BRICS to take partner states, no new members for now

A foreign minister-level meeting of BRICS at Nizhny Novgorod of Russia.Collected

BRICS, an alliance of emerging economies, will not be taking any new members for the time being. Instead of full membership, it will now engage new countries under the 'partner state' model. 

The alliance took the policy decision in a foreign minister-level meeting at Nizhny Novgorod of Russia on Monday. 

Bangladesh along with some other countries that are interested in joining the alliance have been invited to participate on the second day of the two-day meeting. It is the first time that Bangladesh received an invitation to attend the BRICS foreign minister-level meeting.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov extended a formal invitation to his Bangladesh counterpart Hasan Mahmud on 1 June. The invited foreign ministers were supposed to attend a different forum, other than the BRICS foreign ministerial meeting. 

However, social welfare minister Dipu Moni is representing Bangladesh in the meeting, instead of the foreign minister. 

In this regard, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told Prothom Alo that Dipu Moni would attend the meeting as the foreign minister has a pre-scheduled meeting in Saudi Arabia during the time. 

Tension in BRICS

An Indian news site, The Hindu Business Line, cited a source to report that India is concerned about the power structure in the bloc tilting more heavily in China’s favour with increase in membership. Hence, it wants a slow down in the process of admission of new members into BRICS, and it is likely to get Brazil by its side.

Bangladesh’s Minister of Social Welfare Dipu Moni talks to China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting of the BRICS Plus Ministerial Council in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia on 11 June, 2024

It is becoming increasingly clear that through the expansion of the bloc, China wants to turn the BRICS into an alternative to G20 and other US-led groupings and increase its own clout simultaneously. It wants to further challenge the West through the bloc and this is what India may not want. 

In a meeting with the Bangladesh foreign secretary in Beijing on 3 June, Chinese vice foreign minister Sun Weidong extended his country’s support for the membership of Bangladesh in BRICS. 

Wait prolongs 

Due to the anti-expansion stance of India, Bangladesh and at least 10 other countries, will have to wait longer for BRICS membership.

Diplomatic sources in Dhaka and Moscow revealed that Bangladesh resorted to multi-faceted efforts to join the meeting and Russia extended the invitation to the foreign minister at the last minute. 

Against such a backdrop, the decision to send the social welfare minister may have displeased Russia, given the significance of Bangladesh's participation amid the differing stances of China and India on BRICS expansion.

When the Russian envoy in Dhaka met the foreign minister at his office on 3 June to hand over the invitation letter, he was apprised of the latter’s inability to join the meeting. 

The Russian embassy declined to make any comments over the letter to the Bangladesh foreign minister. 

Foreign minister’s participation was desirable 

Analysts and international relations experts see the participation of Bangladesh in the meeting as crucial amid the apparent conflicting position of India and China. 

According to them, the joining of Bangladesh would have demonstrated its serious intent to join the alliance as the invited foreign ministers of non-member nations had the opportunity to speak on security, development, and stability.

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa formed the BRICS initially. From its 15th summit last year, the bloc invited Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Iran, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Ethiopia to join the bloc. Later, all except Argentina became its members.