In the era of geopolitical competition amidst the longest war in Europe after the end of the Second World War in 1945, expansion of a block of states which comprise of Western adversaries – China and Russia as well as partners India, Brazil and South Africa is a development that will have to watch for in the years ahead given that this bloc has chosen to widen the ambit of states within its fold. Thus the BRICS have expanded from 5 to 11.
Interestingly the additions to the BRICS also follow the same configuration anti west hawks as Iran and more balanced actors but willing to take on the United States based on issues, ranging from Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
It was not surprising given the original composition of BRICS that it remain non committal on Russia’s War in Ukraine by not taking a position while welcoming mediation aimed at resolving the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy. Given that BRICS is a block that also has Russia as a member, not much could have been anticipated.
The Johannesburg II Declaration issued at the conclusion of the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) Summit was generic in expressing concern at “ongoing conflicts in many parts of the world” and sought peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue and consultations. The Johannesburg II Declaration reiterated national positions of BRICS states “concerning the conflict in and around Ukraine as expressed at the appropriate fora, including the UNSC and UNGA”.
The Declaration noted “with appreciation relevant proposals of mediation and good offices aimed at peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, including the African Leaders Peace Mission and the proposed path for peace”.
Indeed not much would have been anticipated from the Summit on Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend in person preferring the digital mode given the possible controversy of his arrest under charges of the ICC.
It is also not surprising that Mr Putin who has not left Russia ever since the launch of the so called Special Operation in Ukraine in February last year will not attend the G 20 Summit in New Delhi, thus easing some of India’s concerns of how to manage the Summit with the adversarial relations with Moscow by the United States and European members who form a large number in the block.
This comes even as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has been jet setting across the world mobilizing global opinion to support his country’s right to territorial sovereignty.
On other issues, India once a reluctant votary, joined the top leaders of the BRICS to admit Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the full members of the grouping. There are fierce past adversaries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia who have been brought together by China recently joining the same platform. While BRICS was created originally for the economic potential of the emerging economies, many of the new members are laggards in this sphere thus having little justification for inclusion in the group.
Another important issue was an attempt to create alternate international financial institutions and its corollary de-dollarisation. This may imply utilizing local currencies for inter-BRICS trade wtiha number of caveats as India will not trade in Chinese Yuan for obvious reasons and so would many not in roubles or Iranian rial due to sanctions and delinking from SWIFT.
Will the BRICS attempts to create an alternate political and economic universe succeed only time will tell?
India could find some relief in a forum which is dominated by China and Russia as it was accepted that the African Union should be a part of the G 20 while Global South received a degree of prominence – both themes India is seeking as Chair of the wider global forum.