BRICS candidacy

Published February 20, 2024

IN an age beset by geopolitical dissonance, states must establish and nurture foreign relationships that can help them withstand the headwinds shaking the international order.

This should include forming strong ties with regional states and supporting multinational groupings that integrate economies and lessen the chances of conflict. In this respect, Pakistan has already joined the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, while it applied last year to become a part of the Russia-led BRICS grouping.

Commenting on the application, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence Mushahid Husain, while on a visit to Moscow, observed that Pakistan could join BRICS with the help of “Russian cooperation” as Russia holds the current presidency of the grouping. In view of its considerable benefit, a BRICS membership should be a foreign policy priority for the next government.

However, there is one major obstacle: India is a founder member of BRICS, and considering its testy ties with Pakistan, one can assume that Delhi will create hurdles for this country’s candidacy.

However, as Senator Mushahid observed, we need to actively engage Russia to support our application, while China’s cooperation should also be sought. Russia and China are also BRICS founder members, so India would find it harder to resist Pakistan’s membership if Beijing and Moscow actively backed it.

Moreover, the UAE and Iran, which recently joined BRICS and with whom Pakistan has normal ties, should also be asked to endorse our candidacy. India cannot be allowed to isolate Pakistan internationally, and our best diplomatic hands must be tasked with making the case in important capitals.

Meanwhile, our American and European friends may raise their eyebrows at Pakistan’s candidacy. But in the current state of geopolitics, the Western bloc views anything Moscow and Beijing do with suspicion. For Pakistan, it does not have to be a zero-sum game; it can try to maintain cordial ties with both de facto blocs — the West and China-/Russia-led groupings.

But for Pakistan to successfully join BRICS or compete in other arenas internationally, the political instability at home needs to be addressed. Moscow, Beijing and other key BRICS members should consider inviting Pakistan to join at the summit in Russia later this year, or should at least announce a concrete roadmap for Pakistan’s candidacy. Pakistan has much to gain economically and diplomatically by joining such Global South forums.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2024

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