What is India’s BRICS Quandary and Why is it Deepening?

Pakistan’s strategy to isolate and label the country as a state sponsoring terrorism is collapsing in front of the global community. The country has formally applied for BRICS membership, following South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s initiative to convene a BRICS Extraordinary Joint Meeting on the Middle East Situation in Gaza. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar stood in for PM Modi and avoided censuring Israel for its attack on Gaza as “collective punishment” for the Hamas attack of October 7, which India condemned as an abhorrent act of terrorism. He instead characterized Israel’s bombing of Gaza as the “ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.”

Jaishankar’s remarks reflected the stance of the Biden Administration, but he also criticized Russia for not adopting a joint statement. This may have been intended at Russia, as it is a formidable opponent in diplomacy. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing on October 18 to discuss issues such as Middle East, terrorism, and food security.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Vershinin visited Pakistan in November to conduct a bilateral counter terrorism cooperation dialogue. The Russian side has invited Muhammad Kamran Akhtar, Director General in the foreign ministry for arms control and disarmament, for talks on strategic stability in Moscow. Additionally, the Russian deputy foreign minister has invited the Additional Secretary (Europe) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to visit Russia in December to exchange views on diverse relations between Russia and Pakistan.

Pakistan-Russia bilateral consultations have intensified in recent weeks, following the emergence of a virtual US-Indian quasi-alliance as a geopolitical reality. Russia is moving in the direction of “de-hyphenating” its respective relationships with India and Pakistan. From a Russian perspective, Pakistan is a more representative member of the Global South than India, which has bandwagoned with the US across the board. Pakistan is a sincere votary of multipolarity in the international system and no longer seeks to build on its credentials as a “major non-NATO ally” of the United States.

Russia takes note of Pakistan’s credentials to be an active member of the BRICS, and it is likely that Islamabad proceeded with a formal application of membership after consultations with Moscow. Pakistan enjoys the backing of China and some of the new members who will be inducted in January, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the UAE.

India faces a Hobson’s choice in blocking Pakistan’s application due to alleged terrorism support. This comes after Canada alleges Indian involvement in the killing of Khalistani separatist Nijjar, and the US has also criticized India for similar allegations, indicating a growing tension between the two nations.

The FT reporter has claimed that a Washington team visited Delhi to advise India to refrain from any criminal act, but the details of whether the operation was called off or aborted remain unknown. This western media coverage is damaging to India’s self-projection as a staunch follower of international law and a loyalist of the “rules-based order.” There is a groundswell of opinion in favor of Pakistan within the BRICS grouping, as a perception gained that the Modi government is a reluctant member of the grouping. As the BRICS strives to remodel the US-dominated financial and trade architecture, India’s reservations about the grouping increase.

The contradiction is not easy to resolve, as India no longer belongs to the BRICS, but quitting is also non-option as India gains from its membership, although it is hardly making any significant contribution to the grouping’s advancement. Pakistan’s BRICS membership will tilt the balance within the grouping in favor of a transformative agenda and make it more homogenous.