BRICS in perspective

  • Recently, the 15th BRICS Summit concluded in Johannesburg with the membership of the grouping going from 5 to 11, after the induction of four countries from the Gulf and West Asia — Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as Ethiopia and Argentina from Africa and South America, respectively.
  • The expansion was carried out under the Johannesburg Declaration which refers to “consensus” being reached on “the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures of the BRICS expansion process”, details of which have not been made public so far.


  • BRIC stands for the Grouping of the World’s Leading Emerging Economies and consists of the countries Brazil, Russia, India, and China as well as South Africa.
  • Jim O’Neill, a British economist, first used the acronym BRIC in 2001 to refer to the world’s four most rapidly developing economies at the time: Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
  • The first meeting of BRIC Foreign Ministers took place in 2006, and it was at that time that the grouping was formally established.
  • In December of 2010, South Africa was extended an invitation to join BRIC, following which the group began using the acronym BRICS.
  • Share of BRICS:
  • Comprises five of the most populous and economically significant developing nations on the planet, accounting for 41% of the world’s total population, 24% of the global GDP, and 16% of the world’s total trade.
  • Chairmanship:
  • Members of the forum alternate yearly serving as the organization’s chairman in accordance with the B.R.I.C.S. acronym pattern.
  • India hosted the chair for the 2021 BRICS Summit.
  • Initiatives of the BRICS:
    • New Development Bank:

      • During the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (Brazil) in 2014, the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB – Shanghai, China).
      • To this point, it has given the green light to seventy projects worth of sustainable development and infrastructure.
    • Contingent Reserve Arrangement:

      • In 2014, the BRICS governments had signed a treaty on the setting up of the contingent reserve arrangement
      • The arrangement is aimed at forestalling short-term balance of payments pressures, providing mutual support and strengthening the financial stability of the BRICS nations.
    • Customs Agreements:

      • Customs agreements were signed to coordinate and ease trade transport between BRICS countries
      • Launched of Remote Sensing Satellite:
  • An agreement on the Cooperation on BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation was signed by all five space agencies in August of 2021.
  • Gaofen-6 and Ziyuan III 02, both of which were developed by China, CBERS-4, which was jointly developed by Brazil and China, Kanopus-V type, which was developed by Russia, and Resourcesat-2 and 2A, both of which were developed by India are the six satellites that make up the constellation.

A China based geopolitical agenda

  • There are major implications of this enlargement, beyond the current five members — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — which will come into effect on January 1, 2024
  • The pressures on this grouping to acquire a more geopolitical agenda (with Chinese characteristics), particularly in the context of the escalating strategic contestation between the US and China
  • However, there are certain areas of conflict between Indin and China particularly border dispute which going to affect China based geopolitical agenda.

Stand of Indian and China over dispute

  • China suggests that the two sides should “bear in mind the overall interests of their bilateral relations and properly handle the border issue so as to jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border region”.
  • This presents the current state of India-China relations and their different positions on border-related issues.
  • However, it should not discourage India from keeping communication channels open with China, including at the highest level, without investing them with undue hope or optimism.

Role and position of China in BRICS

  • While India has good relations with all six new members, the ability of China, the largest economy and most influential country in the grouping which influence and drive the agenda of future direction of BRICS
  • It is sobering to recall that China has been the key player in most of the milestones in the evolution of BRICS since its inception in 2006: As
  • The first expansion in 2010 with the inclusion of South Africa;
    • the establishment of the New Development Bank in 2015 with its headquarters at Shanghai, even though the idea of a BRICS bank was proposed by India;
    • the setting up of the Contingent Reserve Arrangement in 2015 with China as the largest contributor ($41 billion as against $18 billion contributed by India);
    • Xi mooting the “BRICS Plus” arrangement at the Xiamen Summit in 2017; and

Opportunity for China to portray the expansion as anti-west grouping

  • In his remarks at the 14th and 15th summit meetings of BRICS, Chinese president Xi launched attacks on the US-led West. he referred to west as “dark clouds of Cold War mentality and power politics”, with “some countries” attempting “to expand military alliances to seek absolute security, stoke bloc-based confrontation by coercing other countries into picking sides, and pursue unilateral dominance at the expense of others’ rights and interests”.
  • In such scenario India has a major role to play that India will have to guard against BRICS emerging as an anti-West grouping and as an instrument in China’s power play.

Role of India

  • India’s agenda should be to encourage the economic and developmental priorities of the grouping and use it to articulate the concerns and aspirations of the Global South and promote its engagement with the latter.
  • India must be wary of projects like the BRICS currency (a not-starter) or de-dollarisation and Alternative payment mechanisms can be explored but that can be done under bilateral arrangements.
  • However, given problems with China and its proclivity for weaponizing economic interdependence, it does not serve India’s interest to promote a larger role for the Chinese Yuan in global trade or as a reserve currency.
  • India will have to devise a careful strategy to ensure that the grouping is not dominated by China to advance its strategic agenda.
  • This is feasible because all decisions are taken in BRICS on the basis of consensus and there is a lack of appetite among other member-countries, except for Russia and Iran, to take sides in the Sino-US rivalry


  • Therefore, India will have to engage the grouping proactively and not shy away from wielding its veto in decision-making and exposing China’s hypocrisy on issues like the expansion of the UN Security Council, which figures in the Johannesburg Declaration.
  • The West, too, must introspect as to why it is losing the Global South and the reasons behind 40-odd countries seeking to join a grouping that has, at best, limited achievements to its credit.