The 15th Summit meeting of leaders of the five member BRICS group of countries met in Sandton, South Africa, from 22 to 24 August, 2023. BRICS is a grouping of 5 countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. These five countries are amongst the fastest growing economies of the world. They account for 26% of the Global GDP in nominal terms. In terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), these five countries have a combined GDP larger than that of the G7 countries (US, Britain, Germany, France, Japan, Italy and Canada). President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, President Lula da Silva of Brazil, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia participated in the meeting.
The five BRICS countries refer to themselves as “emerging markets and developing countries” (EMDC’s). The BRICS countries first came together in 2009 and 2010, to bargain for a better deal for themselves in global economic forums, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are dominated by the US and its G7 allies. The BRICS countries have complained that despite their growing contribution to the global economy, their say in these global financial institutions is limited. They have been demanding an increased say in these institutions.
In 2015, the BRICS countries established a New Development Bank (NDB) through which they would finance infrastructure projects in various countries. The NDB is under the control of these five countries. The NDB has been envisaged as a counter to the global financial institutions controlled by the US.
Another issue on which the BRICS countries have been united on is to demand that the US and other developed capitalist countries take the major share of responsibility for global warming and the climate crisis. The burden of eliminating environmental pollution and reducing carbon emissions, through green energy and various technological developments, cannot be imposed on the BRICS countries or on other less developed capitalist countries which are only now industrializing. The US and other developed capitalist countries which have historically contributed to global warming must pay for it.
The latest point of concern is the unilateral use of sanctions by the US and its allies against Russia. The peoples and countries of the world have watched with great concern, how the US has used the fact that dollar is the reserve currency of international trade to destroy the economies of various countries. Many countries want to reduce their dependence on the US dollar. The BRICS countries have tried to individually reduce their dependence on the US dollar, while increasing bilateral trade in their own currencies.
In these conditions, the 15th summit meeting of BRICS was followed by great interest by various other countries. Over 50 heads of states of different countries attended the Summit. Over 40 countries have shown interest in joining the grouping and at least 22 countries have applied formally for membership. This shows the wide interest in various countries to join a grouping which they hope would be beneficial to their interests.
The BRICS summit resolved to increase trade in local currencies, both amongst the BRICS countries, as well as with other trading partners.
The Summit announced that 6 countries have been admitted as members of BRICS from January 1, 2024. These are Argentine, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Taken together, the expanded forum includes four of the biggest oil exporting countries of the world (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran and UAE) and two of the largest oil importers of the world (China and India) as its members.
The theme of the Summit was “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism”. In this way, China, India and Russia, which have substantial investments in various countries of Africa, pitched the grouping as an alternative to the US and its European allies. The BRICS Summit declared that the five countries, all of whom are members of the G-20, would jointly push for the membership of the African Union in G-20.
The BRICS countries as a whole, want to act as the champion of the capitalistically less developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, referred to as the ‘Global South’. In particular, in the G-20 grouping which is dominated by the US, India is trying to increase its space by acting as a spokesperson of the less developed countries. The BRICS Summit declaration has explicitly stated that in the next two years, when Brazil and South Africa will hold the Presidentship of G-20, they will continue to voice the concerns of the less developed countries in the G-20 forum. The announcement that the BRICS countries will put the membership of the African Union on the agenda of the upcoming G-20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi in September, must be seen in this light.
If we analyze the developments in the world today, the US is striving to establish and consolidate its domination, by isolating and attacking countries which it views as a roadblock to achieving its vision of a unipolar world. It is flagrantly violating the principles of the United Nations and carrying out unilateral actions, like military invasions and economic sanctions, to weaken or destroy those states which stand in its way. On the other hand, the ruling classes of Russia, China, and various other countries are wanting to expand their sources of raw materials, markets and spheres of influence in a multi-polar world.
Within this situation, the Indian ruling class is maneuvering to advance its own interests. While building a strategic relationship with the US, it is at the same time trying to expand its sources of raw materials, markets and spheres of influence, through multilateral forums such as BRICS.