BRICS Summits

The Paradox of BRICS: Prospects for Expansion and Internal Imbalance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Development over BRICS expansion

Mains level: Global Dynamics and increasing relevance of BRICS

Central Idea

  • Mysterious are the ways in which multilateral groupings prosper and wither away. The case of BRICS grouping is truly remarkable. Despite initial achievements, BRICS has started losing its sparkle due to various global and regional challenges. However, the paradox lies in the fact that numerous nations are eager to join the group, showcasing the continuing appeal of BRICS.

BRICS’s Origins and Evolution

  • Conception of BRIC: The term BRIC was coined by economist Jim O’Neill in a 2001 research paper, identifying Brazil, Russia, India, and China as emerging economies with significant growth potential.
  • Formalization of BRIC: The first formal meeting of BRIC leaders took place in 2009 on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Russia, marking the group’s establishment as a platform for cooperation and dialogue.
  • Addition of South Africa: In 2011, South Africa was invited to join BRIC, expanding the group to BRICS. China advocated for South Africa’s inclusion, seeking broader representation in Africa and increasing the group’s diversity.
  • Economic Focus: Initially, BRIC was primarily an economic grouping, emphasizing the rising influence of these countries in the global economy due to their large populations, expansive territories, and rapid economic growth rates.
  • Geopolitical Cooperation: Over time, BRICS evolved to include geopolitical cooperation and joint positions on global issues. Leaders began discussing political matters and advocating for a more equitable international order.
  • Annual Summits: BRICS started holding annual summits where leaders from member countries gather to discuss and coordinate their positions on various global challenges and explore avenues for cooperation

Key achievements of the BRICS

  • Economic Cooperation: BRICS has fostered economic cooperation among member countries, leading to increased trade, investment, and business opportunities. The group has launched initiatives to expand trade and investment cooperation, promoting economic growth and development.
  • New Development Bank (NDB): BRICS established the New Development Bank, also known as the BRICS Bank, which provides financial assistance for infrastructure projects and sustainable development initiatives in member countries and other emerging economies. The NDB has committed significant funds to various projects, contributing to infrastructure development and regional connectivity.
  • Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA): The CRA, established by BRICS, acts as a financial mechanism to provide liquidity support during times of financial stress and protect against global liquidity pressures. This arrangement has helped member countries mitigate potential financial crises and enhance financial stability.
  • Geopolitical Influence: BRICS has projected a non-western perspective on global and regional issues, strengthening the world’s march towards multipolarity and curbing the dominating influence of the West. The group has articulated common positions on various global challenges, such as climate change, terrorism, and global governance reform.

Facts for prelims

New Development Bank (NDB)

  • Establishment: The NDB was established by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in 2014.
  • Headquarters: The NDB’s headquarters are located in Shanghai, China.
  • Objectives: The bank aims to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging economies and developing countries.
  • Authorized Capital: The initial authorized capital of the NDB is set at $100 billion.
  • Governance Structure: The NDB operates on the principle of equal representation, with each member country having an equal say in decision-making. It is governed by a Board of Governors, a Board of Directors, and a President.
  • Funding: The NDB’s funding comes from the contributions of its member countries. Each BRICS member contributes an equal share to the bank’s capital.
  • Sustainability Focus: The NDB places a strong emphasis on sustainability and green finance. It aims to allocate a significant portion of its lending portfolio to projects that promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Internal Imbalance and Challenges withing BRICS

  • Diverse Economic Systems: BRICS member countries have diverse economic systems, ranging from state-controlled economies to market-based economies. These differences in economic models can lead to variations in policy priorities, approaches to trade and investment, and economic challenges, creating potential frictions within the group.
  • Varying Levels of Development: BRICS member countries represent a wide spectrum of development stages. While China has emerged as a global economic powerhouse, other members like Brazil, India, Russia, and South Africa face developmental challenges and socioeconomic disparities. These differing levels of development can result in differing priorities and resource allocation, potentially straining cooperation within BRICS.
  • Geopolitical Ambitions and Rivalries: BRICS member countries have their individual geopolitical ambitions and interests. As emerging powers, they may compete for influence and resources in certain regions, leading to potential rivalries or divergent approaches to geopolitical issues. These geopolitical dynamics can complicate decision-making and alignment within BRICS.
  • Political and Governance Differences: BRICS comprises countries with varying political systems and governance structures. While some members uphold democratic values, others have different approaches to governance and human rights. These differences can result in divergent perspectives on political and human rights issues, potentially creating challenges in reaching consensus on certain matters.
  • Economic Vulnerabilities: BRICS member countries are susceptible to economic vulnerabilities, including structural issues, external shocks, and fluctuations in commodity prices. Economic challenges, such as high inflation, fiscal imbalances, and currency volatility, can strain the economic cooperation and stability within BRICS.
  • Coordination and Decision-Making Processes: BRICS operates as a consensus-based grouping, requiring agreement among member countries on various issues. Coordination and decision-making can be complex due to the diverse interests, priorities, and institutional frameworks of member countries. Reaching consensus on critical matters can be time-consuming and challenging.
  • Institutional Development: The institutional development within BRICS, such as the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, requires effective governance structures, operational frameworks, and decision-making processes. Establishing and managing these institutions while addressing the diverse needs and interests of member countries can pose institutional challenges.

