THE 14th BRICS Summit, to be held virtually on June 23 with China as the host, will be an important event in the 2022 global calendar of multilateral interactions. For India and China, it has special significance because both PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be talking to one another after a long time. Had it been a normal summit, the two leaders would have met face-to-face for the first time after their last meeting in Mahabalipuram in 2019.
Expansion of BRICS is necessary to push forward a new non-western paradigm of global development, which is equitable and environmentally sustainable.
BRICS is a unique trans-continental multilateral forum that brings together five major countries — two from Asia (China and India), and one each from Eurasia (Russia), Africa (South Africa) and Latin America (Brazil). What distinguishes it from other multilateral forums is that (a) it serves as a counter to US-led western countries which have been dominating global economics, politics and development so far; and (b) it provides a platform for voicing the concerns and aspirations of developing countries, which outnumber the West in terms of population, resources, and, increasingly, in their contribution to global development. Hence, BRICS, along with other forums, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), is an innovative endeavour to democratise the global order in the 21st century. These have the potential to promote the vision of ‘Building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind’, which Xi Jinping has been trying to popularise.
The performance of the BRICS mechanism so far, since its inception in 2006, has been mixed. On the positive side, it has provided a forum for the leaders of the five member countries to meet regularly and exchange views of common interest to themselves and to the world at large. On the negative side, there has not been tangible and result-oriented intra-BRICS cooperation, either in economic or political fields. This is principally because of weak or strained bilateral relations among the member countries — especially between India and China. Furthermore, some countries (India and Brazil) have close ties to the US, which pursues an aggressive anti-China and anti-Russia policy. As a result, BRICS has remained somewhat amorphous.
As regards the future of BRICS, its leaders should seriously apply their minds on how to make it more effective. China has put forward three new concepts — ‘BRICS+’, Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative. The idea of BRICS+, which seeks to include more member nations into the organisation, is highly relevant and timely. Several new emerging market countries (Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mexico, to name a few) have appeared. Their growing economic and political importance, and their potential to contribute to the cause of regional and world peace simply cannot be ignored. Including them in the BRICS+ mechanism will make the platform more representative both regionally and globally.
Expansion of BRICS is also necessary to push forward a new non-western paradigm of global development, which is equitable, environmentally sustainable and fulfils the socio-economic needs of the majority of the world’s population, especially the poor. Today, financial resources are heavily concentrated in the US and some west European countries, whereas the centre of gravity of the forces that drive the world’s productive economy (agriculture, manufacturing, services, human labour and even technology) is rapidly shifting to Asia, Africa and Latin America. This imbalance must be corrected for Global Development Initiative to make rapid strides. This will blunt and eventually neutralise the West’s policy of weaponising its financial power to impose illegitimate sanctions, break global supply chains and practice ‘market apartheid’ against its political adversaries.
The relevance of Global Security Initiative is equally pressing. The global order has changed since the end of World War II and Cold War. The world has become irreversibly multi-polar. There is no superpower anymore. Yet, relics of the past, such as NATO, have been kept artificially alive. US-led NATO has been a source of many wars and potential hotspots, be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which must be brought to an end soon. The legitimate concerns of Ukraine and Russia should be addressed. The world community should urge the US and its allies to give an assurance that NATO will not be expanded eastwards to threaten Russia’s security. The BRICS summit cannot, and should not, remain silent on this issue.
BRICS and other like-minded emerging market nations should increase dialogue and cooperation on geopolitical conflicts which not only threaten peace but also negatively impact the global economy and hence global development. The sharp rise in oil and food prices in the aftermath of the Ukraine war is a convincing example.
What has also harmed the effectiveness of BRICS is India’s decision to join the US-led four-nation Quadrilateral, along with Japan and Australia. The US wants Quad to become ‘Asian NATO’ to contain China. If this happens, peace, stability and cooperation in Asia will be severely affected. However, to prevent Quad from becoming an anti-China alliance, it is also necessary for China to urgently address India’s legitimate concerns, which have grown after the Galwan standoff. If the dispute between these two major Asian nations is not resolved, or at least peacefully managed through mutual understanding, it will continue to cast a dark shadow on the BRICS mechanism. One hopes that the BRICS summit will pave the way for an early face-to-face meeting between Modi and Xi. This should happen soon after the conclusion of the five-yearly congress of the Chinese Communist Party this year, when Xi is expected to be get a third term. The lack of high-level strategic dialogue between the two leaders has created uncertainty and immobility in ties, which must be broken.
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