BRICS set to expand as 22 countries want in

 ·3 Aug 2023

A planned announcement on the expansion of BRICS at a forthcoming summit in South Africa will mark a significant change in the global order, the nation’s ambassador to the five-nation bloc said, even as some of its members push back against new admissions.

Heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will make a pronouncement on the enlargement of the group when they meet in late August, Anil Sooklal said in a lecture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.

Twenty-two nations have asked formally to become full-time members of the group, and more than 20 others have submitted informal requests.

China favours a rapid expansion of the bloc, which will require consensus among its members. But it has encountered opposition from India – which wants strict rules on how and when other nations could move closer to the group without formally enlarging it – and from Brazil, which is wary of alienating the US and European Union, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.

“BRICS has been a catalyst for a tectonic change you will see in the global geopolitical architecture starting with the summit,” Sooklal said. While he emphasised that the bloc doesn’t see itself as a counterweight to any other organization, he said its expansion was stoking anxiety and opposition among nations in “privileged positions.”

Russian leader Vladimir Putin will participate at the gathering virtually, avoiding the risk of possible arrest on a warrant from the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes if he travels to South Africa, which is a member of the tribunal.

A decision on whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend has yet to be taken, although necessary security arrangements have been made and other pre-visit formalities have been completed, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

While Modi’s absence may be viewed as a snub to the host and he would miss out on bilateral meetings with other leaders, India isn’t comfortable with him holding talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping while a border dispute remains unresolved, they said.

So far, representatives from 71 nations have been invited to attend the summit, according to Sooklal.

“This will be the largest gathering in recent times of countries from the Global South coming together to discuss the current global challenges,” he said.

Formed officially in 2009-2010, BRICS has struggled to have the kind of geopolitical influence that matches its collective economic reach.

The bloc’s members represent more than 42% of the world’s population and account for 23% of global gross domestic product and 18% of trade.

An expanded BRICS will account for “almost 50% of the global population and over 35% of global GDP, and that figure will grow,” Sooklal said. He also highlighted the role that the bloc’s leaders were playing in trying to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“There is no tangible evidence that any one of the BRICS countries, South Africa included, is feeding weapons into that conflict,” he said. “But there is clear evidence to the global community that the West is pumping billions of dollars into that conflict, and the conflict is raging, so who is talking peace and who is talking war?”

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