With several bilateral meetings being squeezed into the sidelines of the BRICS summit, leaders of the constituent countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are going to be a busy lot.
The hours will be particularly cramped for BRICS leaders on the afternoon of March 29. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, just back from the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, will meet the presidents of Russia, China and South Africa. Dilma Rousseff, the President of Brazil, will begin her state visit to India the next day.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, also coming from the Nuclear Security Summit, will hold bilateral meetings with his Brazilian and Russian counterparts. Jintao, who will leave for Cambodia from here, will not be meeting South African President Jacob Zuma, whom he met on the sidelines of the Seoul summit.This will be the last visit of Jintao and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, to India in their present capacities. "The Prime Minister (Singh) will be having very important bilateral meetings. While Russia is our trusted partner, China is our largest neighbour. The Brazilian President is visiting India in his first year of coming to power. And, with South Africa, we have historical ties," said an Indian official.
With the number of multilateral forums increasing, leaders are finding it convenient to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines. "These days, there are many multilateral forums where international leaders get to meet each other. Then, why shouldn't we utilise the time we have?" the official asked.
Singh has been having as many meetings as possible on the sidelines of multilateral summits. Last year, he met US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the East Asia summit.
His meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit gave a major fillip to the troubled peace process between the two neighbours. Singh also held bilateral meetings with all the other leaders of the association during the course of the summit.
The Prime Minister had met Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last September.