A virtual meeting of BRICS+ foreign ministers was held on May 20 in which the ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) were joined by representatives from Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Thailand.
Need to expand:
- Ukraine war and hardened Western positions: The disruption in the international order, heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the hardening of Western positions, are leading to the making of competitive plurilateral fora.
- Russia and China have decided that this is an opportune time to expand BRICS and challenge the domain of the G7 by including members from the G20.
- China is challenging Western influence over countries and wants to use BRICS to that end.
- China is taking the lead and setting the agenda for BRICS expansion.
- The New Development Bank associated with BRICS, expanded membership in 2021, admitting Bangladesh, the UAE, Uruguay and Egypt
- This shows the Chinese determination for an expansion process on its watch.
- The first likely criteria will be to prioritise G20 members
- From among Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), only Indonesia was invited.
- Another criteria which could come up would be an emerging economy status and adherence to BRICS objectives.
- Russia and China would prefer to have Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Argentina excluding Egypt since it is a close ally of the US.
- The UAE and Egypt could utilise their membership of NDB as a qualifier.
Way forward for India:
- The UAE and Saudi Arabia are two countries with whom India has rapidly enhanced its engagement and are good contributors to development.
- Having them in the BRICS could be of advantage to India.
- Both countries have a longstanding relationship with the US, but seek to diversify and would not be averse to joining BRICS.
- India needs to ensure that expansion is not on Chinese terms and that the countries admitted are equally receptive to India.
- Bilateral engagement with them should see this perception built up.
- Leverage ISBA: IBSA may act as a phalanx within BRICS to prevent China from running away with the expansion agenda over the views of other members.
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