Under a Southern sun

But is India content with being a junior partner in the BRICS?

The BRICs held their first summit in 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia, at the behest of Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov, who had already indicated his intention to make the new coalition an anti-West war machine. But this objective was part of a larger plan, as is evident from the final resolution, which called for "a more democratic and just multi-polar world" and a commitment to "multilateral diplomacy with the United Nations playing the central role in dealing with global challenges and threats". This juxtaposition reflected the member countries' desire to find their place in the sun within the UN system, and in particular within the World Bank and the IMF to reflect changes in the global economy. But in several multilateral arenas, the BRICs appeared to be primarily interested in blocking Western initiatives.

This motivation had crystallised within the World Trade Organisation even before the BRIC was formed. The emerging powers joined forces in reaction to the declaration on agriculture, signed in 2003 by the United States and the European Union. Brazil and India immediately drafted a counter-proposal demanding that rich countries reduce subsidies for agriculture and open up their markets more to agricultural products from developing countries. Twenty countries signed this text including China. Subsequently, the Doha Round was bogged down largely because of the increasing weight of emerging countries who rejected Western proposals.

India has relied on a similar coalition to defend its position against the Europeans in another multilateral context: the talks on climate change. During the 2009 Copenhagen summit on climate change, Brazil, South Africa, India and China came together to form what became known as the BASIC group, so as not to commit to measures for environmental protection advocated primarily by the Europeans. These measures were seen by this group as an obstacle to their growth and should, at the very least, be financed by the so-called developed countries, whom they held responsible for the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

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