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Idea of BRICS Plus at 15th BRICS Summit: 6 New Countries Added

Utkarsh Classes 24-08-2023
Idea of BRICS Plus at 15th BRICS Summit: 6 New Countries Added Summit and Conference 6 min read

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa at 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, support opening the bloc to new members after at least 20 countries expressed interest to join.

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chair of the BRICS grouping, said that Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and UAE have been invited to join the BRICS as part of the first phase of expansion. The new membership will be effective from January 1, 2023.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, who have been the biggest proponents of expansion, suggested that the new name be BRICS Plus.

Key highlights of the summit

  • The BRICS leaders will have a tough job deciding which countries will be admitted after going through a list of criteria agreed upon.
  • This has been reported on in the past but has now been formally proposed by China at the 15th Brics summit in Johannesburg this week.
  • The idea eventually gained prominence when in 2017, under the Chinese pro tempore presidency, the term BRICS Plus was launched. On that occasion, the Chinese sponsored an initiative intended to consolidate the BRICS as a cooperation platform open to new members.
  • Most of the countries interested are developing economies, including Argentina, Algeria, Bolivia, Indonesia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Gabon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan.

India’s stand on BRICS Plus

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India fully supports the expansion of BRICS membership through a consensus-based approach. 
  • Speaking at the plenary session of the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Mr Modi said, to make BRICS a future-ready organisation, there is a need to make the respective societies also future-ready. 
  • The Prime Minister said, the countries of the Global South have been given a special importance in BRICS, under the chairmanship of South Africa. He said, India has also given top priority to the countries of the Global South under its G-20 presidency. 
  • Modi said, India's effort is to move forward together with all the countries on the motto of One Earth, One Family, One Future. 
  • He called on all BRICS countries to support the inclusion of the African Union in the G20. The Prime Minister said, to give a new path to the BRICS agenda, India had put forth suggestions on issues such as railway research network, close cooperation between MSMEs, online BRICS databases, and startup firms. 

What are the challenges associated with expansion?

  • With 88% of international transactions conducted in US dollars and the dollar accounting for 58% of global foreign exchange reserves, the dollar’s global dominance is indisputable. Due to the dollar's extensive use, the United States  enjoys disproportionate sway over other economies. 
    • Yet the move to de-dollarization has accelerated following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. All BRICS nations have been critical of the dollar’s dominance for different reasons. Russian officials have been championing de-dollarization to ease the pain from sanctions. The most ambitious path would be something akin to the Euro. 
    • But negotiating a single currency would be difficult given the economic power asymmetries and complex political dynamics within BRICS. 
  • It has been argued that China uses the proposal as another tool to expand its soft power. By including new members, it would be possible for the country to expand relations with new partners in parallel with the establishment of bilateral agreements in the most different sectors. 
    • The proposal to expand embeds an opening to Pakistan’s ambitions with whom India has a historical border conflict. 
    • To this, is added the perception that an expansion of the BRICS in India’s sphere of influence would favor Chinese interests related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and, specifically, to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
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