India ‘fully supports’ BRICS expansion as summit continues

South African officials say more than 40 countries from the Global South have shown interest in joining the BRICS bloc.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses leaders from the BRICS group of emerging economies [Jerome Delay/AP Photo]

Johannesburg, South Africa – India “fully supports the expansion” of the BRICS group, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, as the leaders of the five major emerging economies met for the second day of the BRICS summit.

“We welcome moving forward with consensus on this,” Modi said in his opening remarks at the meeting in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The comments were the clearest indication yet that India would back plans to expand the grouping beyond the five core members. Russia and China are championing expansion, with South Africa also in support, as President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed on Sunday.

Analysts have previously suggested that India and Brazil, countries which traditionally put non-alignment at the core of foreign policy, may not be as enthusiastic about expansion.

South African officials say more than 40 countries from the Global South have shown interest in joining BRICS, with more than 20 making formal requests to join.

Longstanding divisions re-emerged on the first day of talks on Tuesday,  the Reuters news agency reported. Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the grouping should not seek to rival the United States and G7 economies.

Brazil was thought to be the main holdout to expansion, because of fears it would dilute the group’s influence.

But on Tuesday Lula said he wants to see Brazil’s neighbour and largest trade partner Argentina join the group.”It is very important for Argentina to be in BRICS,” Lula said.

Argentina is struggling with historic inflation, a lack of foreign reserves and burdensome debt repayments as part of a $44bn loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Lula criticised the IMF’s loans as “suffocating” and hinted at the possibility of the BRICS bank increasing lending to other countries with “different criteria” to stimulate their economies.

“We want BRICS to be a multilateral institution, not an exclusive club,” Lula said. Any new members would need to meet certain conditions, so the group does not become a “Tower of Babel”, he said.

BRICS leaders
From left, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, China’s President Xi Jinping, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pose for a BRICS group photo [Gianluigi Guercia/Pool via APPhoto]

‘Development is not a privilege’

Ramaphosa, Lula, Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping were attending the three-day summit in person, with Russian President Vladimir Putin attending virtually.

In the leaders’ remarks on Wednesday, they highlighted different priority areas for their respective countries.

Ramaphosa focused on partnerships with Africa and how BRICS could put the continent’s interests on the agenda. He also said an announcement would be made with regard to proposed changes the grouping hopes to implement related to the international financial system.

“We are concerned that global financial and payment systems are increasingly being used as instruments of geopolitical contestation. Global economic recovery relies on predictable global payment systems and the smooth operating of banking, supply chains, trade, tourism, as well as financial flows,” Ramaphosa said.

Speaking via video stream, Putin criticised “ongoing neocolonialism” and countries that promote their own hegemony. He also said Russia is open to dialogue to find a resolution to the war in Ukraine, which Russian forces invaded in February 2022.

Lula said that BRICS countries are ready to join efforts to seek an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine. He also highlighted other conflicts that he said do not receive the attention that they should. “All deserve to live in peace,” he said.

He also highlighted “decolonising our economies” and paying more attention to the climate crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses leaders from the BRICS group via a video link after his travel to South Africa was complicated by an International Criminal Court arrest warrant against him over the war in Ukraine [Jerome Delay/AP Photo]

Besides endorsing expansion, Modi focused on the successes of the grouping over the last 15 years, specifically the New Development Bank, a multilateral development bank working with emerging markets, and the “financial safety net” of contingent reserve arrangement, which works as a liquidity mechanism to support BRICS countries struggling with payments.

Xi said he was glad that so many countries are enthusiastic about possibly joining BRICS. He also highlighted the importance of stability and certainty, and said there was a need to deepen cooperation to build growth. He criticised a new “Cold War mentality” across the globe, and said that countries should “respect all modernisation paths” that individual nations choose for themselves.

“Development is not a privilege of the few,” Ramaphosa reiterated, saying the BRICS group should remain united and also play a key role in working to stabilise the world.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies