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BRICS is still in the age of adolescence: it has been 15 years since the term was invented and 10 since the virtual reality became a physical reality. BRICS meeting its semi-anniversary not in the best shape. It is true that economically only India can boast more or less dynamic growth; however it is still mired in poverty with many social problems and economic regulations far from ideal. China has not overcome the basic structural problems of its economy and growth is slowing; Russia is in the midst of a prolonged economic slowdown. Brazil due to the unnatural change of government became an “odd man out” in BRICS: its’ will and ability to pursue an independent policy agenda became doubtful in the wake of the impeachment of previous president Dilma Rouseff. Meanwhile, South Africa is experiencing turmoil associated with governance problems.
Besides, BRICS unity is put to the test due to the sharp increase in geopolitical contradictions- first of all between USA and Russia, to a lesser extent between USA and China, even between BRICS founding members- China and India as well as India’s US-leaning “multivector” policy.
It also should not be overlooked that despite public mockery and criticism, the West started to take BRICS seriously, especially the United States which regards BRICS as a potential challenge to its hegemony and is working quietly behind the scene to undermine it. The Goa summit preparations showed that common denominator, in addressing some delicate issues, is low and many promising initiatives are blocked by one or more countries.
However these are growth pains. BRICS is steadily expanding the areas of cooperation between its members, new important ones being added during the Indian presidency. New steps are made on the way of institutionalization of the association. The report of the New Development Bank to the leaders have shown that this young financial structure has made a good start over the first year of its activity. It is important that apart from granting first loans, this new BRICS lender also issued a set of green bonds in RMB (renminbi) and rupee bonds issuance is in the pipeline.
New BRICS-wide institutions appear, for example, in agriculture- a research platform and in railroad transport. The importance of setting up an independent BRICS Rating Agency based on market-oriented principles was stressed. An economic strategy and a roadmap of investment cooperation are worked out, and the Goa BRICS summit stressed the advantages for businesses to take part in their implementation. BRICS has become a unique mechanism of the common approaches to the global economic and financial matters, as well as preparing innovative plans for changing the global governance in a more just manner.BRICS also remains an important venue for working out measures to combat modern challenges like terrorism and join hands in addressing current political threats. During the Goa summit, the bloc’s concern about terrorism was highlighted and the recent terror attack against India, that New Delhi has blamed on neighbor Pakistan, was condemned.
It is significant that the Goa declaration pays principle attention to regional conflicts, such as Syria where it said “relentless pursuit against terrorist groups” should continue, as well as other parts of the Middle East, Afghanistan, as well as in the African continent.
BRICS may suffer temporary setbacks due to the objective limitations inherent to it: the principle of equality and compromise and diverging national interests in some areas. This principle lies in the center of the foundation of BRICS, so nobody expects it to be a mechanism for domination or a single-voice authority.
But what is more important and often overlooked or ignored is the fact that BRICS was created to jointly pursue common interests- and it is relevant as long as these joint efforts are more efficient than addressing challenges on one’s own.
The final goal, that only BRICS as a single force can attain, is reforming the world order in a way to make it more just for the majority of the globe, terminate the system of old dominance and not let a new dominance system appear.
There is a long way ahead and success depends on the dedication and coherence of the ruling elites of the emerging countries. Everyone in charge understands that this project is bound to meet the fiercest resistance from the existing centers of power. If the BRICS countries were to address the main issue of gaining its adequate place in the world order individually, they probably would not succeed to do it in a peaceful manner as the West is not ready to yield even a bit of its hegemony. A direct conflict is not unimaginable. BRICS is a chance to negotiate a joint solution beneficial not only to the emerging countries but also the developed West.