New Delhi: In a historic move, the five-nation Brics (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) grouping agreed by a consensus to expand with effect from January 1, 2024, to include six new members, that will take its total membership to 11 nations. These new six member-nations will be Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The announcement was made on Thursday morning by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Johannesburg at a joint address by the five Brics leaders at the end of the 15th Brics summit that ended there earlier on Wednesday, after which the Johannesburg-II Declaration was adopted on a range of issues.
The South African President said this was the first phase of expansion involving the “guiding principles, criteria and procedure” decided by consensus, and that other phases will follow in later years, adding that Brics was a “champion of the people of the Global South” (developing nations). Brics also agreed to support India’s proposal for membership of the African Union (AU) in the G20. The grouping also agreed on the “importance of encouraging the use of local currencies in international trade and financial transactions between Brics as well as their trading partners”. It also condemned all forms of terrorism, including cross-border terror.
Speaking at the joint address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India had always supported the expansion of Brics and that the new members will add more strength to the grouping, which would also illustrate a multipolar world order. Hinting at the UN Security Council (UNSC) without naming it, Modi said this expansion should be an example to other multilateral institutions that need to change in accordance with the realities of the modern world.
Congratulating the leaders of the new member-nations, Modi said India has “deep and historical” relationship with all these nations and added he was glad that the teams of the Brics members had reached a consensus on expansion. Referring to other nations who wish to associate themselves with Brics, Modi said India would contribute towards a consensus on making them partner countries.
Meanwhille, Brics decided that a list of “prospective partners” of Brics would be submitted at the next Brics summit.
Of the six new member-nations announced, three are oil-rich West Asian nations (Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE), two are African nations — Egypt in the Arab North Africa and Ethiopia in eastern Africa, while Argentina is a prominent nation in South America. It may be noted that China, the world’s second largest economy, has also been reportedly keen on Brics expansion so that the expanded grouping emerges as a challenger to the Western-led groupings of the developed nations such as the G7.
Speaking in a separate address at the Brics-Africa Outreach and Brics Plus Dialogue, Modi mentioned the importance of Africa for India and pointed out that India has recently opened 16 new embassies in African nations. He said India was now Africa’s fourth-biggest trade partner and its fifth-biggest investor. Modi also spoke about Indian assistance to African nations for capacity-building and infrastructure and pointed out that the term “Global South” (developing nations) was not just a diplomatic term. Talking about India’s G20 presidency, he spoke about India’s vision of “One Earth, One Family, One Future” applicable to the entire world — from Latin America to Central Asia, West Asia to Southeast Asia and from the Indo-Pacific to Indo-Atlantic.
Meanwhile, in an obvious reference to the Ukraine conflict, the South African President also said Brics was “concerned about ongoing conflicts” in the world and that there should be a “peaceful resolution through dialogue and inclusive consultation”. Ramaphosa also spoke about the global financial architecture and said there was a “growing momentum” for trade in local currencies and alternative modes of payment (besides the US dollar). Brics also tasked the finance ministers or central bank governors of member-nations “to consider the issue of local currencies, payment instruments and platforms and report back by the next summit”.
The grouping, in its declaration, also sought reform of the UN, including the UNSC, so that countries like India, Brazil and South Africa can play a greater global role. It also drew attention to the dire humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation, opposed the expansion of illegal settlements and supported the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.