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Monday Morning Meeting on “15th BRICS Summit”

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  • August 21, 2023
    Monday Morning Meeting

    Dr. Rajeesh Kumar, Associate Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, made a presentation on the “15th BRICS Summit” at the Monday Morning Meeting held on 21 August 2023. The session was moderated by Mr. Mohanasakthivel J, Research Analyst, MP-IDSA. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, the Director General of MP-IDSA, and scholars of the Institute were in attendance.

    Executive Summary

    The presentation by Dr. Rajeesh Kumar on BRICS highlighted its evolution from BRIC to BRICS, the group's focus on global governance inequalities, and its potential to challenge the established world order. BRICS supports a rule-based international order while fostering a non-Western identity. The 15th BRICS Summit's significance lies in partnerships with Africa, addressing green transition, education, trade, recovery, and multilateralism. The possibilities of BRICS expansion and a common currency were explored. India's participation in BRICS aligns with pursuing strategic autonomy and geopolitical equilibrium. The group acts as a platform for India to advocate Global South solidarity, multipolarity, and reformed multilateralism.

    Detailed Report

    The discussion was initiated by Mr. Mohanasakthivel J, who emphasised the commencement of the inaugural BRICS Summit in 2009. According to him, throughout the last 14 years, each leader has taken an active part in the BRICS Summits, even amid the pandemic. BRICS represents 41% of the global population, 31% of the world's GDP, and 16% of worldwide trade, allowing for a comparison of its performance with that of other institutions. Over 40 countries are expressing interest in becoming part of BRICS.

    Dr. Rajeesh Kumar began his presentation by highlighting that the term "BRIC" was coined by economist Jim O'Neill in 2001, reflecting the growth potential of emerging economies. The acronym initially included Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC), which evolved to BRICS with South Africa's inclusion in 2010. Annual Summits of the group started in 2011.

    The presentation underscored that BRICS functions as a forum aimed at addressing global governance inequalities and encompasses an ambitious agenda that mirrors the increasing influence and interests of emerging powers. Dr. Kumar said that over time, BRICS demonstrated superiority over G7 economies in terms of GDP (PPP), and the grouping endorses an alternative, multipolar world order.

    Dr. Kumar highlighted that BRICS takes a stance that supports a rule-based liberal international order (LIO) while emphasizing sovereignty and non-intervention. This positions BRICS to foster a non- western identity and solidarity. The group's interactions with the United States influences its negotiations, indicating its aspiration for an alternative, multipolar world order within the existing LIO.

    The 15th BRICS Summit holds significant importance, focusing on "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Growth, Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism." The Summit's priorities encompass equitable transitions, education, the African Continental Free Trade Area, post-pandemic recovery, and strengthening of multilateralism. Topics of discussion range from expansion and local currency fundraising to economic cooperation and Africa-centric issues.

    Notably, the 15th BRICS Summit is the first in-person meeting post-COVID. The absence of Russian President Putin poses diplomatic and legal challenges for South Africa. However, this absence offers BRICS the opportunity to concentrate on key issues, thereby showing the group's maturity.

    Regarding expansion, with over 40 countries expressing interest and 23 formally applying for membership, Dr. Kumar noted that the possibility of expansion is high. The idea of expansion can be traced back to South Africa's outreach in 2013 and China's introduction of the BRICS Plus concept in 2017. While all five members support expansion, challenges involve accession criteria, internal contradictions, and differing African positions.

    Dr. Kumar also highlighted the limited potential for a common BRICS currency, focusing on reducing US dollar reliance due to historical sanctions. This involves boosting local currency transactions to decrease dependency. Reduced USD usage in trade settlements is noted, supported by tools like BRICS Pay for bilateral local currency transactions. This shift reflects BRICS' strategic response to enhance economic autonomy in the face of external pressures.

    Dr. Kumar further explored India's strategic stance within BRICS, highlighting its pursuit of strategic autonomy, geopolitical balancing, and roles in combating terrorism and addressing climate change. India's positive response to BRICS, despite growing friendship with the West underscores its commitment to cooperation within the group and the multipolar world order.

    In conclusion, Dr. Kumar said that despite potential weakening, BRICS remains a functional entity driven by common economic interests. Its unity originates from shared economic goals rather than a uniform political vision. The enduring objectives of representing developing countries, reforming global governance, and fostering economic growth remain fundamental. While expansion prospects remain on the card and the creation of a BRICS-specific currency seems improbable, the core values and missions of BRICS continue to guide its path in the intricate landscape of international cooperation.

    Q&A Session

    Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, commended the presentation and raised a query about the current relevance of BRICS. He also remarked on the proliferation of various global alliances, noting that creating groups solely for the purpose of formation diminishes their significance. He highlighted that groups like G77 do not necessarily represent shared common objectives. He cautioned against BRICS leaning towards an anti-western stance rather than a non-western one, necessitating careful consideration. Regarding expansion, he pointed out that the countries aspiring for BRICS membership often align with China on various international resolutions, counter to Western interests. In response, Dr. Kumar concurred with the Director General's remark and expressed that the enlargement of BRICS is detrimental to India's interests.

    Dr. Rajiv Nayan, Senior Research Associate, asked how BRICS differs from SCO as a non-western multilateral grouping.

    Group Captain (Dr.) Rajiv Kumar Narang, Senior Fellow, raised queries about BRICS expansion, particularly India's relationship with the countries which officially applied for the membership. He also asked about the scope of India-Brazil collaboration in the aeronautics sector.

    Dr. Anand Kumar, Associate Fellow, inquired about any forthcoming developments as Modi and Xi reconnect during this Summit after years.

    Mr Niranjan Oak, Research Analyst, inquired whether the expansion of BRICS could contribute to bipolarity in the global world order.

    Capt. Anurag Bisen, Research Fellow, explored the possibility of India utilising the IBSA (India, Brazil, and South Africa) trilateral framework within BRICS to counter China.

    Dr. Rajeesh Kumar gave a detailed explanation to the queries and comments raised by the participants.

    The report has been prepared by Mr. Mohan Singh Dhangar, Research Intern, East Asia Centre, MP-IDSA, New Delhi.