India fully supports the expansion of the BRICS and welcomes moving forward on it with consensus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday even as he presented five suggestions to further broaden cooperation among the members of the grouping in a range of areas, including space exploration.
In an address at a plenary session of the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) summit in Johannesburg, Modi said the technology will play an important role in making the grouping a “future-ready” organisation, and offered India’s readiness to share expertise in the digital domain.
“India fully supports the expansion of the BRICS membership. And welcomes moving forward with consensus on it,” Modi said. The expansion of BRICS is a major focus area at the annual summit of the grouping as around 23 countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Argentina have applied for membership.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who spoke after Modi at the plenary, also pitched for a speedy expansion of BRICS to make global governance more equitable.
“We need to…accelerate the BRICS expansion process to bring more countries into the BRICS family to pool our strengths (and) our wisdom to make global governance more just and equitable,” Xi said.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the BRICS members are deliberating on the expansion. “Hopefully, we will find a clear solution to this matter as we discuss it amongst ourselves,” he said.
Separately, sources in India said the country has taken the lead in forging consensus to select new members in the grouping and there was significant development towards the proposed expansion.
The issue of the expansion of the BRICS was discussed at length at the Leaders’ Retreat on Tuesday evening.
“Our efforts were guided by our objective to incorporate our strategic partners as new members,” said a source.
The Prime Minister also hoped that India’s proposal to accord permanent membership of the G20 to the African Union would be supported by all the BRICS nations.
In his remarks, Modi also recalled that India’s presidency of the BRICS in 2016, defined the grouping as “Building Responsive, Inclusive, and Collective Solutions.”
“After seven years, we can say that, BRICS will be — Breaking barriers, Revitalising economies, Inspiring Innovation, Creating opportunities, and Shaping the future.Together with all the BRICS partners, we will continue to contribute actively in making this new definition meaningful,” he said.
Citing examples of India’s success in the digital domain such as the COVID-19 vaccination platform CoWIN, Modi said diversity is a great strength of the country and that the solution to any problem in India comes out of the test of this diversity.
“That’s why these solutions can be easily implemented in any corner of the world,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the BRICS has come a long way and made an illustrious journey in the last nearly two decades.
“We have made many achievements in this journey. Our New Development Bank is playing an important role in the development of the countries of the Global South,” he said.
The Prime Minister made five specific suggestions for bolstering cooperation in several areas including space research, education, skill development, technology, digital public infrastructure and traditional medicine.
Noting that the grouping was already working on the BRICS satellite constellation, the Prime Minister said the member nations should think about establishing a space exploration consortium.
“To make BRICS a future-ready organization, we have to make our societies future-ready. Technology will play an important role in this,” he said.
The Prime Minister talked about India’s AI-based language platform Bhashini, the DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing) platform to provide education to children in remote areas and CoWIN.
Modi said India is ready to share these platforms with the BRICS nations.
The Prime Minister also complimented South Africa for giving special importance to countries of the Global South under its presidency of BRICS.
“The countries of the Global South under the chairmanship of South Africa have been given special importance in BRICS. We heartily welcome it,” Modi said.
“This is not only the expectation of the present time, but also the need. India has given top priority to this subject in its G-20 chairmanship. We are trying to move forward together with all the countries on the motto of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’,” he said.
Modi also referred to India’s hosting of the Voice of Global South summit in January and its proposal to make the African Union a permanent member of the G20.
“We have also proposed to give permanent membership of G-20 to the African Union. I am sure all the BRICS partners are also together in the G20. And all will support our proposal,” Modi said.
The African Union (AU) is an influential organisation consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African continent.
Modi arrived in Johannesburg on Tuesday on a three-day visit primarily to attend the BRICS summit.
The BRICS brings together five of the largest developing countries of the world, representing 41 per cent of the global population, 24 per cent of the global GDP and 16 per cent of the global trade.