A MONG the 15 BRICS summits held so far, the one that concluded in Johannesburg last week received the maximum global attention. It was a milestone that outshone the founding summit in Yekaterinburg (Russia) in 2009 and the third summit in Sanya (China) in 2011.
The decision to invite six countries – Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – to join BRICS as full members and keep the doors open for further expansion has opened a new era for the grouping.
BRICS 2.0 will have global repercussions: on the role of the US-led Western alliance centred around G7, the emerging economies and developing countries, and the engagements between the two worlds.
At Johannesburg, BRICS increased its membership to represent a larger share of world population, global GDP and international trade. It was initially driven by China to expand an anti-US bloc, but India outplayed Beijing by insisting on a consensus on new members.
The accommodation was important, given that at least 23 countries of the Global South had conveyed interest in seeking BRICS membership. This was a recognition of the grouping’s value.
India has good relations with Iran, and with all the new entrants (as also with most still on the waiting list). It has close ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are important trade partners, and suppliers of oil imports. India also has valued relations with Egypt and Ethiopia.
New Delhi can, hence, plan to work with these new members to keep BRICS focused on multilateralism, reform of global governance, and economic co-operation; i.e. as voices of the Global South.
No BRICS currency
Contrary to speculation before the summit, there was no announcement of a plan for a BRICS currency, just greater use of national currencies. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s prediction that “de-dollarisation” is irreversible, may take some more time.
In the current global atmosphere, many, including Saudi Arabia, seek alternatives to the US dollar because Washington has misused the ‘exorbitant privilege’ of the USD’s role in international transactions, and as the global reserve currency.
Saudi Arabia values China and India as key customers for oil, and as suppliers of infrastructure, and goods and services. Some oil sales in Chinese yuan will continue; however with the Saudi riyal still pegged to the USD, ‘de-dollarisation’ will be a work in progress.
The six new members will, undoubtedly, bring new resources and synergies to the organisation. They may also reduce China’s preponderance in economic weight As the Johannesburg summit experience shows, India and Brazil will have to find partners among the new members to keep the group focused on an agenda of interest to all; and arrived at by consensus.
The time is right for a focus on the needs of the Global South – for development, food and energy security, and a rightful place in institutions of global governance.
The Global South does not need a confrontation with the G7 or any other group. When the ‘BRICS-11’ gets a new name to reflect the new team, it can also reflect that it is into many, long, league games – and not a knock-out tournament.