Johannesburg: Expansion of the BRICS bloc is still a work in progress and members of the five-nation grouping are approaching the idea with a positive intent and an open mind, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said.
Speaking after a meeting of the foreign ministers of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations in Cape Town on Thursday evening, Jaishankar said the leaders of the countries had asked them last year to formulate the guiding principles, standards, criteria and the procedures for such admissions.
“This is still a work in progress. We are approaching this with positive intent with an open mind,” he said.
There are many aspects to it. One part of it is to consolidate how the existing BRICS members are working with each other. The second part of it is how the BRICS engages non-BRICS countries, he said.
“And the third part is how we look at possible BRICS expansion – what will be the appropriate format for that is also something we need to work on,” Jaishankar said.
“Bottom line is we are still working on it; the sherpas (representing the BRICS members) have been tasked with it and we will have to see what they come up with,” he added.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira said he concurred with Jaishankar’s view.
“BRICS is a brand and an asset, so we have to take care of it because it means and represents a lot,” Vieira said.
He said BRICS represented 40 per cent of the world’s population which makes it an important asset.
“We are working and maybe (it is) because of this big success that it has attracted the attention of many other countries in the 15 years (since BRIC’s inception),” Vieira added.
China’s Vice Minister Ma Zhaoxu said the model of BRICS+ which China proposed when it was the chair of the bloc in 2022 was developing “very fast”.
“That was very well recognised by BRICS countries as well as the international community and actually provided one platform for the solidarity and cooperation between the developing countries and the emerging market economies,” Zhaoxu said.
He said China was “very happy” to see this model developing with more and more countries expressing their willingness to join the BRICS family.
“For China, we welcome the intention of those countries to join the BRICS, and we expect more countries to join our BRICS family,” he said.
The BRICS countries are inclusive, pursue the road of opening up and win-win cooperation, Zhaoxu said.
“This is in very sharp contrast to some countries’ small circle. I believe the enlargement of the BRICS will be beneficial to the BRICS countries; beneficial to developing countries; and will increase the representation and influence of this mechanism.
“And to garner bigger power of the BRICS to serve the interests of developing countries and emerging economies as well as the international development cause,” Zhaoxu added.
South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, who hosted the meeting, said the meeting had concluded that there was not yet a “useful document” on the matter which they could submit to their principals.
“Once we have a document that offers clear guidance, we will then take that to the BRICS Summit (of heads of state in Pretoria) in August,” Pandor said.
The BRICS+ meeting that will be part of the summit would be quite large, as the various African countries and chairs of various regional community bodies in different regions of the world would also be invited to attend, Pandor added.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it was not surprising that so many countries wanted to join BRICS because of what it stood for.
“BRICS symbolises the multipolar world, and the attraction of more than a dozen countries to BRICS is a testimony to that,” he said.
Among the countries reportedly seeking membership of the BRICS bloc are Egypt and the Middle Eastern oil-producing nations of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
South American countries seeking its membership include Venezuela and Argentina.
The BRICS bloc brings together five of the largest developing countries of the world, representing 41 per cent of the global population, 24 per cent of the global GDP and 16 per cent of the global trade.