BRICS has invited six new members to join in the most dramatic expansion of the bloc since it was formed, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Thursday at the conclusion of the three-day BRICS summit in Johannesburg.
Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Argentina, Egypt, and Ethiopia were invited to join BRICS as full members starting in 2024. The admission of the nations will more than double the size of BRICS, which currently includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
The five BRICS nations account for over 40% of the world’s population, and the bloc is viewed as a counterweight to the US-led global economic order. The list of invitees is significant as it includes some US allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and also Iran, which is heavily sanctioned by the US.
US sanctions have spurred the growth of an alternate global financial system and de-dollarization efforts, especially in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia has found new markets for its oil in India and China since the US-led Western sanctions campaign cut off most Russian energy exports to Europe.
The agreement to invite new countries is significant also because it wasn’t clear if India would be on board with the expansion. While becoming a significant buyer of Russian oil, India has also been expanding military ties with the US, as Washington views New Delhi as a key to its strategy against China in the Asia Pacific.
Tensions have been high between China and India over their disputed border in the Himalayas since the 2020 Galwan Valley clashes, which left at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers dead. The US took advantage of the tensions and signed a new military pact with India to help with the surveillance of Chinese troops near the border, allowing the US to provide India with intelligence during a skirmish in 2022.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the disputed border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), on the sidelines of the BRICS summit on Thursday.
According to The South China Morning Post, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said Modi had expressed concerns to Xi and that the two leaders “agreed to direct the relevant officials to intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation.”
China and India have deployed more military assets to the region since the 2020 clashes and have failed to reach any breakthroughs after 19 rounds of military negotiations but have agreed to keep talking.