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BRICS Leaders Converge in Johannesburg to Explore Bloc’s Expansion and Global Role

The BRICS Summit 2023 kicked off in Johannesburg on 22nd, August, Tuesday with leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa gathering to discuss the future of the bloc, including the possibility of expanding its membership and solidifying its role as a counterweight to Western dominance. The BRICS nations are feeling a renewed sense of urgency to strengthen their alliance, which has occasionally grappled with internal divisions and a lack of a cohesive vision. The host nation, South Africa, welcomed President Xi Jinping of China, who has been a strong advocate for expanding the BRICS alliance. President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his alignment with President Xi’s views on expansion, emphasizing the importance of BRICS in global governance reform and the promotion of multilateralism and cooperation.

Joining the summit are other prominent leaders, including Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin, due to an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, is participating virtually. President Xi Jinping, upon his arrival in South Africa, expressed confidence that the summit would mark a significant milestone in the development of the BRICS mechanism. The BRICS group encompasses a diverse range of economies, from China, the world’s second-largest economy, facing an economic slowdown, to South Africa, grappling with power crises and daily blackouts. India and China have at times experienced clashes along their disputed border, underscoring the complexities of decision-making within a consensus-based group like BRICS. The question of expansion has emerged as a contentious issue, with differing motivations among member nations.

China has long aspired to expand BRICS membership to enhance the group’s influence, already representing around 40% of the global population and a quarter of global GDP. Russia, facing diplomatic isolation due to its actions in Ukraine, is interested in new members to bolster its international standing. On the other hand, India has shown cautious optimism about expansion, wary of China’s growing dominance. Brazil, too, harbours concerns that an enlarged BRICS could dilute its influence within the bloc.

The summit’s leaders will engage in a mini-retreat and dinner to discuss potential frameworks and criteria for admitting new member countries. While expansion remains a topic of deliberation, the core principle of BRICS as a champion of the “Global South” and an alternative to Western-dominated global order has garnered support. More than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, with nearly two dozen formally seeking admission. South African officials anticipate the presence of delegations from several of these nations during the summit. As global dynamics continue to evolve, the BRICS Summit 2023 serves as a platform for leaders to deliberate on how this diverse group of nations can navigate current challenges and collectively shape the future of international relations.