India as the only connecting line between US and BRICS

Anil Trigunayat

BRICS on a mini-lateral level is focusing and yielding rather significantly on what other major groupings and multilateral organisations are aiming at. It has begun to provide an alternate avenue of cooperation from trade, and finance to resolving regional and global issues to counter-terrorism and capacity building. But, it is not free of issues.

BRICS has come of age since the idea of BRIC was conceived by Jim O’Neal. The next BRICS Summit will be held in South Africa in August this year with the participation of PM Modi, President Lula, President Xi Jinping, President Putin and the host President Ramphosa.

Currently, the Foreign Ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are meeting at Cape Town ( June 1-2) to finalise the road map and the blueprint of BRICS’s future trajectory which is indeed a challenge during these times of global stress caused by the two black swan events –the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine/West confrontation.

Until now India rests in the middle of the BRICS. Just now we learnt that another important Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) currently chaired by India will be held virtually due to scheduling issues and the internal dynamic among the member states.

India will be hosting all its BRICS partners at the G20 Summit in September. Just now PM Modi was in Hiroshima for the G7 and QUAD Summits. The surfeit of Summits and meetings and competing claims on loyalty appears to have caused certain conference fatigue.

Hence for India walking the fine line, with its sane voice of reason and global good despite alliance-struck geopolitics, is the prerequisite for the success of the forthcoming summits and would perhaps be PM Modi’s quest to ensure participation of all leaders, rising above their myopic perspectives for the sake of the humanity, including during his June State visit to the USA to meet President Biden.

The Role of BRICS in Today’s World

The fact is that BRICS has become far more attractive for a large number of countries who wish to join the bandwagon. More than 30 countries, including several oil-producing ones, are said to have formally or informally applied or are interested or expressed their desire to be a part of the BRICS and its mechanisms. These include Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, UAE, Thailand, Tunisia, Turley,

Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Already during FM’s meeting a “BRICS Plus’ and Friends of BRICS meeting is being held. Hence, depending on the parameters and policy for membership expansion and eventual inclusion criteria, there is no doubt that the group can emerge into a powerful bloc, audible voice and an Organisation with a proper Secretariate and global outreach. This may also be seen by the US and the West as a competing architecture where Russia and China and several other countries, who are not in sync with the West, might predominate.

BRICS on a mini-lateral level is focusing and yielding rather significantly on what other major groupings and multilateral organisations are aiming at. It has begun to provide an alternate avenue of cooperation from trade, and finance to resolving regional and global issues to counter-terrorism and capacity building. But, it is not free of issues. India and China are on a difficult terrain because of Beijing’s hegemonistic ambitions and Russia is embroiled in a war. None of these countries has condemned Russia’s invasion and ipso facto covered for their partner.

At the behest of the Western countries, President Putin has been arraigned for war crimes in the International Criminal Court (ICC) but South Africa has extended full immunity to all leaders participating in the Summit thereby ensuring the presence of President Putin-who has already confirmed. For New Delhi at the G20 Summit, this dilemma could confront it too but India is not a member of the ICC like the USA, hence the issue may not arise. As such Russia is a special and privileged strategic partner of India and has a trusted partnership even if under some stress.

BRICS has already established its own development Bank. Various working groups including BRICS Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA); BRICS Bond Fund (BBF); BRICS Payment Task Force (BPTF); BRICS Information Security Channel (BRISC); and BRICS Sustainable Finance; and 3rd Anti-Corruption Working Group meetings are all fine-tuning various arrangements.

Courtesy weaponisation of financial instruments and excessive sanctions by the USA in the wake of the Russian invasion or so-called ongoing special operations in Ukraine, BRICS countries desire to have their own currency for trading and exchange mechanisms, shorn of US-dominated SWIFT has gained tremendous interest and traction.

Therefore, there is a beeline to join the grouping from well-off countries from the Middle East to Latin America to Asia to Africa. Of course, as such several countries have begun to trade in their national currencies where Rupee, Yuan and Ruble as well as Dirham and Saudi Rial have emerged more prominent. Hence the creation of alternate financial architecture will become a reality once the nuts and bolts and the crisis of confidence are addressed.

Moreover, if indeed the BRICS currency is floated now or later, what will be its financial or gold-based support system and how reliable will its clearing mechanism be remains to be seen. If indeed it is backed by cumulative gold reserve it will have the capacity to emerge as a more prominent and reliable mode of inter-state transaction.

India’s Position in World Politics

PM Modi will be visiting Washington DC to confer with President Biden whom he has met umpteen number of times and has conveyed India’s principled position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and that he has clearly communicated to President Putin that the era of war is over and that India was ready to provide its good offices to initiate dialogue and diplomacy, ceasefire and eventually end the war. China has also put forth its 12-Point Peace Plan.

Even South Africa has announced an initiative stating that both Putin and Zelensky are willing to listen to them. Hence, for the most pressing issues, the BRICS member countries are trying to work on diffusing the crisis. US will have a different take as was evident during the G7 meeting and therefore scope for alignment of approach even in this regard is untenable.

Hence, PM Modi’s discussions with Biden on various important bilateral initiatives and security issues will be of greater interest at the June Summit while ensuring that President Biden is present at the G20 Summit in New Delhi.

The article was first published on CNBC TV18 as World View: BRICS Summit — India is the only dependable bridge between BRICS and the US on June 2, 2023.

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