summit documents publicly issued in the leaders' name, performance continuously increased after the first summit in 2009. However, at Goa leaders produced two documents with a total word count of only 8,939, representing a sharp fall from 21,907 the year prior (see Appendix A).

Direction Setting

In their principled and normative direction setting after 2009, BRICS leaders' continuously emphasised strengthening cooperation among BRICS members over the other two components of their distinctive mission: namely, supporting emerging economies in their economic development and supporting the G20 in the face of the global financial crisis. At Goa they did so again (see Appendix C). Yet their 40 affirmations of internal cooperation at Goa were less than half of the 86 they had made at the Ufa Summit in 2015. Moreover, at Goa they made no affirmations of supporting the G20 in the global financial crisis and supporting emerging economies in their economic development, with 0 and 1 affirmations respectively.

Decision Making

In their decision making, through producing precise, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments, Goa's leaders made only 46, a dramatic decrease from the 2015 Ufa Summit (see Appendix A). Yet these covered a broad range of subjects, including combating corruption, implementing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, fighting money laundering, and bridging the digital and technological divides.

Development of Global Governance

In its development of global governance, through references to institutions inside and outside the BRICS, Goa's performance significantly decreased (see Appendix A). Leaders made only 33 references to inside institutions, a sharp drop from the 93 at Ufa the year before. At Goa the NDB received the highest number, with 5. The Contingent Reserve Arrangement received the second highest number, with 3.

The 58 references to outside institutions at Goa was just over half of the 98 at Ufa. At Goa the United Nations received the highest number of references and the G20 did very well too (see Appendix D). Also noteworthy is the similarity between the themes of the Goa and Hangzhou summits. Goa's theme was "Building responsive, inclusive and collective solutions" and the theme of the Hangzhou Summit was moving "toward an innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive world economy." This convergence suggests the legitimate desire of the BRICS to continue and strengthen cooperation with the G20.


At Goa BRICS performance notably declined across all dimensions but domestic political management. This is likely a result of India's overwhelming focus on condemning its regional rival, Pakistan, over terrorism issues, and the other BRICS members' unwillingness to support India's demands. There is thus still a significant degree of incompatibility between the political agendas of BRICS members. However, Goa notably introduced several new issue areas to the BRICS agenda including the safe use of outer space, urbanization and biodiversity, as well as its close coordination with the G20's Hangzhou Summit and outreach to BIMSTEC countries. Thus, the Goa Summit reveals both the internal conflicts that challenge intra-BRICS relations and the common interest of the BRICS members to strengthen the institution's role in global governance. How this tension plays out in the future is uncertain, as the world looks to the 2017 Xiamen Summit in China for possible answers.


Cooper, Andrew F. (2016), BRICS: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kirton, John (2013), G20 Governance for a Globalized World, Farnham: Ashgate.
Larionova, Marina and John Kirton, eds. (forthcoming), BRICS in the System of Global Governance, Abindgdon: Routledge.
Larionova, Marina and John Kirton, eds. (2015), "BRICS in the System of Global Governance," special issue, International Organisations Research Journal, vol. 15, no. 2.

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Appendix A: BRICS Summit Performance, 2009-2016

Domestic Political Management Deliberation Decision Making Delivery Development of Global Governance
Attendance Compliments #
# documents Compliance # Commitments assessed Internal External
2009 Yekaterinburg 100% 2 1,844 2 16 1 1 2 13
2010 Brasilia 100% 8 2,436 1 46 0.13 3 16 34
2011 Sanya 100% 11 2,253 1 38 0.48 8 12 28
2012 Delhi 100% 7 4,415 2 32 0.28 5 32 43
2013 Durban 100% 5 4,789 2 47 0.48 5 26 51
2014 Fortaleza 100% 10 21,907 3 91 0.40 8 58 253
2015 Ufa 100% 11 19,047 3 130 0.56 9 93 96
2016 Goa 100% 21 8,939 2 46 N/A N/A 33 58
Total N/A 75 65,630 16 446 N/A 39 272 576
Average 100% 9.38 8,099 2 57.14 0.46 5.57 34 72

