To take the initiative of enhancing South-South cooperation in the direction of mutual cooperation and safeguarding the economic interests of developing countries, the fourth top-level BRICS Summit was recently concluded on 29 March 2012 in New Delhi. Since its inception, BRICS has been advocated as having a comparative advantage over many such multilateral inter-governmental organizations.
Some experts of international relations have stressed the primacy of economic relations over political relations and military rivalry at the bilateral level. History also bears witness that bilateral economic relations have often been held hostage by outstanding political issues between countries. Such apprehensions are at minimum level vis-à-vis other such organizations. Thus, as advocated by the leaders of the organization on the eve of the summit, BRICS has tremendous potential to safeguard and protect the economic interests of developing countries, as political compulsions are as least as possible.
The New International Economic Order (NIEO) has so far remained a dream for developing countries. However, if the ‘balance of trade’ is not in their favour, it is at least somewhat balanced in the sense that developing countries are not the subject of exploitation by developed countries. Therefore, for a viable North-South dialogue, South-South cooperation is a prerequisite. Since the South was unable to act in unison, the dialogue for the NIEO with the North could not attain a logical shape. BRIC, and later BRICS, therefore is a new experiment in this direction i.e. to enhance cooperation in the developing world in a manner that allows them to coherently articulate their demands to the North.
However, there are some obvious and some not-so-obvious challenges before BRICS for it to achieve even a modicum of success in the direction of accelerating South-South cooperation and take it towards a logical end.
First, the very nature of the ‘balance of trade’ between the developing and the developed world has changed by way of its own dynamics, with revolutions in the field of telecommunications and information technology as also in other areas of technology. The tech personnel of developing countries are reaching out to the West and posing a great threat to the tech professionals of the developed world.
Second, outsourcing has created havoc on the unemployment front in developed countries and the government is being pressurized by the people of these countries to reverse the trend.
Third, many developing countries have achieved a fair amount of industrialization on account of their own indigenous technology or by begging, borrowing and/or stealing from developed countries. Accordingly, they find themselves increasingly less dependent on the developed world.
Fourth, there is an increasing awareness among people in the developing world about the nature of their political regimes. Additionally, on account of both internal as well as external dynamics and with the growing incidence of information technology there are many attempts to get rid of exploitative and rent-seeking political regimes. This is a positive change which possesses potential for self-sustained economic growth in these countries. The process will be further boosted if developed countries refrain from intervening either out of their own economic interest or on the pretext of emancipating the local population.
Fifth, developing countries are a divided house within and this is a fact of international politics. Different countries have different levels of development, political regimes, political and social modernization, economic growth, primacy of national interests, inter-state and intra-state conflict. They are virtually divided into zones-of-peace and zones-of-chaos. Given this backdrop it is next to impossible to bring them together on one forum to negotiate a fruitful dialogue with the North. All such attempts, such as G-77, G-15, G-24, SCC and so on have not been able to achieve anything significant.
Sixth, economic relations and trade-intercourse among the member-countries of BRICS itself has to go a long way before they can present an imitable example that would encourage more countries of the developing world to join the bandwagon.
BRICS therefore shall have to understand and address these challenges before it can assume the role of leadership in the developing world and make the dialogue with the North a feasible one.