Building BRICS: a global platform for the less heard

Pall of gloom cast by Russia-Ukraine war has enveloped the entire world. Cold war foes Russia and the US are showing no sign of let up, the former is fighting a direct war on ground and the latter a proxy war by supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Elsewhere, away from the shadow of sanctions, Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi made a significant statement on 24 June at BRICS summit. He called for “reform of multilateral system, as large parts of Asia and all of Africa and Latin America have no voice in global decision-making.”

While Modi spoke of the inclusion of the less heard voices in the BRICS, same day two countries – Argentina and Iran – expressed their desire to join the bloc. There were also voices within Nigeria, asking why Africa’s largest economy it is not part of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Iran attended the BRICS Plus meeting on an invitation from China, the host. Iranian Foreign Ministry said that the bloc, with its “huge possibilities and innovative view, heralds an effective movement on the path toward development and global peace.”

Iranian President Dr Ebrahim Raisi said his country will use “any opportunity to advance national goals in the form of dynamic diplomacy.” Like Russia and China, Iran too has been target of US sanctions, albeit of severest kind.

Same day in Latin America, President Alberto Fernández asked the bloc to incorporate Argentina into the group. Argentina also has a currency swap arrangement with China. Like China, Argentina has openly castigated  the West for sanctions on Russia. 

“We are honoured by the invitation to this expanded BRICS meeting. We aspire to become full members of this group of nations,” President Fernandez said, noting that the group “constitutes a platform with enormous capacities to discuss and implement an agenda for the future that will lead to a better and fairer time.”

“Argentina wants to join this space and offer its contributions as a member… the institutional and economic weight of the BRICS can become a factor of financial stability” and that “the expansion of New Development Bank (NDB) can be a useful instrument to strengthen national infrastructures,” Fernández said.

The size of transcontinental bloc is indeed something to be reckoned with.  Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa together represent about 41 per cent of the world’s population, 26 per cent of the planet’s land mass across four continents, 25 per cent of global GDP, and 20 per cent of world trade.

The world is getting weary of the usual bulldozing of the US and the European Union (EU) with their sanctions, and at the UN and global institutions. The need for an alternate, robust platform to strike a  balance of power has not been more keenly felt than now. Call for sanctions on Russia has not found many takers outside the “world” of the US and EU. Modi registered India’s disapproval by not responding to calls of the US president, and going ahead to buy oil from Russia. Ties with Russia go deeper than just a military partnership, something US Administration can not  figure out why. Today, the US Administration has got not even one-tenth of Russia experts on board than were in Cold War. Troubles of the US with Russia look to grow only bigger.

A recent survey on Twitter at the peak of Ukraine war has revealed that more than 77 per cent of users (mostly American) blame the US for disrupting world peace while Russia and China were held responsible only by 11 and 9 per cent.

This summit is not the same. This time all the three countries Russia, China, India have met after being confronted with threat of sanctions. China has already taunted the US that sanction threats will not work on India, the chances are it may bring China and India closer.

Of course, things are not perfect for BRICS. Russia and China have condemned NATO as provocation for war but India has stopped short. China has opposed India’s bids to put Pakistani terrorists on the UN list. India talks of freedom of navigation through South China Sea which riles China. China has territory disputes not just with India but also with Russia where it claims Vladivostok in the far east is actually its old city of Haishenwei from the days of Ming Dynasty that was ceded under Treaty of Aigun in 1858 to Russia. But then, which group does not have anomalies and conflict of interests. The EU itself has suffered a Brexit, but it is still going strong.