China wants a larger BRICS to challenge the existing international order

News: Recently, a virtual meeting of BRICS+ foreign ministers was held in which representatives of various countries participated and it was proposed to expand the BRICS membership.

What was proposed?

It was decided that this is an opportune time to expand BRICS and challenge the domain of the G7 by including members from the G20.

In 2022, China is taking the lead and setting the agenda for BRICS expansion. It has been working with the 2022 theme of “Foster High-quality BRICS Partnership, Usher in a New Era for Global Development”.

Why is there a proposal for expansion of BRICS?

The BRICS expansion is part of China’s strategic challenge to the international order and to collect middle powers around them.

The fashion of competitive plurilateral form is visible because the cracks in the G20 are looming. The world is facing convulsions in the international order. It has been heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the hardening of Western positions.

This is part of China’s aim to challenge Western influence over countries and wants to use BRICS to that end.

Precedents

The New Development Bank associated with BRICS, expanded membership in 2021. It admitted Bangladesh, the UAE, Uruguay and Egypt, i.e., first four countries to be admitted after the establishment of the NDB.

What are the likely criteria that could emerge to guide the process of inducting new members into BRICS?

The first likely criteria will be to prioritise G20 members like Argentina, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Other prospective members may include, the UAE and Egypt, which are NDB members, Kazakhstan was invited as the largest country in Central Asia, Nigeria was invited as another important African economy, Senegal was invited as the current chair of the African Union, Thailand, as the chair of the APEC. Indonesia was invited also as part of Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA).

Other criteria could be countries which have an emerging economy status and adherence to BRICS objectives.

What are the issues?

While proposing BRICS expansion, China has not obtained the concurrence of other members except Russia.

In reality, the setting of criteria is a battle to choose partners who are more amenable to the individual members of the BRICS.

For example, Russia and China want Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Argentina. Brazil would not want Argentina because both have a rivalry in Latin America. South Africa would not want Nigeria and Egypt because he would no longer be the African representative in the BRICS.

Way Forward

There could be an easier consensus on Indonesia because India is unlikely to oppose it as its relationship has been improving.

The inclusion of UAE and Saudi Arabia in the BRICS could be advantageous to India because India has rapidly enhanced its engagement with these countries. Both countries have a longstanding relationship with the US. Both seek to diversify and would not be averse to joining BRICS.

On the inclusion of Kazakhstan, Russia and China have to deal with the other Central Asian countries.

A consensus with Brazil and South Africa for members from their regions will be critical.

India needs to ensure that expansion is not on Chinese terms and that the countries admitted are equally receptive to India.

India can leverage the IBSA trilateral of democracies within BRICS to assert itself. India can consult on criteria and members.

Source: The post is based on an article “China wants a larger BRICS to challenge the existing international order” published in the Indian Express on 15th June 2022.

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