The 8th annual BRICS summit, held in Goa, once again exposed geopolitical fault lines which divide the diverse grouping.
The latest meeting of the BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — came to an end with India reasserting that all BRICS nations were united in the global threat posed by terrorism. This cohesive stance was, however, taken after President Modi, without mentioning names, referred to Pakistan as the “mother-ship of terrorism.”
Indeed, India used the BRICS platform as a way to steer the group’s political views while simultaneously stirrint tension with China. This was not the first disagreement that the two economic powerhouses have displayed over the neighboring state of Pakistan, and once again the cohesion and stability of the BRICS is under question.
Most notably in President Modi’s remarks, India proposed that the BRICS joint declaration include the names of terrorist groups headquartered in Pakistan, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed. India has a tense relationship with Pakistan; it has condemned the state in the past for harboring terrorists and threatening the security of Asia. It became apparent that India was using the BRICS platform as a way of expressing its own political views, and Modi was trying to encourage the BRICS nations to adopt similar stances.
This did not go over well with the other nations, and China offered a strong opposition to India’s position. Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, said that “everyone knows that India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. Pakistan has made huge effort and great sacrifices in fighting terrorism. I think that the international community should respect this.”
Hua also remarked that although China is committed to fighting terrorism, it opposes the linking of terrorism to a particular country, ethnicity, or religion. Although India may have expected the support from Russia on the issue of Pakistani-sponsored terror, Vladimir Putin openly opposed India’s position.
Along with the controversial statements made by Modi, India stirred the pot even further by inviting BIMSTEC — an international organization focused on economic cooperation between Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan — to the summit. The the majority of the large nations surrounding India were invited to the table, but Pakistan was unmistakably excluded. The inclusion of BIMSTEC bore geopolitical connotations, and it was interpreted that India was using their power as host country to isolate and condemn Pakistan.
The conference was not the first geopolitical clash between India and China this year. India made a push twice this year for membership into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Their application was blocked by China, who used its veto vote as a permanent member of the UNSC. India is also pushing to become a permanent member of the UNSC, along with Japan, Brazil, and Germany.
This application has also not been explicitly supported by its BRICS counterpart, China. Although China is in support of an increased Indian role at the UN, they have not officially supported India’s permanent membership. These geopolitical moves further expose the complicated relationship between India and China, which are not expected to subside anytime soon.
Since the first official summit held in 2009, the BRICS have articulated a shared a common vision for a more democratic and multipolar world order. The group has challenged international institutions to become more representative and reflect the growing voices of developing nations. The unsupportive rhetoric made by China to block India’s position in leading international institutions seems to go against the very reason why BRICS was created. It is thus becoming more apparent that, despite the common goals of BRICS, the differences of national interest may be a serious downfall of the divergent grouping.
In the end, the 8th joint BRICS declaration read: “we strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and stress that there can be no justification whatsoever.” Despite this “joint sentiment,” it was clear that the BRICS nations have different stances on how exactly to fight the global issue of terrorism. The question that remains is whether the BRICS can put their differences aside to achieve a new “world order,” and whether they can continue to become the all so powerful block which they see themselves as capable of being.