BRICS hit the wall on expansion question as member-nations get split; Modi wants admission criteria
While China and Russia want to see BRICS grow as a counterweight to the West’s dominance, Brazil and India have been forging closer ties with the West.
(L-R) Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Chinese pPresident Xi Jinping, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov walk off the stage after posing for a group photograph at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg on August 23, 2023. (Photo by ALET PRETORIUS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
THE effort to expand the BRICS grouping that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa at the ongoing 15th summit in Johannesburg in South Africa has faced a last-minute obstacle, threatening the body’s ambition to strengthen the Global South’s influence in world affairs.
An agreement to expand BRICS could see dozens of interested nations to seek admission as China and Russia want to transform it into a variable counterweight to the West.
But members such as Brazil and India have both been forging closer ties with the West.
While all the members have expressed support for growing the bloc in public, there have been divisions among them over the extent of the widening it and the pace of doing it.
Naledi Pandor, foreign minister of South Africa, on Wednesday (23) said the BRICS leaders had agreed on mechanisms for considering new entrants.
“We have agreed on the matter of expansion,” she said on a radio station run by her ministry.
“We have a document that we’ve adopted which sets out guidelines and principles, processes for considering countries that wish to become members of BRICS…That’s very positive.”
However, an official of one of the member countries having direct knowledge of the discussions told Reuters that the leaders were yet to finalise the admission framework.
An agreement was meant to be adopted following a plenary session on the same day but according to the source, it got delayed after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi came up with a new admission criteria.
An Indian official told the news outlet later in the day that the talks were still continuing.
“Yesterday … India pushed for consensus on criteria as well as the issue of (candidate) names. There was a broad understanding,” he was quoted as saying.
China has long sought the BRICS’s expansion with an eye to foster a multipolar world order to challenge the West’s dominance.
“The world … has entered a new period of turbulence and transformation,” Chinese president Xi Jinping said on Wednesday. “We, the BRICS countries, should always bear in mind our founding purpose of strengthening ourselves through unity.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has not attended the summit in person due to an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine and is addressing it remotely, is also keen to show the West that Moscow is not isolated.
But the leadership of Brazil and India thought otherwise.
Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday (22) dumped the ideal of BRICS turning out into a rival to the US and the G7 economies.
Modi, on the other hand, proposed an admission criterion that the new members should not be targets of international sanctions. He also pushed for a minimum per capita GDP.
“These are the things Modi brought in today,” an official source was quoted as saying. “So they are becoming a little bit of a spoiler.”
Over 40 nations have expressed interest in joining the five-nation grouping, according to South African officials, while 22 have sought formal admission.
These countries, ranging from Iran to Argentina, are motivated by a desire to level a global-playing field which many consider are against them and feel attracted towards the BRICS’s promise to balance the global order.
A number of prospective candidates are also sending representatives to Johannesburg for meetings on Thursday (24), the final day of the summit, with the leaders of the grouping.