Onus on India to keep BRICS on right track : The Tribune India

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Onus on India to keep BRICS on right track

New Delhi needs to ensure that the organisation is not drawn into the vortex of US-China-Russia rivalries

Onus on India to keep BRICS on right track

key stakeholder: India has played a quiet, behind-the-scenes role in determining the new BRICS members. Reuters



G Parthasarathy

Chancellor, Jammu Central University & former High Commissioner to Pakistan

With the final year of US President Joe Biden’s first term in office set to begin in a few months, American policies across the oil-rich Persian Gulf are set to face serious challenges. China has skilfully and steadfastly increased its influence across the Indian Ocean, and especially in the Gulf, where an estimated 89 lakh Indians live. This is a region of crucial importance to India and indeed to the whole world. The Gulf has witnessed some clumsy US diplomacy in recent years, including unwise and undiplomatic remarks by Biden about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. These remarks suggested that the Crown Prince, now the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, was linked to the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi monarchy. Khashoggi’s killing occurred at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. While Biden has tried to make up with the Saudi royal family, what has followed is a rapid expansion of Saudi-China cooperation.

Neither India nor any of the new BRICS members would want to see the grouping take a partisan, China-centric view of global developments.

America’s political and economic influence in Saudi Arabia has been waning. The most important move in the Gulf region by China was to quietly assist in brokering an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to normalise their long-hostile relations. This was in marked contrast to the continuing hostility of the US to relations with Iran, which is supplying Russia with military equipment for the Ukraine conflict. Moreover, President Xi Jinping had agreed last year to expand relations with the Gulf countries on a vast range of issues, including finance, science, technology and aerospace. Xi’s comments were welcomed by the Saudi monarchy, with Crown Prince Salman voicing high praise for him.

Since then, Saudi Arabia and China have agreed to step up industrial cooperation. The Saudi leadership acknowledged that China’s technology conglomerate Huawei would focus on building high-tech conglomerates in Saudi Arabia. Other Gulf countries will, however, not be as enthusiastic about relations with China and Iran as Saudi Arabia. Virtually all of them depend heavily on the US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, for their national security.

Even as China was busy increasing its influence in the oil-rich countries of the Gulf, an important development was taking place in South Africa, which was hosting a summit meeting of the leaders of the BRICS comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which have been regarded as the emerging economic powers in the post-Soviet world order. Quite naturally, there have been calls for, and interest in, expanding the membership of the BRICS, most notably across Asia. The summit in South Africa was unique as the hosts were justifiably determined to get greater representation of African countries in global developments, with an agenda providing for greater availability of developmental funds. India appeared determined to keep the focus on economic development, while China and Russia appeared ready to expand BRICS membership with countries predominantly from across the Indo-Pacific and Africa, while excluding Australia, Indonesia and Japan.

After careful consideration, the BRICS invited Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as new members of the grouping. Interestingly, Indonesia, a major Asian power which had their past differences with China, was not included. Indonesia, like most of China’s maritime neighbours, has problems with China on its maritime frontiers. While India, as a founder-member of BRICS, would be more than happy with the list of the new members, New Delhi will have to ensure that the organisation is not drawn into the vortex of US-China-Russia rivalries. Moreover, countries such as Indonesia, with a population of over 27 crore, which follow an independent foreign policy, should be admitted sooner rather than later to BRICS.

In the larger perspective, what is happening is a process which will inevitably lead to closer ties between the new BRICS members on the one hand and Russia and China on the other. This was inevitable, given that the BRICS members who founded the grouping were countries which were expected to have a promising economic future after the collapse of the Soviet Union. What we have witnessed instead is a grouping with two of the initial four members of BRICS — China and Russia — united in primarily challenging the western world. The US, in turn, has close security relations with the Gulf countries.

It is evident that India has played a quiet, behind-the-scenes role in determining who the new members would be when the next BRICS summit takes place in the Russian city of Kazan on the banks of the Volga and Kazanka rivers. South Africa, which had invited leaders of countries across Africa to the meeting, will now be able to extend its influence across the continent. As far as India’s allies in the Gulf, including the UAE, are concerned, there is not likely to be any major change in their ties with the western world. We can, however, be confident that China will use its clout to persuade BRICS members to strengthen ties with Pakistan. This need not seriously concern India, given New Delhi’s own strong ties with most BRICS members and the political instability and economic bankruptcy that Pakistan continues to face. However, neither India nor any of the new BRICS members would want to see the grouping taking a partisan, China-centric view of global developments. One can be confident that the BRICS will continue observing these norms in its approach to global cooperation.

#China #Joe Biden #Russia #United States of America USA


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