The sixth BRICS summit was held at Fortaleza, Brazil on 15 July 2014 in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup football tournament, also hosted by Brazil. The Fortaleza summit produced a 72-point declaration and a 23-point action plan, and was followed by a larger meeting with leaders of UNASUR, the regional forum of South American nations including Brazil. The highlight of the sixth BRICS summit has been the announcement of the agreement to launch the BRICS bank, called the New Development Bank (NDB), and a common fund called the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), to help member countries cope with any possible short-term balance of payments pressure.
BRICS is a unique cross-continental grouping of five countries with little in common in terms of their specific historical, cultural or geo-political background. It is a peculiar reflection of the developing situation where the former number two and current number two of the world economy – Russia and China – have joined hands with three emerging economies across continents to defend their shared economic interests. It is significant that the grouping has taken shape in the backdrop of the global financial crisis which has had a more adverse impact on the three traditionally dominant centres of post-War global capitalist economy – the US, Western Europe and Japan – than these emerging players.
It is futile to look for signs of any radically alternative economic policy approach in BRICS declarations. All five members of BRICS are closely integrated with the existing processes of economic globalisation. But the commitment to the UN and multilateralism as against the unilateral domination of the US and other western powers, the quest for greater freedom for developing countries from the domination of dollar and the Fund-Bank establishment, and the stress on infrastructural investment and state-owned firms and small and medium enterprises as opposed to the unmitigated domination of speculative finance and MNCs do mark some areas of contention within the ongoing processes of globalisation.
The real challenges to the development of the BRICS potential come from the conflicting strategic priorities of member countries, particularly India. If BRICS really has to emerge as a platform of economic cooperation for the global south in opposition to the disastrous hegemony of the Fund-Bank establishment, the spearhead must be directed consistently against the US. Yet, the Indian ruling classes remain bound by the dictates of New Delhi’s strategic partnership (a euphemism for subservience) with Washington. The insistence on a pro-US foreign policy reinforcing the Indian ruling classes’ growing integration with the structures of neoliberal globalisation undermines India’s potential as a responsible contributor to BRICS.
The contrast between Modi’s BRICS braggadocio and India’s shameful silence and advocacy of neutrality on the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza has once again exposed the foreign policy hypocrisy of the Indian ruling classes. The BJP’s inability, nay refusal, to boldly advocate and stand by the Palestinian people’s integral right to peace, dignity and independence in the face of the US-backed Zionist offensive of Israel, only goes to expose the hollowness of India’s pro-global south posturing in the global economic arena.
While BRICS remains relevant in the context of the growing worldwide quest for multipolarity and freedom from the oppressive domination of the Fund-Bank establishment and the hegemony of dollar, popular pressure must be developed within India for reorienting India’s economic and foreign policies in correspondence with the BRICS theme of greater assertion of the global south. Brazil is trying to dovetail its role in BRICS with the perspective of greater economic and political cohesion with other South American countries; India must also combine her commitment to BRICS with closer cooperation with SAARC and other Asian countries.