India is treading cautiously on the crucial issue of Brics (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) expansion as it doesn’t want new memberships to skew the 16-year-old bloc towards a particular center of power, according to those familiar with the matter People said on Wednesday.
Debate over expanding the Brics — established as Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) in September 2006 and expanded to include South Africa in 2010 — picked up speed ahead of the grouping’s final virtual summit on June 23, largely due to of calls from Chinese officials to induct new members.
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to reports that Argentina and Iran had applied for Brics membership.
However, the official Indian position was buried in the 75-paragraph Beijing statement issued after the Brics summit on June 23. Paragraph 73 states: “We support encouraging discussion among Brics members about the Brics expansion process. We emphasize the need to clarify the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures for this expansion process through the Sherpa channel, based on full consultation and consensus.”
The people quoted above said the Indian side has yet to be formally informed of the bids from Argentina and Iran, which appear to have been addressed to China, the Brics chairman for this year. Adding to the ambiguity was the informal nature of Brics, which has neither a charter nor a permanent secretariat, they said.
“Before taking any step towards expanding Brics, the principles and criteria for membership must be clearly defined. Membership expansion must be balanced and based on consensus,” said one of the people quoted above.
The Indian side is understood to be wary of adding new members who may be drawn to a center of power and orient the bloc more towards China. There are also concerns about possible moves to include countries like Pakistan in the name of absorbing emerging economies, the people said.
China hosted a virtual high-level global development dialogue on the sidelines of the June 24 summit, attended by leaders from Algeria, Argentina, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Senegal and Thailand and Uzbekistan – all seen as potential new members of the bloc. This gathering has even been dubbed the “Brics-plus” event by some.
Pakistan has said a Brics member blocked his attendance at the June 24 meeting, without naming the country. Pakistani media reports, citing sources, said the country is India.
After the summit, Russian officials announced that Argentina and Iran had applied to join Brics. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by state news agency Tass as saying both countries had applied, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday both were on track to become members.
Lavrov told a press conference in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat that the preparatory process for Argentina’s admission is underway and the final decision “will be made by consensus”.
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