By Dr Aparaajita Pandey
It has been established that BRICS is one of the most unusual groupings in global politics. The countries that are signified by the acronym – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa at first glance have precious little tying them together. However, upon deeper reflection similarities, albeit not in the traditional sense of regional groupings, start to arise.
The group was originally conceived as a bunch of countries that had an extremely bright economic future. Academic courses about BRICS and their economics and the investment in BRICS were commonly found in universities famous for MBAs, however, it is important to realise that economies are often intertwined with domestic and global politics and don’t always follow a linear path towards growth. As BRICS acquired new dimensions to its existence it was also simultaneously dubbed as a forum on the verge of a collapse. However, BRICS is yet to fade into any sort of oblivion and there aren’t any indications of its prophesied demise.
The grouping has become a beacon for south-south cooperation and has managed to survive and grow despite the disputes within the member countries. The border dispute between India and China, the domestic politics of Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro, and now the Russia – Ukraine conflict were all issues that were predicted to be the final nail in the proverbial coffin for BRICS; the grouping however, has survived. A larger reason behind this survival is the core philosophy of the grouping which is to provide an alternative to prevalent global political systems that have originated and benefit the global south.
Another reason is that most of the member countries are also a part of other multilateral groups with each other. The RIC or Russia – India – China is often seen as the prototype from which BRICS was derived. The RIC is definitely an easier group as it consists of members that are geographically proximate with each other. There is also IBSA which is India, Brazil, and South Africa as well as larger organisations like the G7, and G20 that have BRICS member nations as their members as well.
It is not only that BRICS has managed to survive but also make strides in south – south cooperation especially with the New Development bank or the NDB which was conceived as an alternative to the IMF. The recent developments in global politics have renewed the interest of other nations in BRICS. Argentina and Iran have shown interest in joining the BRICS. While this is not the first time that Argentina has been a part of the BRICS summit as an observer nation, during the regimes of Mauricio Macri and also in the Kirchner era, Argentina has become a part of the BRICS observer nations. As Argentina now moves closer to China, the nation’s burgeoning interest in the grouping should be seen in context of greater geopolitical shifts in global politics at the moment. China has supported Argentina’s bid to become a member of the BRICS and this comes closely after the nation became a part of the Chinese trillion-dollar infrastructural Belt and Road Initiative.
It must also be noted that Alberto Fernandez met with Putin and received a warm welcome right before he signed an agreement with the BRI. These meetings preceded the recent Russia – Ukraine conflict and could be seen as a function of the growing distance between Argentina and the US specifically, and Latin America and the US in general. The Argentine foreign minister Santiago Cafiero also visited India and was received with open arms. The growing congeniality between nations of Latin America and India was manifested in this meeting.
A possible induction of Argentina into the BRICS would not be too far away from reality. However, there are certain reservations that one has to be mindful of. One of the most fundamental questions that is raised is that we need two countries from the same region. While it seems like a genuine concern; when one sees it in context of India, Russia, and China – the three giants from Asia who are a part of BRICS; this concern dissipates. The other concern is that Argentina would be too close to China due to becoming a part of the BRI and therefore would tilt things in favour of China within the dynamics of BRICS. The validity of this concern cannot be trivialised, however, Argentina also has robust trade relations with India, and looks towards India and Russia for political support; Argentina and Brazil are not only neighbours but also enjoy cordial relations with each other as well as considerable trade between the two in addition to being members of MERCOSUR. Another issue raised is that Argentina does not bring with it the same economic potential as the other members. But if one was to look at precedents, when South Africa became a member of the original BRIC effectively making it BRICS; it also did not offer the same economic potential as the other members.
One has to remember that the core philosophy of the BRICS is to empower South – South cooperation and Argentina and/or Iran becoming a part of the grouping only strengthens that dream. One can expect bureaucratic hoops to be a part of this induction process if it happens.
The author, Dr Aparaajita Pandey is an independent political analyst and has a PhD in Latin American Studies from the Centre for Canadian, US, and Latin American Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
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