The five BRICS members have varied opinions regarding new entries to the alliance, and the major difference comes down to admission eligibility
BRICS, the alternative to Western hegemony, will meet for their 15th annual summit on August 22 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is a group of major developed and emerging economies of the world – Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa. The group represents 40% of the global population and 25% of the global economy. It is counter to forums like the G7, a group of Western-led developed countries.
The leaders will conduct a meeting about the operations of the China-based New Development Bank (NDB), also called the BRICS bank. It is being developed as an alternative to the US-led World Bank. The United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, and Egypt are stakeholders in the bank, though not a part of the group.
The main agenda of this annual summit will be discussed on the last day, Thursday, to discuss the expansion of the group. The five BRICS members have varied opinions regarding new entries to the alliance, and the major difference comes down to admission eligibility. Some 67 nations across Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America have been invited to the summit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, President Xi Jinping of China, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil will be attending the meeting in person. President Vladimir Putin will be joining them virtually, as he is under an international arrest warrant. His Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be present there.
South Africa said that almost 40 countries had expressed their desire to join the group. Some have announced it to the public, whereas some have privately approached them. The majority of the countries are approaching to join the group to safeguard themselves amidst the ongoing geopolitical polarisation.
China is in favour of opening its gates to new members, and it views this as a stage to counter American power. Russia has also demonstrated it wants to expand the group as a move to showcase Moscow’s loyalty towards its allies. India is involved in a border dispute with China, which makes it suspicious of China’s wrongful dominance in the group. Brazil is slightly undecided as there is no clear idea about what their economy will gain from the expansion of the group. And South Africa is calculatedly aligned with China and Russia as they neither want to upset their allies nor hamper their relations with the United States.
Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said that Beijing is moulding BRICS for its interests, especially to exert its dominance in the Southern Hemisphere. He added that India is unlikely to agree with the Chinese proposal as they know that it will serve the Chinese interests.
China holds significant influence over the bloc due to its economic might. It wants to flex the group as its circle of influence. This is counter to President Joe Biden’s summit in its backyard with Japan and South Korea. Xi is strongly pushing for the expansion of the group to display itself as the leader of the developing world.
India is eyeing a more cautious approach to curtail Beijing’s dominance in the group. It has hands-on experience with the dirty tactics of China. It is looking for a way where each member will have a definite say in the proceedings of the bloc, rather than China gaining seizing power from the members. Even China is aware of India’s concern, as they are all part of an alliance called QUAD, consisting of the United States, Japan, and Australia.
Brazil has a similar approach, where it advocates for establishing a set of standards for the admission of new members and that any change should be based on the mutual interest of all members. A set of standards proposed include a base of minimum population or gross domestic product and a willingness to group’s New Development Bank.
President Lula wants the group to be a platform for a large number of emerging economies rather than just a geopolitical alliance known for its anti-Western stance. He is in favour of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Argentina joining the group. He suggested Indonesia as a sound addition because of its size and influence in the South Asian region.
Russia views this as an opportunity to bring together the developing world. But Sergei V. Lavrov, who would be present at the summit on behalf of Putin, might be questioned about their stance on backing out from the Black Sea grain deal, which has caused food prices to jump across several countries.
South Africa has been caught up amidst international and domestic criticism for its close relations with the Kremlin. They have, however, displayed a neutral stance over the ongoing conflict. President Ramaphosa led a peace mission along with other African leaders to St. Petersburg to meet with Putin and Zelensky last month. But those meetings didn’t draw any kind of conclusion.
South Africa was the last country to join the boc in 2010 after Beijing’s recommendation. They are constantly in the struggle to balance their relations with the West and the East. They have scheduled a meeting for a continental trade agreement with their second-largest trading partner, the United States, after China. South African hearts lie in the East, but their wealth lies in the West.