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Dinesh asked: What is 'BRICS Plus' and its impact on India?

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  • Chithra Purushothaman replies: ‘BRICS Plus’ was first mooted by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in March 2017 with the objective of widening the “circle of friends” of BRICS that can bring unity among developing countries and enhance South-South cooperation. The initiative is aimed at upping the outreach activities of the BRICS countries with the Global South and building wider partnership with emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs). This is in line with the tradition of inviting friends and partners of the host country to the BRICS Summit – for example, Russia invited the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as well as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) countries for the 2015 Ufa Summit, and India invited BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries for the 2016 Goa Summit. Similarly, China invited Egypt, Guinea, Tajikistan, Mexico and Thailand as guests in the 2017 Xiamen Summit, and South Africa hosted the BRICS-Africa Outreach during the 2018 Johannesburg Summit.

    China had initially shown interest in creating a permanent BRICS Plus arrangement. However, there is no consensus within the grouping on getting a permanent set of developing countries as BRICS Plus category. The other four member countries (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) remain wary of China’s predominance in BRICS and its increasing influence in the Global South. Through BRICS Plus, China probably seeks to forge regional and bilateral alliances across the continents, which could also be instrumental in pushing its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

    China later clarified that the idea is not to expand the core set of BRICS member countries but to integrate different regions, where BRICS can play a significant role. Since any such decision has to be taken through consensus, China’s idea of ‘BRICS Plus’ cannot materialise without the approval of other member countries. If at all member countries agree to have a BRICS Plus category, the choice of each with regard to partner countries would vary considerably, resulting in possible tension within the grouping. For now, the member countries need to focus on further consolidating the position of BRICS as an effective grouping. Any new addition would dilute such efforts and sharpen the fault lines.

    Posted on March 07, 2019