ISSN 2330-717X

BRICS Seeking Relevance – OpEd

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Under auspices of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and China holding the 14th Summit, it provides the platform to address emerging global and thorny regional problems. The BRICS member countries collectively represent about 26% of the world’s geographic area and are home to 2.88 billion people, about 42% of the world’s population. 

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What are the issues at stake: During the past two decades, new geopolitical confrontation as between democracy and authoritarianism, and unipolar and multipolar system, have partly appeared between the United States and Europe on one side and Russia and China on the other side. There other ccountries that are followers of the these distinctive groups. The group deeply dissatisfied about unipolar system and global hegemony throttled by the United States.

Despite the individual differences, BRICS members ultimately seek to consolidate its position, with a number of instruments at hand, in the development of the new global order and therefore have the following:

(i) Unified front and expansion of the group, demonstrate its effectiveness in addressing emerging tasks on regional and international stage. For instance in May, China suggested launching discussions of the issue that Argentina and Saudi Arabia had expressed interest in joining BRICS. 

According to experts, other potential candidates include Bangladesh, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay who joined the BRICS New Development Bank last year. In addition, analysts point out that events held on the sidelines of the BRICS foreign ministers meeting involved representatives of Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigerian and Thailand.

A number of countries are already on the list as potential new members. The final positions is that this geopolitical configuration is in exploratory phases, undoubtedly meant to bring a new axis of Russia-China but inclusion of Mexico , Indonesia and Turkey has its own strategic baggage. The procedures have to be thoroughly examined and reviewed, the dialogue is of importance to further expand BRICS.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping told the BRICS business forum that the “Ukraine crisis is… a wake-up call” and warned against expanding military alliances and seeking one’s own security at the expense of other countries’ security. China and India have strong military links with Russia.

Xi assured that China would support Moscow’s core interests in “sovereignty and security” leading the United States to warn Beijing that it risked ending up on the wrong side of history. South Africa, one of the few African countries wielding diplomatic influence outside the continent, has also failed to condemn the Russian military action.

In addition to debating the group’s expansion, BRICS partners are trying hard to supporrt Russia’s way out of sanctions impasse, and Russia is racing against further isolation, reminiscent of the Soviet era. The East West ideological divide, this time the picture is different – largely on unipolarism verses multipolarism.

(ii) The question of creating an international reserve currency based on a basket of currencies of the BRICS countries is being considered. In addition, the development of reliable alternative mechanisms for international settlements is being drawn up together with BRICS partners.

Russia’s financial messaging system is open for the connection of banks of the five countries. The geography of Russia’s Mir payment system is being expanded. The fact is that there are comprehensive measures directed at reducing the negative impact of sanctions and strengthening trade and investment ties with all interested states.

(iii) On fortifying the economic front is one key area for BRICS. Russia is feverishing cooperating with China and India. Trade among them has witnessed exponential growth, and Russia is set to make new legislations that could facilitate further, especially in the Central Asian region and within the Eurasian Union.

Closely relating to that Russia is advocating for expanding entrepreneurial freedoms, reducing administrative burdens, launching new preferential lending programs, and introducing tax and customs exemptions. While these aim at supporting Russia’s economy against raft of draconian sanctions, it would simultaneous help China, India and many Asia-Pacific countries that are ready to do mutual business with Russia.

According to some estimates, Russia’s trade with China, India, Brazil, and South Africa combined jumped 38% in the first three months of this year. Russian oil supplies to China and India are growing noticeably. The BRICS Business Summit says China and India have ramped up purchases of discounted Russian crude since the war in Ukraine began, while other buyers have self-sanctioned or imposed sanctions against trading with Moscow.

The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg noted in their reports that in May India sought to acquire Russian oil on the cheap for about US$70 a barrel — which, at the time, marked a more than 35% discount. And India has snapped up over 40 million barrels of  Russian crude since the war began, a higher amount than it imported through all of 2021. That’s helped offset declines in trade with Europe, which is phasing in a partial oil embargo and is looking for alternatives to Russian natural gas.

Against these backdrop as briefly discussed above, BRICS can serve as an opportunity for the group to convince the world that it can be a viable financial option against Western-led institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Furthermore, combined together they possess a huge resources and only need to present a “clear-cut economic model” that ultimately be attractive and be replicated around the world. BRICS countries constitute 40 percent of the world’s population, and the group needs to engage in more interactive development processes especially the global south to get more clout as a serious global player.

China is holding the BRICS presidency in 2022. While strengthening economic, technological and scientific potential, the BRICS partners are ready to continue working on principles of respect to interests of each other, unconditional supremacy of international law, and equality of countries and peoples of the globalized world. 

The 14th BRICS summit held in June, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa focused on the state of affairs and prospects of multifaceted cooperation within the group in the political, economic, cultural and humanitarian areas. The summit touched upon pressing international and regional issues and are reflected in the summit’s final declaration.

Since its establishment, the BRICS success could be described as moderate. The group has a combined population of 3.23 billion and their combined GDP is more than US$23 trillion. Historically, the first meeting of the group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then, Brazil and subsequently South Africa joined later in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS. 

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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