Notes: Only documents issued at a summit in the leaders' name are included.
Domestic Political Management refers to participation by BRICS members. Compliments are references to members in summit documents.
Deliberation refers to the documents issued in the leaders' name at the summit.
Decision Making refers to number of commitments as identified by the BRICS Research Group.
Delivery: scores are measured on a scale from −1 (no compliance) to +1 (full compliance, or fulfilment of goal set out in commitment). Figures are cumulative scores based on compliance reports.
Development of Global Governance: internal are references to G20 institutions in summit documents; external are references to institutions outside the G20.

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Appendix B: Communiqué Complements, Goa 2016

Summit Total Brazil Russia India China South Africa
Goa Declaration 21 1 1 15 2 2
Goa Action Plan 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 21 1 1 15 2 2

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Appendix C: Direction-Setting: Principles Affirmed, BRICS 2009-2016

Reference 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total
Support the G20 in the Global Financial Crisis 1 2 0 1 0 1 1 0 6
Strengthening collaboration within the BRICS 6 10 24 13 9 153 86 40 341
Supporting emerging economies in their economic development 2 1 0 2 1 4 3 1 14
Overall total 9 13 24 16 10 158 90 41 361

Notes: The Unit is the sentence. Measured by the number of references to the BRICS core values of:
1. Supporting the G20 in the face of the GFC;
2. Strengthening collaboration within the BRICS;
3. Supporting emerging economies in their economic development.

Inclusions for the first core value: support the G20 in the face of the GFC; support the G20 in combatting the GFC; continuing financial crisis; global economic recovery.
Inclusions for the second core value: Cooperation; collaboration; working together; institution building; increasing dialogue; close mutual links; trade ties; financial ties; business ties; within the BRICS; among the BRICS members; intra-BRICS; our.
Inclusions for the third core value: Emerging economies; emerging markets; emerging countries; economic development; sustainable development.

Exclusions for the first core value: General mentions of the G20; references to other crises; mentions of the GFC without mention of the G20.
Exclusions for the second core value: International cooperation; regional cooperation; any mention of cooperation without the specific mention of cooperation within the BRICS.
Exclusions for the third core value: Developing countries; least developed countries; reference to emerging economies without mention to economic development.

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Appendix D: Development of Global Governance, Goa 2016

Institution 2016 Goa
New Development Bank 5
Contingent Reserve Arrangement 3
BRICS Business Council 2
BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues 1
BRICS Think Tanks Council 1
BRICS Academic Forum 1
Customs Cooperation Committee of BRICS 2
BRICS Economic Partnership 2
BRICS Anti-Corruption Working Group 1
Anti-Drug Working Group 1
BRICS Network University 1
BRICS University League 1
Young Diplomats Forum 1
BRICS Diplomatic Academies 1
BRICS Young Scientists Conclave 1
BRICS Working Group on Research Infrastructure, and Mega-Science 1
BRICS Global Research Advanced Infrastructure Network 1
BRICS Joint Task Force 1
BRICS Youth Summit 1
BRICS Urbanisation Forum 1
BRICS Friendship Cities Conclave 1
BRICS Parliamentary Forum 1
BRICS Women Parliamentarians' Forum 1
BRICS Railways Research Network 1
Inside Total 33
African Regional Centre 1
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation 2
United Nations 20
United Nations General Assembly 3
United Nations Security Council 5
Shanghai Cooperation Organization 1
Collective Security Treaty Organization 1
African Union 4
African Capacity for Immediate Responses to Crises 1
G20 5
International Monetary Fund (IMF) 4
World Trade Organization (WTO) 3
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) 1
United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) 2
United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE +50) 1
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2
United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE 1
World Health Organization (WHO) 1
Outside Total 58

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