How Did China, India, and the BRICS Approach the Swiss Peace Summit on the Russia-Ukraine War?

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How Did China, India, and the BRICS Approach the Swiss Peace Summit on the Russia-Ukraine War?

None of the BRICS countries endorsed the Joint Communiqué. Can they provide an alternative pathway to peace?

How Did China, India, and the BRICS Approach the Swiss Peace Summit on the Russia-Ukraine War?

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference at the Ukraine peace summit in Obbürgen, Switzerland, June 16, 2024.

Credit: AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani

On June 15 and 16, 100 delegations comprising 92 state representatives and eight representatives from various international organizations were invited for a high-level dialogue in the Burgenstock Resort in Switzerland. The agenda was to establish a way forward for a comprehensive and lasting peace for Ukraine. Most of the attending nations approved the Joint Communiqué on a Peace Framework. However, the major economies from the developing world, particularly the BRICS-plus grouping of states, have not lent their support.

What did the BRICS nations think of the Swiss peace summit and what are their perspective on achieving lasting peace in the region? 

Parsing the Joint Communiqué

The Joint Communiqué reiterated its support for the previously passed United Nations resolutions A/RES/ES-11/1 and A/RES/ES-11/6. The resolutions condemned Moscow’s aggression against Kyiv and demanded a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. It called for all parties to fully comply with international humanitarian law and for an immediate peaceful settlement of the conflict through political dialogue and negotiations. 

The Communiqué brought forth three vital conditions as a roadmap for achieving lasting peace. First, all nuclear plants and installations in Ukrainian territory must be safeguarded and secured under the complete control of Kyiv’s administration. Further, any threat or use of nuclear weapons must be avoided. 

Second, all parties must allow free and safe commercial navigation and access to seaports in the Black and Azov seas. Food security should not be weaponized, and the flow of Ukrainian agricultural produce to third countries should not be blocked. 

Third, all prisoners of war should be released and exchanged. Further, all illegally detained Ukrainian civilians and children should be returned. 

The Communiqué was essentially based on the previous discussions on the Peace Formula as put forth by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Differing Stance of BRICS Nations

The BRICS nations, however, have not endorsed the Communiqué. The BRICS are a handful of nations from the developing world that collectively are significant for their emerging status. The grouping originally comprised Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, creating the acronym “BRICS.” However, in early 2024, the grouping expanded to include Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), signalling its growing importance. Together, the expanded BRICS make up 45 percent of the world’s population and 28 percent of the global economy, and produce 44 percent of the world’s crude oil. 

After the recently concluded Swiss peace summit, the BRICS nations have not put forth a joint statement of their position. However, individually, they have expressed certain common perspectives. None of the BRICS nations endorsed the Joint Communiqué and all of them demand the involvement of all parties to the conflict – i.e., the Russian government, which was not invited to the meeting – in finalizing an agreement to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Further, none of the BRICS nations sent their head of state to the summit. China, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Iran did not send any representatives at all. While Brazil’s representative attended in an observer capacity, the rest of the BRICS nations only sent representatives at the secretary level. This indicates a de-emphasizing of the situation by the BRICS states. 

Apart from the common points, each of the BRICS nations had their own specific position on the issue. 

The head of the Indian delegation, Pavan Kapoor, explained India’s rationale for participating in the summit as its desire to achieve enduring peace through dialogue and diplomacy. Kapoor further added that New Delhi will continue to engage all stakeholders, including both parties in the conflict, to achieve a sustainable resolution to the ongoing crisis. 

The South African representative, Sydney Mufamadi, remarked that the focus should be on creating conditions for ending the war and not managing it. Mufamadi criticized Israel’s presence at the summit despite violating the U.N. Charter and international laws, which the summit claims to uphold. Furthermore, the South African representative pointed out the shortcomings of the language adopted in the Communiqué regarding the prohibition of nuclear weapons in the region. Mufamadi viewed the section on nuclear issues as a rather restricted goal, and argued that the ban on the usage of atomic weapons should apply globally. 

On the eve of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked in a speech that the gathering in Switzerland was aimed at diverting attention from and distorting the root causes of the conflict. Putin claimed that the lack of an invitation for Russia – and a supposed ban on Kyiv negotiating with Moscow – were done deliberately by vested interests to shape policies as they see fit. The Russian president also said that Moscow is ready to negotiate provided certain conditions are met. His terms include the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from four regions of Ukraine that Russia has occupied and a demand that Kyiv should officially abandon plans to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). 

China was involved in the early planning phase of the summit. However, in the final stages, Beijing decided to skip the gathering altogether, citing discrepancies between the initial and final arrangements. Before the summit, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning remarked that China encourages equal participation by all states and hopes that the summit will not be used as a platform to create bloc confrontation. Mao further noted that China’s non-participation should not be seen as a sign that China does not support peace. 

Brazil and China put forth a six-point joint peace proposal in the month of May. The notable feature of this joint proposal is its call for an “international peace conference” to be held at a proper time by both parties involved in the conflict. Russia has endorsed this arrangement and has expressed satisfaction over China’s ability to host such a conference. However, Kyiv’s willingness to attend a China-hosted peace summit is in doubt; Zelenskyy recently accused Beijing of undermining the Switzerland summit by helping Moscow. 


Zelenskyy described the outcome of the summit as a success, given the majority of the participating nations’ approval of the Joint Communiqué. However, the popular perspective in the Western media is that the summit has failed to achieve a global consensus. The non-invitation to Russia is a sore point, particularly for the BRICS nations. Further, the failure to uniformly apply international law across all global conflicts has led to an increasing delegitimization of the Western-dominated global governance structures. 

This opens up opportunities for BRICS nations to try their own hand at mediating. Beijing has sent early signals of its willingness to act as a negotiator. India would be a contender as well, given New Delhi’s interest in participating in the latest summit. Unlike China, India can point to close relations with both the West and Russia. That gives New Delhi a chance to act as common ground to facilitate the negotiations and bring lasting peace to the region.