India cautious on Brics expansion

Updated on Jun 30, 2022 04:27 AM IST

The Indian side is understood to be wary of the inclusion of new members who could gravitate towards a power centre and make the bloc more China-centric.

There was no immediate response from Indian officials on reports that Argentina and Iran have applied for membership of Brics. (HT File photo)
There was no immediate response from Indian officials on reports that Argentina and Iran have applied for membership of Brics. (HT File photo)
By, New Delhi

India is proceeding cautiously on the crucial issue of expanding Brics (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) as it does not want new memberships to skew the 16-year-old bloc towards any particular power centre, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The debate over enlarging Brics – created as Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) in September 2006 and expanded with South Africa’s inclusion in 2010 – gained pace ahead of the grouping’s latest virtual summit on June 23, largely because of calls from Chinese officials for including new members.

There was no immediate response from Indian officials on reports that Argentina and Iran have applied for membership of Brics.

The official Indian position, however, was buried within the 75-paragraph Beijing Declaration issued after the Brics Summit on June 23. Paragraph 73 states: “We support promoting discussions among Brics members on Brics expansion process. We stress the need to clarify the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures for this expansion process through Sherpas’ channel on the basis of full consultation and consensus.”

The people cited above said the Indian side is yet to be formally informed about the applications by Argentina and Iran, which were apparently made to China, the chair of Brics for this year. Adding to the lack of clarity is the informal character of Brics, which does not have a charter or a fixed secretariat, they said.

“Before any move to expand Brics goes ahead, there must be a clear definition of principles and criteria for membership. The expansion of membership must be balanced and based on consensus,” one of the people cited above said.

The Indian side is understood to be wary of the inclusion of new members who could gravitate towards a power centre and make the bloc more China-centric. There are also concerns about possible moves to include countries such as Pakistan in the name of bringing in emerging economies, the people said.

China hosted a virtual high-level dialogue on global development on the margins of the summit on June 24, which was joined by leaders of Algeria, Argentina, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Senegal, Thailand and Uzbekistan – all seen as potential new members of the bloc. This meeting was even described by some as a “Brics-plus” event.

Pakistan has said a member of Brics blocked its participation in the June 24 meeting, without naming the country. Pakistani media reports, citing sources, said the country was India.

Following the summit, Russian officials announced Argentina and Iran had applied to join Brics. Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova was quoted by state-run Tass news agency as saying both countries had applied, while Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday both are on track to become members.

Lavrov told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat that the preliminary process for Argentina’s inclusion is underway and the ultimate decision “will be made by consensus”.

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