BRICS at the crossroads
The 2022 BRICS Summit’s theme focused on high-quality partnerships to usher in a new era for global development. The leaders of China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa reiterated the need to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue in accordance with international law while committing to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States. They also expressed commitment to the peaceful resolution of dissimilitude and expostulations between countries through dialogue. As before, the thirteen-year old BRICS, just like the UN, used familiar language to support a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan with a broad-based, inclusive and representative political structure; complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; strengthening the system of arms control and a peaceful and prosperous Middle East and North Africa. The Group also reaffirmed its commitment to nuclear disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons.
With the ongoing war in Ukraine, it was inevitable that the Summit emphasized the need to respect the ‘territorial integrity’ of all States. Similarly, by focusing on having a peaceful resolution of disputes, the Summit indirectly pointed toward all international and regional disputes including Palestine and Kashmir that needed a final settlement. The Group’s resolve to have reforms of the UN’s principal organs once again indicated the apparent loopholes in collectively addressing global issues. The Summit also revealed its intent to reduce the IMF’s reliance on temporary resources and addressed the under-representation of emerging markets and developing countries for their meaningful engagement in the Fund’s governance. Understandably, the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that ‘weakened the economic prospects’ also came under discussion.
Many would argue that mentioning the issues is one thing, but abiding by the corresponding resolve is a totally different ballgame. Hence, the Summit Declaration was silent on the steps taken collectively or individually in addressing the Afghan issue or Iran’s nuclear programme or the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula or BRICS’ intentions to practically address such and other global security issues. Nonetheless, with the presence of three nuclear States in the Summit, the desire to see a nuclear-free world must be seen and appreciated as a strong message to the world. Similarly, with the presence of four of the top ten industrial countries, the Summit rightly emphasized the need to adhere to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement.
As peaceful countries like Pakistan would desire, the Summit emphasized that Afghan territory should not be used to threaten or attack any country or shelter or train terrorists, or plan to finance terrorist acts. ‘We are committed to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the cross-border movement of terrorists, and terrorism financing networks and safe-havens. We also look forward to further deepening counter-terrorism cooperation.’ Just like any other UN document, the Summit Declaration was silent on exactly how ‘we’ are going to go about this extremely dangerous animal.
The Summit’s message on Ukraine was loud and clear. Well, with Russia and China present, BRICS’ response on a European country being Ukrained was but expected. China, India and South Africa had already made their position on the war in Ukraine clear by abstaining on the UN vote against Russia. However, Brazil’s position on Ukraine was different. In February, Brazil figured among those eleven countries that voted in favour of the Resolution against Russia. China and Russia being its most important trading partners, particularly in the agriculture sector, a pro-US Brazil, however, might have felt a little uncomfortable in finalizing paragraph twenty-two of the Declaration that ‘supports’ talks between Russia and Ukraine besides supporting the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and other Agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to the deserving people of Ukraine. Would the Western countries led by the US be concerned about the Summit’s expressed view on having ‘talks’ being the only way to stop the war in Ukraine? All of us know the answer…
As one of the non-Member-States, Pakistan was due to participate in the ‘Dialogue on Global Development’ on the sidelines of the Summit. Pakistan could not attend the Dialogue as according to the Foreign Office, an unnamed country ‘blocked’ its participation even in this otherwise harmless discussion. The question is: What was the logic or diplomatic wisdom behind creating a mystery by not naming the country that blocked Pakistan’s participation? The situation becomes even more contentious if the blocking country or the ‘instigator’ was not India. And by all calculations, if it was India, which factors restricted Islamabad from keeping the ‘culprit’ behind the curtain? The more serious question is: With China being the Summit’s host and an admirer of Pakistan’s ‘important role’ in advancing the UN-2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, how is it that Islamabad’s diplomacy in Beijing, Pretoria, Moscow and Brasilia proved so ineffective?
Since the inaugural BRIC meeting in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in 2009—before South Africa was made a Member— the Group remains unhindered in its endeavours of countering the West, particularly in the economic and political domains. With a combined GDP (PPP) of around $40 trillion and producer of one-thirds of the world’s food, BRICS was once sounded as the future of the world’s economy, capable of creating a parallel global financial institution. As the five-Member-States have grown unequally and in the presence of multiple political, territorial and economic disputes amongst themselves, the Group has been counter-intuitive to its diplomatic and economic objectives. China is becoming a superpower while the remaining quartet keeps treading along modestly. It is then no surprise that the Group has a fair share of naysayers, particularly in view of its comparative ineffectiveness in making an impact on issues of global interest. Although BRICS finds itself at the crossroads, it remains the most important Alliance for all its five Members. Let us hope the 2023 BRICS Summit in South Africa, produce some concrete results at least for its Members if not for the world at large.