The demand for expansion in BRICS

  • Global Influence: Many countries see BRICS as a prominent grouping that holds influence on the global stage. Joining BRICS would provide an opportunity for countries to enhance their global influence and have a voice in shaping global agendas.
  • Economic Opportunities: BRICS represents a significant portion of the world’s population and economy. Joining the group could potentially provide countries with access to a large market and increased economic cooperation, including trade and investment opportunities among member countries.
  • Limited Options: Some countries may see BRICS as an attractive option for collaboration and engagement, particularly if they face limited opportunities to join other major multilateral groupings or regional blocs.
  • South-South Cooperation: BRICS is seen as a platform for South-South cooperation, promoting dialogue and collaboration among countries in the Global South. Joining BRICS allows countries to strengthen ties with like-minded nations and contribute to a collective voice for the interests of developing countries.
  • Counterbalance to Western Influence: The demand for expansion in BRICS can also stem from a desire to counterbalance the dominance of Western powers in global affairs. By joining BRICS, countries may seek to align themselves with a grouping that projects a non-western perspective and advocates for a more equitable international order.

Prospects for expansion of BRICS and the criteria for new member admission

  1. Prospects for Expansion:
  • There is a growing interest from several countries in joining BRICS, indicating the perceived significance and appeal of the group.
  • As of now, 19 countries, including Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, UAE, and Bangladesh, have expressed their desire to become members of BRICS.
  • The interest in expansion stems from various factors such as the desire to enhance global influence, the fear of missing out on membership in a prominent group, limited options for joining other groupings, and the aspiration to create a substantial forum for the Global South.
  1. Criteria for New Member Admission
  • Economic Size and Potential: Potential new members should have a significant and growing economy, demonstrating the potential to contribute to the group’s economic strength and cooperation.
  • Regional Representation: BRICS has aimed to have diverse regional representation, as seen with the inclusion of South Africa to represent Africa. New members could be considered based on their regional representation and the desire to ensure a broader geographic scope.
  • Political Stability and Compatibility: Political stability and compatibility with the values and principles of BRICS, including democracy, human rights, and governance, could be important considerations in the admission process.
  • Commitment to Cooperation: Prospective members should demonstrate a genuine commitment to international cooperation, multilateralism, and the principles and objectives of BRICS.
  • Mutual Benefits: The admission of new members should be mutually beneficial for both the existing members and the prospective members, contributing to enhanced economic cooperation, geopolitical influence, and the achievement of common goals.
  • Consensus Among Existing Members: Consensus among the existing BRICS member countries would be crucial in determining the admission of new members. The existing members would need to agree on the expansion and the specific countries to be admitted.

The Future of BRICS: Key aspects

  • Economic Collaboration: BRICS has the potential to deepen economic collaboration and promote intra-BRICS trade and investment. By leveraging their collective market size and resources, member countries can explore new areas of economic cooperation, such as digital economy, technology, sustainable development, and infrastructure investment.
  • Institutional Development: The New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) are key institutions established by BRICS. The group can focus on further developing and expanding the role of these institutions to effectively address financial challenges and support sustainable development projects.
  • Geopolitical Influence: By coordinating their positions on global governance, security, and geopolitical issues, member countries can amplify their collective voice and influence international discussions and decision-making processes. BRICS can also foster South-South cooperation and advocate for the interests of developing countries in global forums.
  • Expansion and Outreach: The interest from other countries to join BRICS presents an opportunity for expansion and outreach. The group can carefully consider the admission of new members, ensuring that the expansion aligns with the group’s objectives, principles, and criteria. By including new members, BRICS can broaden its geographic representation and potentially strengthen its collective influence.
  • Innovation and Technology Cooperation Member countries can collaborate in areas such as artificial intelligence, renewable energy, space exploration, and digital governance. Sharing expertise, research, and best practices can propel the group’s technological advancement and foster mutual growth.
  • Adaptation to Global Challenges: BRICS should collectively address global challenges such as climate change, public health crises, and sustainable development. By coordinating efforts, sharing knowledge, and pooling resources, the group can contribute to finding solutions and shaping global agendas on critical issues.


  • The paradox of BRICS lies in its diminishing allure while attracting numerous nations eager to join. Despite facing internal tensions, BRICS has made significant contributions to the world’s multipolarity and economic cooperation. By addressing internal imbalances, seizing opportunities for growth, and staying responsive to global dynamics, BRICS can continue to play a significant role in shaping the international order and promoting the interests of emerging economies and the Global South.

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Also read:

Understanding the “China’s BRICS” game


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