Can Pakistan get BRICS membership?


Can Pakistan get BRICS membership?

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Pakistan has formally requested to join the BRICS group, an important grouping of developing countries. Apparently the decision reflects Pakistan`s recognition of the group`s growing clout in fast changing regional and global geopolitics and its desire to engage more actively with emerging global power centers. Islamabad’s request for BRICS membership comes at a time when the group is actively broadening its reach and influence.

Formed in 2010 it originally consisted of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. But the grouping this year has expanded with the decision to include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates. While Pakistan’s participation as an observer in the summit this year was allegedly blocked by India, Islamabad now hopes that future decisions of the group will be based on ‘inclusivity.’ 

Pakistani officials appear confident that the country’s application for BRICS membership in 2024 will be considered positively. The next summit meeting of the group is being held next year in Russia and Islamabad is counting on the support of China and Moscow for its entry into the group.

In a recent statement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that BRICS planned to agree on a list of candidates for partner-state status ahead of the upcoming summit in Kazan. He added that during the Russian chairmanship, special attention would be paid to expanding the “circle of BRICS friends.” But it may face opposition from India breaking the consensus that is needed for the full membership of the grouping.

The expansion in the group membership could increase its clout in the existing global order. 

Zahid Hussain

The BRICS countries operate as an organization that seeks to deepen economic cooperation among member nations and increase their economic and political standing in the world. The GDP of the five original BRICS nations accounts for 31.5 percent of global GDP as of 2023, compared to the 30.7 percent of the G7 nations ranked among the world’s fastest-growing emerging market economies for years. According to some analysts, by 2050 BRICS economies will come to dominate the global economy. The expansion in the group membership could increase its clout in the existing global order. 

The group has a set of joint priorities including: Working to resolve regional problems, tackling financial and economic issues like reforms at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), establishing the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism. The group sees itself as countering the traditional Western-led global order, with some member states viewing the organization as a way to boost their influence around the world.

While having the potential of forming a powerful economic bloc, there is no possibility of these countries becoming a political alliance like the European Union (EU) or even a formal trading association.

As it seeks to expand its clout in order to have a greater say in the global order dominated by the United States, the BRICS group also faces many challenges, including the increasing gap in development and economy among its member states. Some member countries also face the challenge of security and political stability. 

There is a strong view that economic power will bring political clout to global politics. But the differences on various geopolitical issues put a limit to the group’s united action on various global matters. On many regional and global issues, the member countries take opposite positions.

In fact, the group operates as an informal forum of nations that meets annually at the BRICS convention. A major emphasis is to enhance economic cooperation between the countries. The broadening of the group with the induction of six more countries is likely to increase its options. Many of the BRICS nations are also members of G20. The establishment of the parliamentary forum is aimed at strengthening contacts at the leadership level. 

Given their increasing economic power and the desire to disentangle from the West to a degree, there has been an increasing number of nations seeking to join the group. According to the BRICS, over 40 countries indicated their interest in joining the forum. 

Pakistan is among several other countries applying for the group’s membership. 

While the economy of Pakistan is classified as a developing economy, it has fallen behind many other countries in the last few years because of continued political instability affecting its economy. It is the 24th largest in terms of GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP) and 46th largest in terms of nominal GDP. 

Pakistan will certainly benefit if its application for the membership is approved in the forthcoming summit meeting in January 2024. But Pakistan faces many hurdles because the decision in the forum is taken by consensus. It remains to be seen whether India will give that consent.

- Zahid Hussain is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former scholar at Woodrow Wilson Centre and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and at the Stimson Center in DC. He is author of Frontline Pakistan: The struggle with Militant Islam and The Scorpion’s tail: The relentless rise of Islamic militants in Pakistan. Frontline Pakistan was the book of the year (2007) by the WSJ. His latest book ‘No-Win War’ was published this year. Twitter: @hidhussain

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