Brazil and India in the ‘New’ Brics

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The author is a visiting professor in the Graduate Program of International Relations at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), Brazil.

The main outcome of the 15th Brics summit last week was the enlargement of the group. Six new members — Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — will join the Brics in January 2024, a move that reveals the ambitions and limitations of a group that serves as a thermometer to the shifting global political order.

This first wave of Brics enlargement was riven with tensions. While China favored the diffusion of its influence through the enlargement of the group, Brazil and India were inclined to postpone the enlargement and, instead, preferred to deepen coordination among its founding members. Although diplomatic coordination has never been easy within the Brics, the group’s founding members used to share the objective of counterbalancing Western influence. However, this shared objective has been shattered with the recent group’s enlargement.

The manner and selection of countries for the enlargement of the Brics made clear China’s unchallenged ability to transform the group as an agent of an increasingly Chinese-led emerging global order. The choice of enlargement with the selection of autocracies as new members is telling of China’s view of how the global order should be shaped: through ad-hoc multilateralism that aids its own global ambitions.

With the autocratic turn of the Brics, the group’s previous rhetoric of reformism of global institutions is now replaced by a new narrative: the promotion of a global governance model in which liberal-democratic values are downplayed and the rule-based global order is weakened. As Brics turns autocratic, the bloc is likely to start opposing U.S. influence more emphatically, and Brazil and India will be isolated within the group.

Brazil and India’s acquiescence to the Brics enlargement has been possible with China’s support to the permanent membership of both countries in the UN Security Council. Brazil and India were never shy about their dream to permanently sit in the UN Security Council. However, both countries could not imagine that China’s support for their entry in the UN’s selective club would materialize with their diminished influence in the Brics.

Differently from the autocratic members of Brics (the old and new members), Brazil and India have a natural inclination to embrace domestically and internationally the principles of equality and liberty. These principals, or the lack thereof, determine how democratic or autocratic regimes govern a country, and, as a result, how a country shapes its foreign policy.

The Brics until now lacked an ideological or political orientation. What seemed to hold these countries together, apart from being large and prosperous emerging economies, was the shared experience (not applied to Russia) with colonialism and economic dependence. This condition is no longer enough to keep the Brics united. Brazil and India have incorporated as part of their development as nation-states democratic governance. The tortuous road toward democratic development has not prevented Brazil and India from successfully embracing democratic methods to guide their domestic governance and their international behavior.

Under democracy, Brazil and India prospered greatly, not only achieving higher levels of economic development but also becoming more integrated in the international financial system. These countries increased their human capital with more educated populations and reduced, although slowly, poverty and inequality over the past decades. Indeed, democracy has given these countries the opportunity to shine globally.

As democratic reformers of the fragile liberal order, Brazil and India will continue their efforts to become more influential in the international multilateral institutions. And if these institutions welcome both countries giving them more relevance, Brazil and India’s level of commitment to the now autocratic Brics will wane. In the meanwhile, the Brics will become the dream group of autocrats that want to find political and economic support in an increasingly chaotic international arena.

Source: Joins