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Expanding BRICS- Why are the Countries Lining Up to Join?

From Current Affairs Notes for UPSC » Editorials & In-depths » This topic

This week, a key BRICS Summit is to be hosted by South Africa, the current President of the grouping. One of the key items on the agenda is the expansion of BRICS.

This topic of “Expanding BRICS- Why are the Countries Lining Up to Join?” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Background:

  • BRICS is currently composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • Over 20 countries are in the queue to join the grouping.
  • It is expected that 5 countries are to gain BRICS membership at the Cape Town summit, in August. These are:
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Indonesia
    • UAE
    • Egypt
    • Argentina

Why is there is a call for expansion?

  • The ongoing geopolitical shifts, triggered by the Russia-Ukraine War, have set off middle-sized countries to on frenetic group-shopping.
  • These countries with decent economies are becoming increasingly aware of their need for voice and leverage.
  • The recent rush to join BRICS is understandable given the grouping’s significance. BRICS represents 40% of the global population and 23% of the world’s GDP.

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What is the way ahead?

  • Bigger groups are more desirable than smaller ones, especially when the objective is to represent the interests of a diverse Global South.
  • However, an increase in membership is likely to weigh the grouping in favour of the 2nd largest economy in the world, China. Note that the countries waiting to join BRICS are part of the Chinese BRI project.
  • Also, the queue of aspiring members is perceived as being fuelled by the Chinese with Russia’s backing.
  • Hence, there is a likelihood of the expanded grouping being projected as a Chinese-led anti-American bloc.
  • In the recent times, India has demonstrated a new resolve in boosting bilateral ties with the USA. Understandably, New Delhi has been wary of expanding the BRICS. For instance, the BRICS declaration of last year reflects New Delhi’s call for well thought-out and mutually agreed upon objective criteria for membership.
  • At last month’s BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting, India termed the BRICS expansion a “work in progress” that considers how the present members work with each other and how the grouping works with non-BRICS countries.
  • As it isn’t practical to entirely stave off an expansion, India seems to have come to terms with a limited expansion- the addition of 5 new members. Also, many of these candidates are India’s traditional allies.
  • Going forward, the challenge is to ensure that the BRICS doesn’t morph into a Chinese bandwagon.

Conclusion:

It is apparent that the BRICS is set to see an expansion, given the significant changes in geopolitics. The challenge is to ensure that the grouping isn’t reduced to a Chinese-led anti-American bloc.

Practice Question for Mains:

Why are countries lining up to join BRICS? What is the significance of expanding the group? (250 words)

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