The idea of BRICS group of nations as originally hypothesized was based on the future potential of its collective economic performance that may exceed that of G-7 nations (Jin O’Neill; 2001). It was expected that in following 10 years since 2001, the weight of the BRICs and especially China in world GDP will grow, raising important issues about the global economic impact of fiscal and monetary policy within the BRICs . Despite the early warnings provided by Goldman Sachs in 2001 to create global economic space for large emerging market economies such as BRICs grouping, the first joint statement issued by BRIC country leaders at the first summit meet held in Yekaterinburg (Russia) on 16 June, 2009 sought a greater voice and representation in international financial institutions, and their heads and senior leadership be appointed through an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process. It also stated the strong need for a stable, predictable and more diversified international monetary system.
However, this primary objective of the BRICS grouping remains un-attained as BRICS holds its 12th Summit on 17 November, 2020 via video conferencing under the Chairmanship of Russia under the theme titled – ‘BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth’. The 11thBRICS Summit held in Brasília (Brazil) on 14 November, 2019 stated, “we reiterate the urgent need to strengthen and reform the multilateral system, including the UN, the WTO, the IMF and other international organizations, which we will continue working to make more inclusive, democratic and representative, including through greater participation of emerging markets and developing countries in international decision-making”.Furthermore apart from world economy, governance of financial institutions and multilateral trading system, BRICs has included political and security related issues. For example, security related issues such as – 1.Security of energy transit routes, 2.Global food security 3. Terrorism, 4.Resolution of disputes in international relations, and 5. Role of the United Nations – were included in the 1st BRICS Summit (2009). This runs counter to the accepted narrative that the evolution of BRICS group is of emerging economies in the 21st century, and reinforces the role of global power politics. According to former President of Brazil Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) who was instrumental informatting the initial phase of BRICS evolution, “BRICS was not created to be an instrument of defense, but to be an instrument of attack. So we could create our own currency to become independent from the US dollar in our trade relations; to create a development bank, which we did – but it is still too timid – to create something strong capable of helping the development of the poorest parts of the world.”
BRICS has evolved and is organized around – value (mutual respect and equality), concept (Principle of Sovereignty), and objective (the shared goal of building a peaceful, stable and prosperous world) and the pillars of economy, peace and security and people-to-people exchanges. It has now emerged as a significant force shaping the contours of a multi-polar world order. In 2019 more than 100 meetings were held between leaders, ministers, senior officials and sectoral meetings, and people-to-people, business, judicial and legislative meetings. From innovative BRICS network (iBRICS) to human milk banks, from BRICS energy research to collaborative research on tuberculosis, from international peace and security to BRICS women business alliance (UBA), BRICS is now engaged in plethora of domains. However, some of the critical challenges that BRICS seeks to address is beyond it and requires the cooperation of developed countries. For example, Official Development Assistance (ODA), Paris Agreement, arms race in outer-space, global bio-diversity, convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons, terrorism, and an open, secure, peaceful, stable, accessible and non-discriminatory environment for information and communications technologies(ICTs). This holds true in the realm of economic and financial cooperation as well were BRICS is affected by trade tensions and policy uncertainty beyond its control.
Facing such a situation, the BRICS group has emphasized on the critical importance of – multi-lateralism. Much of BRICS policy initiatives are based on promoting and reforming the existing multilateral frameworks on security and economy. In this regard, reform within UN Security Council (UNSC), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), and continued cooperation within G20 have been given much attention. Along with this the BRICS groups is engaged in creating novel multilateral institutions such as the New Development Bank (NDB).
Yet another key challenge to BRICS comes from within. Despite its emphasis on the concept of principle of sovereignty, key members within BRICS have recently witnessed territorial and sovereignty related issues leading to potential military conflicts in their bilateral relationship. While BRICS has now emerged successful in creating a block with a common purpose, key differences do exist. For example, BRICS has emphasized on the concept of ‘international law’ as against the concept of ‘rule of law’. According to Russian Foreign Minister, the two concepts vary with each other and the concept of rule of law intends to undermine and replace the erstwhile concept of international law. India adheres to the concept of international law as a BRICS member, but shifts to the concept of rule of law in its engagement within the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) which includes the US, Japan, and Australia.
Given the adverse impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the 12th BRICS Summit is likely to focus on bio-security and adopting a Protocol to the BTWC Convention that provides for, inter alia, an efficient verification mechanism and reaffirm that the BTWC is the core instrument for biological and toxin weapons. The emphasis would be on its functions, including in what concerns the UN Security Council and not letting it be duplicated by other mechanisms.