India Wants Strict New BRICS Membership Entry Rules

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India is insisting on strict rules for the admission of new members into the BRICS group of nations, while Brazil is also opposed to proposals from China to rapidly expand the group. The debate has arisen during preparatory talks for the BRICS summit of leaders, due to take place in Johannesburg in August. India and Brazil have also raised issues regarding the potential accession of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

New Delhi is apparently insisting that strict rules must be in place on how and when potential members can join, with about 40 countries indicating eagerness to join having been noted, including 22 official requests. India has proposed that the BRICS nations should seek to invite emerging economies and countries with democratic aspirations such as Argentina and Nigeria, rather than Saudi Arabia, which it views as more autocratic. It also views Riyadh’s involvement as potentially diminishing India’s influence within the Persian Gulf.

Brazil has meanwhile proposed its own vision for the expansion of the bloc which involves creating “observer” and “partner country” categories, before promoting applicants as full members, and is likely to support Indonesia to begin the process. The ‘observer’ and ‘partner’ status is similar to that used within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and could be a useful compromise.

In the run-up to the Johannesburg summit, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Bangladesh, Algeria, Argentina, and Ethiopia have all officially applied for membership, while others, including Indonesia, have been invited to attend various meetings. The bloc was hoping to introduce a framework for admitting new members before the August gathering.

Reports had earlier emerged on India’s supposed concerns over BRICS expansion ahead of the leaders’ summit. New Delhi publicly commented on its position during the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting in Cape Town last month. India’s Foreign Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, stated then that “This is still a work in progress. We are approaching this with positive intent with an open mind.”

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said at the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg, that BRICS foreign ministers have “done their work” and have decided on a “clear set of guiding principles which we think will assist our leaders as they make a decision.” Whatever the issue, the BRICS format following this August’s summit looks likely to be somewhat different from when it begins.

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