BRICS Summit: Negotiating a path amid convergences and conflicts

The group of major emerging economies meets in Johannesburg this week

Dr. Manan Dwivedi and Dr. Gayatri Dixit | August 21, 2023


#Diplomacy   #BRICS   #G20   #China  
The top leaders of the BRICS member nations during their summit in 2018 (Photo: WikiMedia/Creative Commons)
The top leaders of the BRICS member nations during their summit in 2018 (Photo: WikiMedia/Creative Commons)

The quintessential and traditional IR pet peeve is that the third-world nations and the developing comity of LDCs are pitted against the first world in a zero-sum game since the aftermath of World War II. Nobody can deny the colonial factor of the western domination in the history of the last few centuries. Still, with the advent of globalisation and interdependence, the classic confrontational narrative has changed considerably with the developing world led by nations such as India, China and Brazil adopting a soft approach with the western world and specifically the USA. This was the changed approach of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) groups of nations belonging to a certain comity of interests a few years back. But with the return of international conflict between Ukraine and Russia with NATO’s leadership role seems to have deepened the fissures between the developing world and the developed nations of the first world.

In the 15th BRICS summit to be held in South Africa during August 22-24, the stress will be on the de-dollarisation of the world economy along with an emphasis on making fairer the global governance system.  The Indian championing of the cause of climate change and SDGs in the broader bush has further added to the strength of the Indian leadership of the developing comity of states along with the fruitful and proactive impact of India’s G20 presidency in the current year. The delving inside the financial structure of the larger system of geo-economics in the global system too is on the anvil as an agenda theme of the BRICS 2023.

Carlos Maria Correa, executive director of the South Centre, told Xinhua (as reported in the Daily News Egypt) that, “Among my hopes is that the current BRICS group considers the incorporation of other countries. This will be very important because it will give volume to the BRICS group. Of course, major economies, such those of India, Brazil and China, are there, but if other countries can also be incorporated, the political dimension of the BRICS will be improved significantly.” Over 20 countries have so far formally applied to become members of the group. They include Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia.

Thus, the expansion of the BRICS and the regional collectivism is another theme which might be discussed and deliberated upon in the Johannesburg summit. Dissimilar to the theme of the expansion of NATO, the BRICS expansion will only add to the voice and the popular acceptance of the BRICS grouping vis-a-vis the developed first world. Along with South-South cooperation, the China-led Belt and Road Initiative is also being praised and diplomatically extolled in the heady and vibrant portals of the BRICS comity of states which might not endear New Delhi with the BRICS agenda through strivings need to be made not to politicise the regional organisations and the credo of regionalism.

Another emergent theme is the participation of Russian premier Vladimir Putin who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The popular and legal cacophony is being raised that due to the red-marking of Putin, he could be arrested. Putin has instead decided to give the summit a miss.

Some observers are calling the advent of the 2023 summit as the initiation of the paradigm shift in global geopolitics and geo-economics. With Putin attending the summit virtually the deft tightrope walk of several nations with the West and the rest in the light of the Ukraine-Russia war, will be tested and the national establishments will have to further check the strategic and political turf before unveiling a stance on Russia. Also, as an attendant fact, India too finds itself with the same and adroit balancing act which had it posited in the context of the Ukraine-Russia conflagrations which is all set to dampen the spirits in the Johannesburg summit.

The Indian stance can get complicated and lead to a complexity of the Johannesburg deliberations. Still, BRICS has to contend with “bullies” such as Russia and China and how the strategic convergence between the political upstarts in the developing world and the dominance of the Russia and China can be balanced, remains to be seen and only time will relate to us the larger geopolitical ramifications as they will unfurl before the global comity.

Initially, the term BRIC was introduced to tap the potential of the global investors in places such as India, China and Brazil, but since the advent of the pandemic, the Ukraine war, rising awareness about global warming and the dynamic power rivalries amidst the great powers, BRICS 2023 needs to stick to its larger and broader agenda along with serving as a solution provider. BRICS need not be only a congruency platform but must negotiate too meaningfully in the larger global firmament.

Dr. Manan Dwivedi is with IIPA. Dr. Gayatri Dixit teaches at JNU.

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