Brics plus 6: the outcome of the Jo’burg summit

What took place at the summit?

The meeting took place over three days. The leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa attended it in person, but Russia’s Vladimir Putin participated virtually following an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. Besides this, the leaders of a number of developing countries, including Bangladesh, Senegal and Mozambique, attended. Talks spanned terrorism, multilateral reform, digital economy, trade and food security. UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, who was also present, said the UN, formed in 1945, must be reformed to reflect modern power realities.

What were the major outcomes?

The big one was the expansion of Brics to include six new members, who will join the organization next year. Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were added. Besides this, a much-awaited meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping took place on the sidelines. The two discussed the state of bilateral ties, which have been in deep freeze since 2020. They agreed to direct their officials to speed up the process of military disengagement on the Line of Actual Control. The border standoff between India and China, which began in 2020, is now into its fourth year.

How was the expansion received?

Many experts speculated that the rapid expansion was pushed by China and Russia on the one hand and opposed by India on the other. Reports cited concerns in New Delhi that Beijing and Moscow wanted to add countries that share their hostility to the West. India welcomed the move but insisted on laying down rules and procedures for the entry of the newbies.

Was expansion a victory for China?

This is hard to tell. Some observers speculate that India was bested diplomatically. The rules and procedures which were agreed have not been made public. Others argue India successfully kept out countries that could turn Brics into an instrument of Beijing’s ambitions. More than 20 countries were said to have applied to join the group and only six were let in. India enjoys fairly close ties with all of the new entrants, and that may mean New Delhi has succeeded in securing at least some of its objectives.

What does expansion mean for Brics?

Brics was conceived as a group of high-performing emerging economies that would help even out the global balance of power, concentrated in Western hands. But economic slowdowns and political differences meant Brics failed to fulfil hopes. While some analysts believe expansion could revitalize the grouping, others fear it will only deepen a crisis that bedevils Brics. China’s ambitions for an expanded group will sit uneasily with India, and this could hurt the ability of member-states to work together.

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