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BRICS is an international organization of leading emerging market countries including Brazil, Russia, India, People’s Republic of China and South Africa. Earlier the group consisted of only four countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India and People’s Republic of China and was named as BRIC. South Africa joined the group on December 24, 2010 and hence BRIC was renamed to BRICS.
Though BRIC countries met for their first official summit on 16 June 2009, in Yekaterinburg, Russia yet Political dialogue between the BRIC countries began in New York since September 2006, with a meeting of the BRIC foreign ministers. Four high-level meetings followed, including a full-scale meeting in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on May 16, 2008.
The first official BRICK summit, conducted on 16 June 2009 was attended by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Dmitry Medvedev, Manmohan Singh, and Hu Jintao, the respective leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The core focus of the summit was related to improving the then current global economic situation and discussing how the four countries can better work together in the future, as well as a more general push to reform financial institutions. There was also discussion surrounding how emerging markets, such as those members of BRIC, could be better involved in global affairs in the future. In the aftermath of the summit the BRIC nations suggested that there was a need for a new global reserve currency that is 'diversified, stable and predictable'.
The second BRIC summit took place in Brasilia, Brazil on April 16, 2010. The leaders discussed various current issues including the Iran and nuclear weapons, development, the furtherance of the BRIC as an international body, the global economic situation at the time, reform of financial institutions, the financial G20, and cooperation and issues related to global governance.
South Africa could sense the importance and significance of being a member of BRIC and hence sought membership during 2010. The process for formal admission began as early as August 2010. South Africa was officially admitted as a member nation on December 24, 2010 after being formally invited by China and the other BRIC countries to join the group. The group was renamed BRICS to reflect the now-five-nation membership, with an “S” for South Africa appended to the acronym. South African President Jacob Zuma attended the 2011 BRICS summit in Sanya, Hainan province, China in April 2011 as a full member. At the end of the third summit, the leaders issued a joint statement known as Sanya declaration.
Though Goldman Sachs, an international financial agency who originally coined the term BRIC for the first time in its thesis is surprised at the inclusion of South Africa in BRICS it appears that it has been included for strategic reasons. South Africa is a regional power in Africa and its inclusion in BRICS ensures the effective entry of both China and India in Africa. It should be noted that at present both China and India are involved in strategic competition to consolidate their presence in Africa.
Witnessing the major and swift changes in the world, the idea behind BRICS is to seek a multi-polar, democratic and equitable world order based on international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision making of all issues.
On the basis of three summits of BRICS held till now, its certain strategic directions may be identified. Firstly, BRICS has emerged as a major player in global affairs. The member countries realized their importance after the idea of BRICS became popular. They are conscious of this fact and want to play a greater role in global affairs.
Second, their fundamental tone appears to be raised voice against the economic and political hegemony of the US and their western allies at global level. Their demand for multi-polar world and fair world order are directed towards the end. Also they want to restructure the global economic order to gain more space for themselves. The BRIC leaders believe that their combined and effective strength may enable them to realize the goal.
Besides above the BRIC leaders demanded reforms of IMF and the World Bank. Their inclusion in the Doha development round of trade negotiations called for fighting global poverty and terrorism and early conclusion of climate change negotiations on the basis of principles of common but differentiated responsibility.
However, along with advantages the BRICS has certain constraints too. Firstly, the entire BRIC thesis revolves around their future projections as well as their combined strength. BRIC projections are based on the assumptions that resources are limitless and endlessly available when needed which is certainly not true.
Secondly given the nature of their economic competition and divergent views on bilateral, regional, global issues, diversification and cooperation is a difficult task. Differences between India and China and strategic competition between the two in South Asia, Africa and East Asia are well known to everyone. This in turn might create an internal “dirty” politics.
Moreover the external strategic linkages of these countries may obstruct the progress and functioning of their combined strength. The US is the main factor in such strategic linkages.
It is very clear that the BRICS has the potential to form a powerful economic bloc to the exclusion of the modern-day G8 status. After studying the current economic scenario, it has been predicted that by 2025, the combined economies of the BRICS will be about half the size of the G8, and in about 40 years, will likely be larger. The rankings of national economies will definitely change considerably.