6 June 2024

The recent BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) summit has dominated the global news headlines for weeks because of its growing membership and bold visions. Obviously, for developing countries, the summit’s discussions and outcomes were treated as a historical development, which could shape a completely new world order.

In Johannesburg, the leaders of BRICS invited six new countries to join their organization early next year. Although there were 23 applicants, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were chosen for their geopolitical significance. Between them, they represent three continents—Latin America, the Middle East and Africa— which have the potential power to be regional catalysts in helping to boost the BRICS profile.

The enlargement project was spearheaded by China, which has been pushing for new members from a broader geographical spread. It was also obvious that the reconciliation among the three Middle Eastern members, in particular, has been assisted by Beijing. Saudi Arabia and Iran, which were rivals for decades, have now become friends and increased their respective political weight in the scheme of things in the Middle East.

It will be interesting to see if, in the future enlargement process, there will be a country from Southeast Asia. Although Indonesia has already expressed interest in joining the BRICS, the world’s third-largest democracy is still reluctant to apply for membership. Currently, Indonesia is a member of the G20, which consists of industrialised countries.

In the future, if some ASEAN members decide to become members of BRICS, it would increase the bloc’s creditability and profile. Overall, it would also help dilute the optics that BRICS is an anti-Western grouping. ASEAN is a neutral bloc and has good ties and cooperation with all dialogue partners.

As is well known, most of BRICS members have strong views against the West and its presence in all internal systems that have discriminated against the majority’s interests. Often, they see themselves as an alternative to the G7, the group comprising rich economies. Recently, BRICS has tried to win the hearts and minds of the southern hemisphere, which represents the majority of UN members, through strengthening networks among developing countries and providing financial assistance.

The BRICS expansion will bear even more fruit if it can demonstrate that its major members have been more cooperative. Ties between India and China are important foundations for peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region and the solidarity of the bloc. Both countries have fought border wars in recent years. Those memories are still fresh. Ways must be found for the two economic giants to reconcile and forge closer cooperation.

BRICS still has a long way to go. There is no need to rush in order to compete with the West. Concrete outcomes and fruitful cooperation on shared visions among BRICS members will be testimony that counties in the southern hemisphere want a more secure world, in which it can determine its own future and pattern of development.

 

By Kavi Chongkittavorn