The expansion of BRICS and the military coups in West Africa have brought to the fore long-suppressed intensities and tensions in the world order. Developed and developing words are in a moment of transition, with middle powers like India playing key balancing roles. Amb. Neelam Deo speaks with us on Unfolding Geopolitics, a new podcast series which observes and explains current and emerging geopolitical and foreign policy trends across the world.
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India’s presidency of the G20 has put a premium on its role as “the voice of the Global South”, even as it serves as the bridge between the Global South and the Global North. The upcoming Delhi Summit’s success will depend on India’s ability to balance diverse interests while broadening the areas of convergence and narrowing those of disagreement within the grouping.
The decision to invite six countries — Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — to join BRICS as full members has opened the grouping to a new geopolitical era. India can now play a seminal but challenging role in this evolved dynamic, given its growing cooperation with the West on the one hand and its active pursuit of the interests of the Global South on the other.
The BRICS Summit in Johannesburg has drawn international attention to the grouping’s past record of achievements and failures, its strained internal dynamics, and new challenges. As BRICS heads into its 18th year, its success and way forward will depend on the members’ ability to tackle the principal challenge of retaining its internal solidarity while balancing expansion and its impact and influence in the world.
In West Asia, nations such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are starting to understand their pivotal geopolitical positioning in world affairs – and are making calibrated and strategic moves to preserve or recover global stability. It’s welcome at a time when more than two dozen conflicts are ongoing, when geopolitical rivals have hardened their positions, and diplomacy has failed to de-escalate in the primary contests.
The 15th BRICS summit is set to take place on August 22-24 in Johannesburg. Against a backdrop of escalating global tensions, the summit's agenda encompasses crucial topics including greater representation of the Global South, reform of MDBs, and geopolitical flashpoints like the Ukraine crisis. The summit's outcomes will extend beyond the grouping and redefine the landscape of international cooperation among emerging economies.
India and Sri Lanka recently signed six energy agreements, including plans for an oil pipeline from India to Sri Lanka, electricity grid connectivity, and cooperation in renewable energy. Sri Lanka can benefit from India's cost-effective oil sourcing and processing and pay for it in rupees, easing its balance of payments crisis. Its wider use of the Rupee fulfills a long term objective for Indian policymakers.
Two years on since the military coup in 2021 and the continued absence of security and stability has only worsened the political and economic situation in Myanmar has only worsened in the absence of security and stability. India's long-standing strategic and economic interests in Myanmar will not be achieved if it doesn't proactively step up now to prevent the from becoming a flawed polity or a dependent of China.
The 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Jakarta reflected the grouping’s resilience amidst transformative geopolitical changes in the Indo-Pacific. Striving for unity and centrality, ASEAN tackled challenges posed by COVID-19, economic slowdown, climate change, and U.S.-China competition. However, internal differences on sensitive issues like Myanmar have tested its credibility.
ASEAN's efforts to restore democratic transition and political normalcy in Myanmar have come up against a wall of non-cooperation from the state's current military regime. The grouping's internal unity and credibility has also been challenged by two parallelly unfolding policy lines - one favoured by the grouping and the other pursued by Thailand and its supporters. India, which has vital national interests at stake in Myanmar, has supported ASEAN centrality and the 5PC on Myanmar, while also simultaneously demonstrating an understanding of the Thai unilateral policy.