IBIS, Not BRICS: New World Order Needs Second Rung Powers Like India, Brazil, Indonesia And South Africa To Step In

by R Jagannathan - Aug 4, 2022 01:47 PM +05:30 IST
IBIS, Not BRICS: New World Order Needs Second Rung Powers Like India, Brazil, Indonesia And South Africa To Step InFlags of South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil and India.
Snapshot
  • The world needs new leadership, and IBIS is the starting point. They can be joined later by France, Germany and Japan, once they have emerged from Uncle Sam’s shadow.

Rising international tensions in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan are indicative of two things: one, the world’s two current superpowers, the US and China, cannot be counted upon to lead the world to a safer and brighter future; and two, the institutions created after the Second World War (the United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Bank and International Monetary Fund) have either outlived their relevance or have been hijacked for narrow ends. They need reform, but neither of the two superpowers nor their allies are capable of ensuring this happens, since they are all status quoist powers.

The world’s second-rung powers, which include the UK, France, Germany and Japan, have, unfortunately, not been able to step in and provide coherent leadership, partly because they too represent a post-Second World War power structure, or were among the defeated powers that could not provide alternative inputs to the US on how the world should be governed. At some point, German and Japan could provide new leadership to Europe and Asia, but that time is not yet upon us. Europe could do little to prevent another war on its territories.

Worse, the rise of China has not resulted in a rebalancing of power through responsible leadership, and is more reminiscent of Hitler’s rise after the First World War than anything else. China’s party and government boss, Xi Jinping, is today’s equivalent of Hitler, but with a nuclear arsenal that Hitler never had.

Despite China’s huge dependence on Western economies for its initial spurt of growth, it has turned out to be a bully and a threat to all countries around it. Any new superpower that has a perennial chip on its shoulders cannot provide mature leadership to the world. China has been the biggest disappointment the world has ever seen.

India, which at one point believed that the rise of Asia should mean a strong China-India partnership, has been particularly jolted by the rise of Xi Jinping as India’s threat number one. Xi believes that India must play a subservient role to China in Asia and the world, and has gone to extreme lengths to cow us down through border transgressions. Xi thought that by pandering to India’s ego in associations like BRICS – the loose grouping which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – India would be willing to play second fiddle. When India did not, Xi ordered pressures to be built on India’s borders.

This means India must rethink its BRICS association.

BRICS is an unnatural association, and traces its roots to a 2001 Goldman Sachs report which coined the term and predicted that these five countries would play a key role in how the world shapes up in the next five decades to 2050. The BRICS group also created a new bank, New Development Bank, to which India contributed its first chairman in K V Kamath. But New Development Bank is essentially China-controlled, and hence cannot play the wider role in regional development that say, an Asian Development Bank, did earlier.

Just as SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) was sabotaged by having a member like Pakistan in it, BRICS will not create a more equitable regional power-sharing structure, since China wants to run the show in Asia and elsewhere. BRICS is thus no longer a grouping worthy of India’s interest. Sooner than later, it will become a backer of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, especially with the Ukraine war catapulting Russia into China’s embrace.

With the developed world making a hash of economic and political management after the end of the Cold War, and with China unable to provide wise leadership, a new space opening for a better leadership, this time driven by middle-rung and emerging powers like India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa, among others.

In an article in Business Standard, Vijay Kelkar and Roberto Zagha (the former was chairman of the 13th Finance Commission, and the latter a former World Bank country director for India), pointed out the need for middle powers like India and Brazil to step up to the plate and provide leadership.

They wrote: “The forthcoming G20 November meeting in Bali is an opportunity for the world’s largest democracies, Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, the BRICS and other like-minded members of the G20 to take immediate diplomatic initiatives to demand and work for the return of diplomacy and a peaceful resolution of the European war.”

They are wrong on only one point: BRICS involvement. BRICS includes the China-Russia axis formed after the start of the Ukraine war, and hence it is highly unlikely that they will be seen as neutral arbiters by the two warring parties.

India needs to take the initiative along with Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa, as none of them have too many conflicts of interest and can be neutral to both Ukraine and Russia. The grouping of India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa can be called IBIS. Together, they will have one-fourth of the world population, a little more than 1.8 billion.

BRICS needs to be supplanted by IBIS as the new group to take up the challenge of not only ending the Russia-Ukraine war, but also creating the necessary support among other countries for reform of the UN Security Council, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

The fact that IBIS countries have no direct clashes of geopolitical interests, and represent three different cultures that broadly represent pluralist Hinduism, syncretic Islam, and Christianity and pagan tribalisms of various types, makes it a unique new force in the world that can work towards a new world order.

The world needs new leadership, and IBIS is the starting point. They can be joined later by France, Germany and Japan, once they have emerged from Uncle Sam’s shadow. This does not mean any diminution of US’s role, but a rebalancing. America will always be economically and politically the main superpower, but it is not geographically well-placed to play 'globocop' anymore. It will be the balancing power in any new world order.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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