Iran, Saudi Arabia among six new additions to Brics

NEW DELHI : Leaders of Brics countries on Thursday invited six more nations to join them in the grouping’s first expansion since 2010.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates will join existing members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at a briefing. The six countries are expected to become members starting 1 January.

“Through this step, the faith of numerous nations in a multipolar world order will become stronger,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, welcoming the expansion of the organization. “As I said yesterday, India has always fully supported the expansion of the membership of Brics,” Modi said at a press briefing with other Brics leaders.

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Brics began as a group of four countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—in the mid-2000s. In 2009, Brics nations held their first leaders’ summit in Russia. The organization was expanded to include South Africa in 2010.

“The issue remains about the internal cohesion of Brics. The expansion of Brics without a sense of purpose between the formative five members creates a problem for Brics,” said Harsh Pant, vice president for Studies and Foreign Policy at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.

There have been questions about the continued relevance of Brics, which came together after the 2008 financial crisis as a group of fast-growing emerging economies that sought to reform international financial institutions and build a multipolar world order. However, in the intervening years, the member nations have experienced varied levels of economic success. While India and China have grown steadily, Brazil, Russia and South Africa have faced significant economic pain. Tensions between India and China have also dented the grouping’s ability to jointly push for reforming multilateral organizations.

The expansion of the grouping was billed as a point of contention between India and China. Experts speculated that China was trying to induct a number of countries that shared its Western-sceptic view of the world. Media reports before the summit, which is being held in the South African city of Johannesburg, cited Chinese officials who argued that the Brics should become a bloc to rival the G7.

“This is a fault line within Brics. You have two major countries who have an interest in making Brics an anti-Western platform. And then you have three countries—India, Brazil and South Africa—who will not be in favour of that kind of orientation,” Pant said.

He also said most new members share reasonably strong relationships with Western powers. Pant believes the specific choice of these nations may reflect some of India’s moderating influence.

While India had not opposed the expansion of the Brics, it pushed for rules and procedures to be laid down to govern which countries could enter the bloc. South African officials stated before the summit that more than 20 countries had applied to join Brics. Some rumoured names included Cuba, Bolivia, Algeria, Indonesia and the Comoros.

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Updated: 25 Aug 2023, 12:20 AM IST

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