India focussing on G20 and BRICS+ to become the Global South Leader

Given that the next three G-20 Presidency happens to be BRICS members, India certainly needs to accelerate the global south leadership drive. 

By Om Prakash Dwivedi

Of late, the international political order has been witnessing a strong wind of resistance from the Global South group. The conspicuous Global North and Global South divide posited by the post-World War II, inclined more favourably towards the US-led economy, has started showing reconfiguration drives. India and China are steering this new global leadership drive. Of course, how far they will succeed only the time will tell but this leads us to look at the alternative establishments – G20 and BRICS – that have started countering and challenging the Global North’s political and economic hegemony.

The formation of the G-20 group in 1999 serves as a platform for Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to deliberate international economic and financial issues that are of concern to the developing nations. The G-20 group accounts for almost ‘two-thirds of the global population, 75% of global trade, and 85% of the world’s GDP.’ Due to the global financial and economic crisis of 2007, the G-20 was also named the ‘premier forum for international economic cooperation.’

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On the other hand, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) was established in 2009. BRICS’s commitment to nurturing cooperation, formulating policy coordination and political dialogue on financial issues, and advancing the reform of international institutions responsible for global economic issues.

The 15th BRICS summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 22–24, 2023, agreed to admit six new member countries: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who will officially make it BRICS+ group in January 2024. This makes BRICS+ a group that accounts for nearly half of the world’s oil production, thus downplaying the G7 prominence.

Here is the twist, BRICS+ gaining stature should definitely make India wary of these developments. China’s relationship with Russia and African nations has witnessed a new high in recent years. It has just been reported that Chinese lenders had lent a massive loan of billions of dollars to Russian banks. This comes as a setback to US President Joe Biden, who had announced the sanctions against Russia last year, to orchestrate the collapse of the Russian economy. 

China’s attempt to bail out Russia from its financial woes must also be a worrying signal for India. It is a well-constructed plot to drive away Russia from India, reduce the US dollar’s impact, and concurrently provide itself an opportunity to flex its muscles towards the Global North, thus demonstrating its ability to create an alternative economic order to counter the growing influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. All this accounts for China’s growing clout to establish itself as the leader of the Global South. No wonder that it decided to skip India’s G-2O Presidency as Xi would never want to divest himself of his rising influence over the BRICS. 

China’s strategic measures to take up the leadership role are also evident in the recently held 3rd China-Africa Peace and Security Forum meeting last month. This Forum saw the presence of almost 50 African nations, thus incentivizing President Xi Jinping’s ‘Global Development Initiative’ (GDI) and ‘Global Security Initiative’ (GSI) hold for the Global South. 

While the inclusion of new members in BRICS by no means accounts for a pro-China stance, what should worry India is the way China has been trying to gain the driving seat. It would be interesting to see to what extent China can manoeuvre and control UAE and Saudi Arabia, two close US allies in the BRICS+ group. On the same note, it would be a test of the Indian regime to forge strategic alliances with the newly recruited members. 

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Yet, amid these new developments, it needs to be remembered that the total GDP of the G7 is lesser than the total GDP of the BRICS. The freezing of the Russian currency in the Western banks has turned out to be a bane for them as Russia has been able to sell its crude oil to India and China unabated. The hope and promise generated by the BRICS, therefore, spell menace for the US setup. Richard D. Wolff, renowned Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, maintains:

“Every Global South country now has two options, not one, in securing development loans, grants, investments, and trading partners. The two (the West and BRICS) will compete to secure contracts and deals.”

Wolff also points out that the “declining global economic footprint of the US, the decline of the US dollar as a central bank reserve holding, the decline of the dollar as the global trading, investment and loan currency – these are all signs and symptoms of the reduced US role.”  

The destabilizing economy and the ongoing geopolitical tussle beckon the possibility of a new world order. It may not happen overnight, but the stage is all set for the emergence of a global actor. Therefore, it becomes increasingly vital for India to reassert its place in the BRICS+ once the G-20 summit is over. The report card of PM Modi and his team’s performance in the G-20 is excellent, even exceptional by many standards. India has garnered greater recognition and respect from several G-20 countries. It is well-known that almost 55 percent of India’s trade passes through the South China Sea. To counter the destabilizing Chinese movements vis-à-vis the Pacific region, India has gained enough support from the QUAD forum, which also happen to be G-20 members. Given that the next three G-20 Presidency happens to be BRICS members, India certainly needs to accelerate the global south leadership drive. 

The post-World War II status-quo should not end up in the creation of yet another global dictator. If the principle of ‘viswa sahit’ is to be achieved, India’s leadership would be needed, a country that has long upheld and treated the earth as one family. Are the BRICS members listening? 

Contributing Author: Om Prakash Dwivedi tweets @opdwivedi82. His interests lie in the field of postcolonial theory.

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