BRICS – a club made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – was formed in 2011 with the aim of using its growing economic and political influence to challenge Western hegemony.
The nations, with a joint estimated GDP of $16 trillion, set up their own bank in parallel to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund and World Bank and hold summits rivalling the G7 forum.
But the countries, accounting for 53 percent of world population, have been hit by falling global demand and lower commodity prices, while several have also been mired in corruption scandals.
Russia and Brazil have fallen into recession recently, South Africa only just managed to avoid the same fate last month while China’s economy — the recent engine of world growth — has slowed sharply.
India by contrast is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy in an otherwise gloomy environment and its GDP is expected to grow 7.6 percent in 2016-17.
Indian foreign ministry official Amar Sinha said the leaders would debate “global growth prospects, the role of BRICS in leading this global growth and our contributions to it”. India will also be looking for BRICS to condemn recent cross-border attacks from Pakistan. Analysts however are sceptical of India’s chances of securing a joint condemnation given China’s strong diplomatic support for Pakistan and Russia’s efforts to forge closer defence ties with Islamabad.
President Vladimir Putin’s office said in a statement that “international terrorism and the Syria peace process” would be discussed as Moscow faces international anger over its airstrikes in support of the Assad regime.
China’s Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong meanwhile said the leaders would “exchange in-depth views on BRICS cooperation and other global and regional issues”, according to state news agency Xinhua.
Some of the more substantive talks are expected at bilaterals on the sidelines of the summit in the tourist state of Goa, with PM Modi expected to separately meet China’s President Xi Jinping and Putin.
The summit comes amid some scepticism about the future of BRICS, especially given India’s efforts to reach out to the US and Europe since PM Modi came to power in 2014.