Recently, the 15th BRICS summit was held in Johannesburg, South Africa on 23rd August 2023. This summit garnered significant attention, as partnerships and alliances play a crucial role in shaping the contours of geopolitics. BRICS was established in 2009 with four member states including Brazil, Russia, China, and India. However, the inclusion of South Africa in 2010 resulted in the expansion of the organization for the first time, and it was renamed as BRICS. John O’Neill, an economist at Goldman Sachs, proposed the idea of BRIC for the first time in 2001. Goldman Sachs predicted that the economies of the emerging markets of the four-member countries will dominate the global economy by 2050. BRICS emerged as a significant economic, and political bloc.
The recent summit of BRICS caught significant attention throughout the world because it explored the idea of introducing an alternative unified currency for trade among the member countries. This initiative possesses the potential to challenge the US-led world. BRICS countries have a combined GDP of more than that of the G7 countries. Member countries of the organization are also responsible for more than 26 percent of global GDP. Moreover, the BRICS embodies 41 percent of the world population, collectively. In addition, at the International Monetary Fund, the member states hold 15 percent of the voting power. In pursuit of changing the US-led world order and giving more say to the Global South, the forum has opened itself for further expansion. Six new members, including Egypt, KSA, UAE, Iran, Argentina, and Ethiopia have been added to BRICS in its 15th summit. The interest of 40 other countries in the membership of BRICS demonstrates the burgeoning significance of the organization at the global level.
The rationale of BRICS is predicated on the South-South collaboration and increasing the influence of emerging economies throughout the world. However, China and India are at odds over the idea of expanding BRICS. The specter of being rejected by Pakistan’s membership request by India haunts the policymakers of the former. Therefore, it has not made any formal request to join the group. Pakistan’s membership in BRICS could impinge India’s strategic interests. The latter has positioned itself to counter China’s hegemony within the organization, which could be disrupted by Pakistan’s inclusion.
Pakistan’s leadership and policymakers do not only need to consider the potential economic benefits but also consider diplomatic implications. The country is deliberating seriously on the prospects of joining the bloc. The economic benefits of joining BRICS, for Pakistan, seem to outweigh the challenges posed by gaining its membership. The country could mitigate its dependence on the United States for trade, as BRICS memberships would open new ventures for Pakistan to diversify its trade. The bloc has established two institutions, the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) and the New Development Bank (NDB), to support the members economically, which holds grave importance. The former is supposed to assist the member states in overcoming the challenges of the short-term balance of payment, as it holds a capital base of over 100 bn USD. On the other hand, the NDB provides funding to the BRICS members without stringent conditions, unlike the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Pakistan is a staunch advocate of a multipolar world. BRICS membership would position it alongside other states that share similar ideologies. Pakistan’s alliance with emerging economies is imperative for its prosperity. The country already enjoys cordial relations with some of the member states of BRICS. China and Pakistan already hold strong ties due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Pakistan and Russia have also reevaluated their foreign policy outlook to each other in the recent past due to changing regional and global dynamics. Moreover, Russia can help Pakistan in reaching the Central Asian markets, which can bolster the latter’s trade and economy. It is also providing arms and weapons to Pakistan along with cheap oil to meet the country’s economic, energy, and defense needs. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan also enjoy cordial bilateral relations, as the former has bolstered the latter’s balance of payments numerously through its investments. BRICS membership will further these relations with Pakistan. It can also reach the markets of Brazil and South Africa by joining this bloc. Likewise, Pakistan enjoys good relations with other BRICS members. However, India is the only country that can object to Pakistan’s BRICS membership. Pakistan needs to take a prudent foreign policy towards India to create an atmosphere of mutual benefit and cooperation.
A huge share of Pakistan’s trade is connected within the BRICS framework, which underlines the significance of the bloc for the country’s trade. Almost 35.2 percent of total imports of Pakistan were from the BRICS countries, while Pakistan’s exports to these countries accounted for 11.1 percent in the year 2021. Pakistan can rationalize its foreign policy goal of shifting from geopolitics to geo-economics, as BRICS would open multiple new ventures for Pakistan. Globally, the country continues to struggle with its hard image due to extremism and terrorism. BRICS membership will assist the country in elevating its image at the global level by forming trade-based relations with member countries. It would also lead Pakistan towards the formulation of an independent foreign policy by decreasing its reliance on Western institutions and the United States. However, to overcome the obstacles in joining BRICS, Pakistan must undertake prudent foreign policy decisions to address the concerns of other members diplomatically and establish cordial relations with India. The country would also have to balance its relations with Europe and the United States through shrewd diplomacy. It should also broaden its tax base, implement governance reforms, and increase its exports to build a strong case while applying for BRICS membership. Joining BRICS will ensue economic prosperity and well-being for Pakistan, as the bloc is poised to become a strong pillar of global growth in the future. The country should deliberate seriously on the prospects of joining the bloc to benefit from its expanding clout.
Abbas Hashemite – is a political observer and research analyst for regional and global geopolitical issues. He is currently working as an independent researcher and journalist, exclusively for “New Eastern Outlook“.