As the BRICS countries enter a mature stage of development, their annual summit this year in India is unlikely to bring any groundbreaking new announcements.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin prepare to shake hands prior to their talks during the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia. Photo: AP
The upcoming BRICS summit in Goa, which is scheduled to take place on Oct. 15-16, will bring together the leaders of 11 countries this year. In addition to the members of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has especially invited the leaders from the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries– Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. They will participate in the retreat that will follow the summit on Oct. 16, Indian media reported.
In the run-up to the event, Valdai Discussion Club hosted a discussion between Russian and foreign thinkers on Oct. 12 to share ideas and views on the way the world order is transforming and the role of BRICS in this process. Pundits shared their expectations for the upcoming summit in Goa and explained why divisions inside the organization do not mean the organization has no future.
The summit in Goa unlikely to bring any big announcements
While the upcoming 8th BRICS summit is likely to examine a variety of issues, from trade and investment to the social agenda and cooperation in innovation, experts agree that the event will not bring any sensations.
According to Georgy Toloraya, executive director of the National Committee on BRICS Studies in Russia, the partnership is now entering a maturity stage. “BRICS is now 10 years old and 15 years have passed since the acronym was first coined. This is the time of maturity,” he notes. Now the bloc will focus on general work and set a mechanism to control the implementation of the agreements.
Oliver Stuenkel, assistant professor of International Relations at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in São Paulo, Brazil shares this view. “We can’t expect sensations. There’ll be small steps all the way,” he points out.
The bloc is going through a process of institutionalization of cooperation – the states need to establish a framework for implementing the initiatives that have already been agreed upon. And while this process is taking place, it is unlikely that the bloc will consider including new members. Although this might give the alliance additional legitimacy, as it did in 2010 when South Africa became a member, today such a step might be too early and will only complicate the development of the bloc’s institutions, according to experts.
Even though there were discussions on potential new members, namely countries like Indonesia and even Turkey, it would be premature to seriously explore such opportunities, says Marina Larionova, head of the Center for International Organizations Research at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). According to her, the current format of inviting other countries as participants (a practice that started with the summit in Durban in 2013) is working and there are as yet no reasons to change it.
Marriage of convenience?
As Stuenkel argues, Western media today tends to regard BRICS as either a group of countries that have nothing in common, hence, there is no future for the organization, or as a bloc that poses a danger to the Western world order. Such perspectives seem to present an oversimplified picture.
The ongoing global shift of power to the East is natural as this region becomes a new economic hub of the world. Emerging economies, with China at the lead, understandably seek to enjoy an amount of political power reflective of their economic weight in the world. With this being almost impossible to achieve through existing Western-style institutions, they have no other option but to form a parallel system that would give them the privileges that developed countries currently enjoy, argues Stuenkel.
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Furthermore, emerging economies are taking steps to reduce their dependency on existing structures, coming up with their own financial (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), trade (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and security mechanisms (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). The emerging economies are not trying to bring an end to the old structure, but accommodate their interests in the system that is not fit to do it.
Of course, there are internal problems within the bloc itself. Conflicts of national interests that exist between member states (for instance, between long time counterparts India and China) will have an impact on the organization, and it will require a lot of political will and power to resolve them, says Toloraya.
Such internal contradictions are natural: “You don’t have five countries that automatically agree on anything,” argues Stuenkel. There are no organizations where all countries share the same interests, they all have different priorities. For example, for Russia the current priority is Syria, while for Brazil it’s getting permanent member status in the UN Security Council. Managing these divisions and focusing on common issues is the way BRICS tries to work, says Toloraya. “It’s a marriage of convenience,” he points out.