Vivek Shukla

Repairing the wheels of ‘BRICS’

Source - The Kremlin
Source – The Kremlin

BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is meant to highlight the combined potential of non-western powers controlling a quarter of the world’s landmass and accounting for 40% of its population. It is meant to be primarily a financial group to promote trade relations among the member countries and consequently, it gives primacy to economic matters over domestic and foreign affairs of the nations. It was aimed at securing geopolitical interests of the emerging countries who were sceptical against the apparent bonhomie between the developed world on various issues that were jointly put on the tables of multilateral forums.

Since 1995 to 2008, the fastest growth in trade was observed between emerging countries. The share of trade between the BRICS member countries rose from 6.4% in 1995 to more than 14% in 2007. It showcased a massive economic powerhouse emerging to counter the global hegemony maintained by the Western world.

Despite its initial success, the BRICS grouping gradually started losing its united voice against the backdrop of 2008 economic crisis and the consequent chain of events that forestalled the emergence of BRICS as a powerful political, economic and military powerhouse.

Why does the BRICS look like a divided house?
Despite a show of strength, a common ground of cooperation seems missing from the grouping, with bilateral meetings between the leaders taking precedence over collective show of strength. Brazil and South Africa are churning domestic political soups in which their current political dispensations are seeming to be stuck into. India is being seen as holding out an olive branch to the United States with deep suspicious about the Chinese and Russian intentions in its immediate neighbourhood. Russia and China are vehemently pursuing their geopolitical agendas even without the BRICS platform. Mutual suspicion, geopolitical rivalries and divergence of short term interests are driving the fortunes of BRICS into the black hole of obscurantism. The anti-BRICS interest platforms appear to be successful in diluting the fluid that used to glue the interests of the grouping with strategic overtures to the neutral participants. The fortunes of BRICS look bleak, but the leadership requirements of the emerging world and the strategic convergence of interests in the near future may solidify the grouping optimistically.

How to ring the bells of cooperation in the BRICS grouping?
Modern notions of internationalism guide us that a multilateral grouping may only survive if the economic and strategic interests are in convergence to each other. Well, this may not be the only condition in real, given the fact that NATO and EU have survived through thick and thin despite divergence of interests on various issues. After all each of them understand that there are no permanent friends or foes in international politics. Hence, the BRICS should not aim to secure the convergence of every interest, rather they should primarily try to secure the interests that concern with them in the immediate future.

A strong fist against the menace of terrorism and the unscrupulous lifting of veil of sovereignty by the developed world for strategic purposes, could be a major ground of cooperation for the BRICS members. An international war ground has already been prepared in the West Asian zone and the BRICS tried to adequately address the same via the ‘Goa Declaration’. It is a right step made in the right direction at the right time. We shall provide a decisive leadership to such issues that promote a multipolar world.

Maritime cooperation has the potential to be an effective area of cooperation. After all, Alfred Thayer Mahan stated that “Whoever rules the waves rules the world“. We shall incorporate such lessons of history into the book of future of BRICS. IBSAMAR, a unique maritime endeavour between geographically distant and diverse nations with little in common besides their emerging market status and South-South solidarity, provide a magnificent model for convergence of interests despite diversity of interests. Therefore, a IBSA summit needs to be programmed concurrently with BRICS.

BRICS should explore more areas of cooperation ranging from climate change, space and technology, cultural linkages and the motive of permeability in international forums through a united voice. Today, the share of trade between the BRICS has declined to 10% approximately. Hence, the target of reaching $500 billion trade by 2020 seems ambitious, if not impossible. It may not be the opportune time to secure a free trade area but an improved investment climate and a manageable retreat to the barriers of trade may be contemplated to restore confidence in business community.

A united force born with an objective to oppose injustice may lose its relevance once the forces fostering the injustice fades away. We shall understand that BRICS was not born as a rebellious force against the injustices meted out against the developing world nor it has become a ‘rebel-without-a-cause’ today. It is a group that foresaw immense benefits under the umbrella of cooperation and purposefully aligned its interests to strengthen its strategic and economic muscle to ensure a multipolar world.

About the Author
The author is an analyst who expresses his opinions on matters of global significance. He can be contacted at X (formerly Twitter) using the handle @postsfromVivek.