BRICS: Great power politics, and the balancing act

By Dr Aparaajita Pandey

The Asia – Pacific is abuzz with political activity and as the BRICS nations meet virtually for their fourteenth summit; it is only natural that all eyes are on them. While the arbitrary conglomeration between Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa has been repeatedly written off into obsolescence; it has managed to not only survive but also make strides in South – South Cooperation. It could be said that the objective of BRICS was to provide an alternative narrative to the global institutions like the IMF and World Bank that are dominated by western nations and often can be perceived as less than fair in their dealing with the developing world.

Most definitely BRICS is not the most obvious grouping and has enough internal obstacles hampering their cohesive working with each-other, and the present installment of the BRICS session comes with added geopolitical pressure. The proverbial great – power politics is alive and well; Russia, US, and China are involved in different permutations and combinations; and as India tries to maintain its strategic autonomy an act of massive diplomatic balancing needs to be executed deftly. The BRICS summit itself however is more than just a geopolitical balancing act to the greater dynamics. The objectives for the fourteenth BRICS summit are themed around the ushering of ‘new era of global governance’.

As the global dominance of the US is waning, indicators that the world is getting ready for an assimilation of new systems for global trade and governance are clear and the BRICS nations are willing to be the harbingers of this change. As the Rouble has come up to be the strongest of the BRICS currencies, there are discussions about directing trade deals towards alternative financial systems. Exploring avenues that are not dominated by the western countries and the US primarily.

More importantly, the BRICS is an opportunity for Beijing and Moscow to control the narrative and combat their increasing isolation. Post the Russia – Ukraine conflict, Russia has seen the imposition of sanctions from the west but has found some support in the continuing strategic relationship with India and implicit support from China. For China BRICS is a forum to counter the growing presence of the Western countries in Asia – Pacific. China had displayed its suspicion and dislike of the QUAD when it christened it as the Asian – NATO even though QUAD is nowhere comparable to the collective military alliance. At the same time Beijing has also become weary of the recent IPEF or the Indo – Pacific Economic Framework. The recently launched IPEF has been under the scanner as upon scrutiny it has been found that although the IPEF has been presented as a primarily economic forum for countries of the Asia Pacific and some from Latin America; the financial and trade terms of the framework are not quite akin to those of economic networks and it is growingly becoming evident that the rationale behind the IPEF is much more strategic than economic. The Asia – Pacific is steadily becoming a geographic hotspot for multilateral forums of varying kinds; with the QUAD, the AUKUS, and now the IPEF; China had been waiting for an opportunity to project its own qualities of being a ‘team player’ and BRICS provided China with such an opportunity.

BRICS has also proven to be a tricky situation for India. As India tries to maintain a difficult equilibrium in its foreign ties; it has had to abstain from voting against Russia in the UNSC and UNGA, play host to foreign ministers and Prime ministers to a plethora of countries, be a part of the QUAD summit, and now be a part of the BRICS; all in quick succession of each-other while maintaining strategic autonomy. While India was clear to not indulge in anti – Russia dialogue during QUAD, it also made clear that India would protest any anti – US dialogue during the BRICS summit. Such adherence to realpolitik is commendable and difficult to maintain when juggling countries like the US, Russia, and China.

The BRICS summits every year draw flak from scholars who believe BRICS to be a redundant forum on the verge of its end; however, every year it sustains. The growing interest that Argentina has shown in becoming a member of the BRICS potentially turning it to BRICSA should be seen as an indication of the growing faith of the global south in either BRICS itself or in the scenario of post dollar, multi polar reality.

(Author is an independent political strategist, and has a PhD in Latin American Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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