Pakistan seeks BRICS membership, despite India roadblock

The grouping, which criticised Israel for the Gaza war this week, is increasingly seen as the leading voice of the Global South.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan Anwar-ul-haq Kakar, who was in Beijing, China, for the third Belt and Road Forum on October 19, 2023 [China Daily via Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan — Pakistan has formally sought membership in BRICS, the grouping of five emerging economies that includes rival India alongside Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, at a time the body is fast gaining the status as the leading bloc of the Global South.

Calling BRICS an “important group of developing countries”, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, spokesperson for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, disclosed that the country has made a “formal request” to join the group.

“We believe that by joining BRICS, Pakistan can play an important role in furthering international cooperation and revitalising inclusive multilateralism. We also hope that BRICS will move forward on Pakistan’s request in line with its commitment to inclusive multilateralism,” Baloch said, while addressing a news briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

The spokesperson added that Pakistan had warm ties with “most” BRICS members.

The confirmation comes two days after Muhammad Khalid Jamali, Pakistan’s designated envoy to Russia, disclosed that the country has applied to join the group in an interview with TASS, the Russian state-owned news agency.

“Pakistan would like to be part of this important organisation and we are in process of contacting member countries for extending support to Pakistan’s membership in general and Russian Federation, in particular,” the ambassador told TASS.

Many analysts view BRICS as challenging a world order dominated by the United States and its Western allies in important policy decisions.

During the last BRICS summit which took place in South Africa in August, the group’s popularity was evident with at least 40 countries showing interest in joining.

Interactive_BRICS new members

At the end of the three-day summit, the grouping announced that six countries – Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran – would join it next year.

Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairperson for the Pakistani Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, was in South Africa earlier this year to attend events which took place on the sidelines of the leadership summit.

“The world is moving towards regionalism, and now countries are cooperating for connectivity with each other,” Sayed told Al Jazeera, applauding the government’s move to join the body.

Salma Malik, associate professor at Qauid-e-Azam University in Islamabad and an expert in strategic affairs, also agreed with Sayed, and said that such “regional, economic and cultural unions” would be beneficial for Pakistan.

“This is a time of multilateralism. You are heard better in small blocs, and you can voice larger concerns. You can build common consensus on various issues of concerns,” the academic told Al Jazeera.

Earlier this week BRICS nations — including the six that will join in 2024 — joined a virtual meeting where they near-unanimously called for a ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza.

However, Muhammad Faisal, a foreign policy analyst, did not share their enthusiasm.

“Realistically speaking, aside from reiterating political statements, such as Pakistan is dissatisfied with West-led global order, there wouldn’t be significant benefits,” he told Al Jazeera.

Faisal further said that while the country has requested to join the group, its membership was far from certain.

“The path forward for Pakistan now is quite challenging and a long one. It involves a significant degree of politics among the founding members on induction of new members. Pakistan’s case is particularly beset by Indian opposition, which could depend on the health of the India-China relationship,” he added.

The concerns are not unfounded. Last year in June, the Pakistani foreign office said that its participation in a major policy dialogue event, which took place on the sidelines of the BRICS leadership summit in China, was blocked by “one member”.

While Pakistan did not name India as the country, it expressed hope that future engagement of the bloc would be based on the principles of “inclusivity” and in the interests of the developing world.

If India plays “spoiler” over Pakistan’s membership request, Sayed said, it would only be adding to a string of such incidents.

“Be it a matter of cricket, diplomacy or politics, India will always cause hurdles. But they are not the only game in town,” he said.

“The current Middle East crisis has shown India to be more on the American or Israeli camp than being part of the larger global south. If you look at the big picture, India is on the wrong side of history.”

Source: Al Jazeera