Pakistan last month formally requested to join BRICS — the grouping of five major emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Islamabad’s move comes at a time when the bloc is rapidly gaining global influence and trying to position itself as a leading voice of the Global South.
Together, the five member states currently represent over 40% of the world’s population and almost a third of the global economy.
At this year’s BRICS summit, the grouping decided to expand, with six new countries — Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran — joining it next year.
While announcing Islamabad’s application to join the club, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, described BRICS as an “important group of developing countries.”
By joining the bloc, he said, “Pakistan can play an important role in furthering international cooperation and revitalizing inclusive multilateralism.”
Time for BRICS to pause and reflect?
Pakistan’s arch-rival India has so far not publicly reacted to Islamabad’s membership bid.
Privately, however, some Indian security and foreign policy officials expressed skepticism.
“Pakistan’s membership application has just cropped up and is at a nascent stage. These are still early days,” a senior Indian official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media, told DW.
Indian officials also say that BRICS should develop stronger institutional filters and rigorous minimum entry requirements for those wishing to join the club.
After this year’s decision to expand, it is time for BRICS to pause and reflect on its objectives and on the value this group can add for its members, said Ajay Bisaria, a former high commissioner to Pakistan.
He believes a rapid expansion could lead to dissonance in a bloc that was meant to be “a collection of like-minded, middle-income countries with several intersecting interests.”
“Pakistan’s application to join the club is premature,” Bisaria said.
Winning support of China and Russia
Beijing and Islamabad consider each other to be “all-weather” friends and China has been one of Pakistan’s major financial backers in recent years.
But the backing of Russia, which will host the next BRICS summit, will also be crucial to Islamabad’s membership bid.
Pakistan’s recently appointed ambassador to Moscow, Muhammad Khalid Jamali, acknowledged efforts to seek Russia’s support.
“Pakistan would like to be part of this important organization and we are in process of contacting member countries for extending support to Pakistan’s membership in general and Russian Federation, in particular,” he told the TASS news agency.
BRICS never a cohesive unit
Despite someefforts to forge an alternative world order and balance the dominance of Western-led global institutions, BRICS have never been a cohesive political or economic unit.
While China and Russia push a narrative of using BRICS as a counterweight to the US and G7, other members have been more subdued.
Their political systems differ, with India, Brazil and South Africa being democracies, while China and Russia are autocratic.
The member states’ economies, meanwhile, are vastly different in scale, with differences in trading regimens and policy frameworks.
The strategic rivalry between China and India has also weakened the grouping and prevented it so far from emerging as a major player on the global economic and diplomatic scene.
Some analysts in India believe China is seeking to use BRICS as a vehicle to actively advance its own geopolitical ambitions. And having Pakistan as a member would advance Beijing’s interests given their special relationship, said Bisaria.
“Clearly, China is indulging its camp follower, and would be pushing Russia and others to agree to Pakistan’s inclusion, to make the body more China-friendly,” he said.
China’s increasing dominance
Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, founder of Mantraya, an independent research forum, shares a similar view.
She said Beijing increasingly regards New Delhi as some sort of a bottleneck within BRICS, given India’s increasingly close ties to the US.
“Writings in Chinese media aligned with the government have even asked India to evaluate its own position within BRICS as it continues to divide the Global South and weaken China’s position among developing countries in the Global South,” D’Souza told DW.
The overall objective, said D’Souza, seems to be to project India as a misfit within the group and possibly pressure it to quit, while pushing for the inclusion of countries whose foreign policies and global outlook are more aligned with those of Beijing.
“New Delhi feels that there is a conscious attempt by China to convert BRICS into not just a Beijing-dominated group but an anti-West, anti-US group, by inducting countries who would form a coterie to endorse anything that China wants to do,” she underlined.
“India is resisting the bloc going down that path.”
Source : DW