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Joint Site of Ministries of Foreign Affairs of BRICS Member States

Friday, March 10, 2017

BRICS Paradigm Breaks New Grounds in Geopolitical Order

Swaran Singh

US President Donald Trump's "America First" rhetoric and the complications of Brexit are making supporters of the old world order more and more anxious. More specifically, with US withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and expecting its partners and allies to take care of their own security arrangements, the onus now lies on emerging economies to take the lead in ensuring peace and stability in their immediate peripheries.

In the aftermath of a decade-long global economic slowdown, where the old G7 has already given way to G20, new groups like BRICS have been successfully creating a whole set of innovative new strategies in addressing various development challenges.

Others like the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association - which include many emerging economies - are also revamping their regional institutions and policies.

BRICS is also breaking new grounds in sustaining cross-continental partnerships among countries that were once ridiculed for their economic and socio-political policies.

BRICS was once coined as an investment term by British economist Jim O'Neil of Goldman Sachs who described the member countries as investment destinations for G7 economies with promise of better per-dollar return.

Now, the organization has become a game-changer diplomatic club led by China, which has since 2014 become the world's largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. This transformation of BRICS has also been facilitated by the continued global economic slowdown since 2007.

Meanwhile, BRICS has earned respect and credibility by successfully launching many out-of-the-box initiatives including its New Development Bank of Currency Pool, and China has launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which clearly makes Bretton Woods institutions look outdated in addition to being discriminatory and autocratic.

The UK, which voted to leave the European Union, chose to be a founding member of the AIIB; thus, influencing several other European members to follow its lead. Likewise, the Washington Consensus, with its 10 guiding principles of structural adjustment program seeking rapid growth in various developing countries that had led to major debt crisis, has since been replaced by the Beijing Consensus that seeks to emphasize strong state regulation of free market economies.

Without a doubt, BRICS has also expanded its mandate to include the security issues like combating terrorism discussed in the 2014 BRICS Summit. Even though member states like Brazil and South Africa have experienced economic slowdown and internal instability, strong leadership from Russia, China and India have held sway over them and displayed great vision and true grit.

Episodic interruptions have not had much effect on their cohesive partnerships. BRICS members have not just created far more equitable structures but also flexible mechanisms like organizing mini-summits on the sidelines of other multilateral summits like G20, nuclear security summits or climate change summits. This reflects increasing confidence of BRICS leaders.

Western critics often compare BRICS to G20 and continue to point out the insignificance of the bilateral ties between Russia and Brazil and the frustration and strife in the relationship between China and India. On the contrary, BRICS has continued to come up with their out-of-the-box visions and strategies. Whereas the military alliances and military bases were the drivers of the old world order, which emphasized the division among states, the emerging new world order seems to focus on infrastructural logistics that seek inter-societal connectivity, thus, emphasizes regional partnerships. It also redefines regions based on intensity of interests and interactions instead of narrow bandwidth of physical proximity.

As BRICS paradigm breaks new grounds in geopolitics, it seeks to replace geo-strategy with geo-economics and views development as a source of security rather than embracing security over peace. Though BRICS nations have yet achieved these goals, they show strong commitments to work toward realizing these emerging new paradigms.

The author is a professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Source:Global Times