There Are Cracks In Brics & Trouble For India

Context: Amid the evolving geopolitical situation, the BRICS mechanism appears to be undergoing an identity crisis. There is a deepening contradiction at the heart of the grouping, which is likely to result in extremely difficult choices for Indian foreign policy.

What are the major pillars of BRICS?

Historically, the group’s agenda was not just economic, but also political. The addition of South Africa, the only African economy in the G20, to the BRICS in 2010 further underscored this.

Officially, BRICS cooperation has expanded to be premised on the three pillars: a) political and security, b) economic and financial, and c) cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

In practice, it is the economy and finance pillar, however, that has done the heavy lifting.

This is most evident in the establishment of the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement.

In contrast, the political and security pillar has largely under-delivered. Of course, there have been annual meetings of Brics foreign ministers and security advisers since 2009. But those have generally been about reaffirming shared perspectives on global governance issues and coordinating positions on shared concerns.

What is the future outlook for BRICS?

Beijing-Moscow recalibration

Beijing and Moscow appear to be keen to readjust the dynamic between the economy and security pillars. Each of the key points in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the summit underscored this.

He said that China would like to work with BRICS partners to operationalize the Global Security Initiative (GSI). This is an initiative that Xi outlined in April, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The principles that GSI espouses and comments by Chinese officials clearly indicate that it is framed in opposition to what China believes is an increasingly coordinated effort at containment by the West, led by the United States.

After the events of the last few months, it is little surprise that this effort has Moscow’s support.

India’s dilemma

In contrast to those two, the comments by the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa suggested that the three countries largely continue to view BRICS from the prism of development as opposed to security.

In the long run, however, India faces the possibility of isolation in this regard. This situation could be exacerbated with the addition of new members.

As a leading developing country, India cannot appear to be unsupportive of the aspirations of developing countries. At the same time, an expanded BRICS with an evidently anti-Western agenda, as envisioned by Xi and Putin, would likely dilute India’s influence.

Further, it shall make India’s multi-alignment strategy even more untenable. 

Source: This post is based on the article “There Are Cracks In Brics & Trouble For India” published in Times of India on 4th Jul 22.

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