China wants a larger BRICS to challenge the existing international order
- 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.
- A virtual meeting of BRICS+ foreign ministers was held on May 20 in which the ministers of BRICS were joined by representatives from Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Thailand.
Making of Plurilateral fora
- The convulsions 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.
- Efforts to disrupt the G20 may not entirely succeed with Indonesia holding firm on inviting Russia, but the cracks in the G20 are looming.
- The strengthening of plurilateral bodies is now in fashion. China is challenging Western influence over countries and wants to use BRICS to that end.
BRICS+ and NDB
- 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 ministers supported discussions among BRICS members on the expansion process but China posits this as a consensus.
- This has made India, Brazil and South Africa uncomfortable.
- China would like to invite these countries to the June summit as well but has not obtained the concurrence of other members except Russia.
Criteria for New Members
- The first likely criteria will be to prioritise G20 members.
- Among the recent guests, Argentina, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia would qualify for this category.
- The UAE and Egypt could utilise their membership of NDB as a qualifier.
- Kazakhstan was invited as the largest country in Central Asia, where China and Russia have important interests.
- 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, and Indonesia, as the chair of the G20.
- 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.
Need for Criteria
- The push for setting criteria is actually a battle to choose partners who are more amenable to the individual members of the current BRICs.
- Russia and China: would be happy to have Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Argentina with a toss-up on Egypt, since it is a close ally of the US.
- China may also back Iran and Malaysia but then Indonesia may feel a loss of uniqueness.
- Brazil: would have a say on including Argentina – the two countries have a longstanding rivalry in Latin America.
- If Argentina is excluded, it may unravel the G20 membership criteria for inclusion in the BRICS.
- South Africa: has views on Nigeria and, particularly, Egypt.
- Being a member of G20 gives it leadership in Africa.
- Being in the BRICS gave it heft as the African representative.
- If Nigeria and Egypt are admitted, South Africa would no longer be the African representative in the BRICS.
- India: There could be an easier consensus on Indonesia because India is unlikely to oppose it as its relationship has been improving politically, even if not economically.
- 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.
China’s need for expansion
- China, backed by Russia, is hastening the process of expansion of BRICS as part of:
- Strategic challenge to the international order.
- To collect middle powers around them.
India and its priorities
- China cannot get India out of BRICS or the G20 as it has been trying to keep India out of other international fora.
- 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.
- Since Russia is simply with Chinese priorities, it’s time for the IBSA trilateral of democracies within BRICS to assert itself.
- To prevent China from running away with the expansion agenda over the views of other members.
- Consultations on criteria and members must be strong.