PM Modi to attend BRICS summit in Johannesburg

New Delhi: With the upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa set to discuss admitting new members, India on Thursday dismissed as “baseless” reports that it is opposed to the expansion of the five-nation grouping.

In a telephonic conversation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa that he looked forward to visiting Johannesburg to participate in the BRICS Summit.

“President Ramaphosa invited the prime minister for the BRICS summit being hosted by South Africa on August 22-24, and briefed him on the preparations for the same,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

“The prime minister accepted the invitation and conveyed that he looked forward to his visit to Johannesburg to participate in the summit,” it said following the Modi-Ramaphosa phone talks on Thursday.

The summit scheduled from August 22 to 24 is set to extensively deliberate on expansion of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Iran, Indonesia and Kazakhstan are among countries which have shown keen interest in joining the grouping.

“We have seen some baseless speculation that India has reservations against the expansion. This is simply not true,” MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing earlier in the day.

“We have talked about India’s position on expansion and we have clarified our position in the past. As mandated by the leaders last year, BRICS members are internally discussing the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures for the BRICS expansion process on the basis of full consultation and consensus,” he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow that the grouping will be further strengthened with the addition of new members.

“We believe that in one form or another, the expansion of BRICS will contribute to the further development and strengthening of this organisation,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already decided not to travel to Johannesburg for the summit.

The BRICS 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.