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Pakistan’s BRICS Aspiration

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Pakistan’s BRICS Aspiration

India’s potential veto is a problem, but the bigger hurdle could be Pakistan’s internal dysfunction.

Pakistan’s BRICS Aspiration
Credit: Depositphotos

Speculation about Pakistan’s interest in joining BRICS has persisted for some time. However, on November 23, the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan officially confirmed that the country has submitted its application. “We believe that by joining BRICS, Pakistan can play an important role in furthering international cooperation and revitalizing inclusive multilateralism,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in announcing the bid for membership. “We also hope that BRICS will move forward on Pakistan’s request in line with its commitment to inclusive multilateralism.”

The decision now rests with the existing BRICS members – a grouping that includes India, Pakistan’s arch-rival. 

Evidently, Pakistan’s decision to seek BRICS membership underscores its acknowledgment of the group’s escalating influence amid rapidly evolving regional and global geopolitics. This move by Islamabad reflects its keenness to engage more proactively with emerging global power centers. Notably, the timing of Pakistan’s BRICS membership request aligns with the group’s active efforts to expand its reach and enhance its influence.

BRICS, formed in 2010, initially comprised Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. However, at this year’s summit the grouping made the decision to expand, with six new members set to join in 2024: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

India is said to have blocked Pakistan from joining as an observer at a dialogue last year. However, Islamabad is now looking to join BRICS as a full member, with the expectation that forthcoming decisions within the group will prioritize inclusiveness.

The outcome of Pakistan’s membership bid will be a focal point at the upcoming 2024 BRICS summit. Unlike the United Nations, within BRICS there is no option for abstention – only a definitive yes or no. While India’s response to Pakistan’s potential BRICS admission remains a critical consideration, Pakistan is actively engaging with member nations, with a particular emphasis on garnering support from Russia and China.

Pakistan has long had a rock-solid relationship with China, and it is now looking to shore up support from Russia, which will host the next BRICS summit. The level of enthusiasm Pakistan receives from Moscow during Russia’s turn as BRICS chair could be crucial to Islamabad’s membership bid. In the pursuit of Russia’s support, Pakistan’s recently appointed ambassador to Russia, Muhammad Khalid Jamali, expressed the nation’s aspiration to become a part of this consequential organization. 

In an era of shifting global dynamics, the BRICS alliance stands as a formidable force in fostering economic collaboration and advancing political influence among its member nations. The BRICS countries function as an organization aiming to strengthen economic cooperation and elevate the economic and political status of their member nations on the global stage. As of 2023, the original five BRICS nations represent 40 percent of the world population, and 31.5 percent of global GDP, surpassing the 30.7 percent of the G-7 nations. Analysts predict that by 2050, BRICS economies could dominate the global economy, and the group’s expansion may enhance its influence in the existing global order.

The group shares common objectives that encompass addressing regional challenges, addressing financial and economic issues such as reforms at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and creating the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism. Positioned as a counterforce to the traditional Western-dominated global order, some member states perceive the organization as a means to increase their influence on the global stage. Despite the potential to emerge as a formidable economic bloc, the BRICS nations are not poised to evolve into a political alliance similar to the European Union (EU) or even a formal trading association.

As it seeks to expand its influence in a global order primarily shaped by the United States, the BRICS group confronts several challenges, including a widening developmental and economic gap among its member states. Some nations within the group grapple with issues related to security and political stability. While a prevailing perspective asserts that economic prowess translates into political influence on the global stage, disparities in geopolitical matters constrain the group’s unified action on various global issues. Member countries often adopt opposing stances on numerous regional and global matters, meaning BRICS operates more as an informal annual gathering than a cohesive force. 

The primary focus remains on fostering economic cooperation, and the recent expansion of the group with the inclusion of six additional nations is poised to enhance its strategic options. Many BRICS nations are also part of the G-20, and the establishment of a parliamentary forum aims to fortify contacts at the leadership level.

The BRICS stands at a critical juncture while navigating the challenges and prospects arising from its expansion. Its effectiveness in reshaping global governance and preserving credibility will be determined by its ability to cultivate consensus within its diverse membership.

The enlarged membership of the group presents a potential dilemma. The inclusion of U.S. allies like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, alongside nations with uncertain or opposing stances toward the United States, may impede efforts to strengthen collaboration among member states. A crucial decision lies ahead for members: Whether BRICS is to function as a coalition of emerging economies advancing their interests in a multipolar world order or take on a more overtly anti-Western orientation, a preference notably endorsed by China and Russia. 

In the realm of BRICS, defined by competing national interests, China and Russia navigate their geoeconomic and geostrategic objectives. China aims to advance its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) within the framework of this forum, and will recognize that the timely and efficient completion of this colossal project hinges on Pakistan’s inclusion. 

In this scenario, the primary hurdle is presented by India, which has already wielded its veto power to obstruct Pakistan’s BRICS application. India’s likely opposition stands as a significant impediment for China and Russia in their efforts to secure Pakistan’s participation. 

However, the more formidable impediment for Pakistan in this forum is its economic crisis. BRICS is, first and foremost, a group of emerging economies, and Pakistan’s current struggles in that arena might disadvantage its membership bid.

Despite being classified as a developing economy, Pakistan has faced economic setbacks in recent years due to persistent political instability. The country is currently reliant on IMF bailouts, and grappling with an inflation rate exceeding 31 percent. Political instability further exacerbates its challenges. If admitted, Pakistan would potentially be the weakest BRICS member. 

BRICS can afford to be selective, as Pakistan is only one of a rising number of nations to have expressed interest in joining the group. According to BRICS, more than 40 countries have signaled their desire to become part of the forum. 

On the other hand, Pakistan’s inclusion in BRICS could be crucial for the enhancement of its economy, allowing Pakistan to foster a healthy import-export cycle by cultivating trade ties with these nations. Seen in this way, BRICS participation is instrumental for Pakistan’s economic revitalization and the collective development of the region.

The approval of Pakistan’s membership application in the 2024 summit would undeniably be advantageous for Islamabad. It would unlock a spectrum of opportunities, encompassing trade investments and political backing. The potential inclusion of Pakistan in BRICS also stands to yield positive repercussions for the geopolitical dynamics not only in South Asia but also beyond. It would signify a broader representation of South Asia within the group, augmenting the collective strength and stature of the economic bloc. 

However, Pakistan confronts several challenges in joining this forum, given that decisions are made through consensus. The crucial factor to watch is whether India will provide its consent.