Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves on Monday on a four-day visit to Durban in South Africa to attend a five-nation Summit on March 26 and 27 that could launch a BRICS development bank and discuss ways to reform governance in international financial institutions.
Accompanied by a high-level delegation including finance minister P Chidambaram, commerce minister Anand Sharma and national security adviser Shivshankar Menon, the Prime Minister will also have an opportunity to meet with the new Chinese leadership on the Summit sidelines when he calls on President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
The highlight of the Summit of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) is the possible setting up of the BRICS bank. But there is no no clarity on its corpus.
The bank is expected to promote growth and investment in its member-states and other emerging markets and will be a strong voice in the lobbying for the reform of international financial institutions.
The BRICS finance ministers, who have met four times in the past on the issue, will be meeting in Durban tomorrow ahead of the Summit when a clear picture may emerge.
"There are still some issues to be resolved. If everything goes well, whatever is the final decision will be included in the Summit communique," say Indian officials.
"Things are moving on that and they are moving pretty fast," they say. There has been speculation that the size of the bank could be about USD 50 billion.
India had last year mooted the idea of BRICs-led South-South Development Bank, mainly funded and managed by BRICS countries to recycle surpluses into investment in developing countries for infrastructure and sustainable development projects.
The new Chinese President has backed the establishment of the BRICS bank, supporting the South African Presidency's priority in firming up that move.
The meeting of the $12 trillion grouping also comes at a time when the global economy is still grappling problems of slowdown.
The leaders are expected to take a call on scaling up intra-BRICS trade to a new level of $50 billion discussed sometime ago by their commerce ministers.
The other major issue coming up at the Summit is the need for reforms of global financial governance architecture and spurring infrastructure building in the developing world.
With huge foreign exchange reserves, the BRICS economies will be campaigning hard at the Durban meet for greater voting quota for emerging powers and developing countries in the Bretton Woods institutions like World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Hoping for positive results in these areas, Xi told BRICS journalists last week that a new economic governance system must reflect the profound changes in the global economic landscape so that the representation and voice of the emerging markets in developing countries should be increased.
The BRICS finance ministers will also discuss the shareholding and quota of countries in IMF, sources said.
India will handover the Chairmanship of BRICS to South Africa which will host the Summit. The theme of the meet is 'BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation'. The Summit will come out with Durban Declaration named as eThekwini Declaration. eThekwini is the South African name of Durban city.
South Africans are aiming at setting up a BRICS Business Council.
There will also be a BRICS Business Summit which will be attended by a combined business delegation from India representing bodies like FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM. Chidambaram and Sharma will address the business meet.
On the Summit sidelines, Prime Minister Singh will also have meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, besides his South African host President Jacob Zuma.
President Xi has already struck a positive note with his warm words for Singh, saying he looked forward to meeting him in Durban.
Talking to BRICS journalists in Beijing last week, Xi had unveiled a five-point formula for improving ties with India, proposing accommodation of each other's concerns and proper handling of differences.
Peace and tranquility should be maintained on the border and border tensions should not affect the overall development of bilateral ties, he had said.
Singh and Xi are expected to review bilateral relations and discuss further steps to boost relations.