What began as an acronym for the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and later South Africa (BRICS) has fast taken institutional shape and is moving towards its sixteenth summit next week in Brazil. All the heads of state are attending, underscoring the importance of the body. The two-day summit will be the first test of prime minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic skills in preserving India’s national interest. The summit is likely to decide details of the proposed BRICS development bank—seen as a counter to Western financial institutions like World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Despite having considerably less capital than the World Bank (it has $223 billion) in callable asset, the BRICS bank will mark a symbolic challenge to the global system set up under the Bretton Woods Agreement.
The summit will form the backdrop for a series of firsts for Modi, who will hold several bilateral talks with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, none of whom he has so far met after assuming the office of prime ministership. Rousseff has also invited the presidents of each of the other 11 South American nations to meet Modi. India has increased its economic partnership with South America over the past few years and many of these nations are looking forward to meet Modi, hoping he can strengthen India’s ties with them, at a time when China is pumping money into the continent.
India must take a lead into making BRICS and the new development bank that it is launching a much more effective counter to the international organisations controlled by the USA and the West. It must fight the West against imposing their economic policies on developing countries and should lead from the front. At the same time, India must ensure that BRICS and its institutions are not used by China to launch its global agenda.