Close cooperation between Central Asia and BRICS is becoming a tangible reality
Published: Aug 25, 2023 08:27 PM
Illustration: GT

Illustration: GT

The BRICS summit took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from Tuesday to Thursday. This group which comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa has been in existence since 2006 and has accomplished great things through a few initiatives. Although there is a need for increased foreign policy confidence, each member country of the BRICS has achieved visible economic growth during the last 15 years. 

Some have previously unfairly perceived BRICS as a smaller version of the G7 or a club for countries with limited political clout. But things are changing quickly. In 2020, the combined GDP of the BRICS nations in purchasing power parity surpassed that of the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US), potentially forever. The BRICS comprise 31.5 percent of global GDP, while the G7 accounts for 30.7 percent. Many analysts now consider this year's summit a crucial event that could indicate a shift in global geopolitics.

The group was formed as an alternative to the Western-centric political and economic order established after World War II, with the Bretton Woods institutions at its core. Many developing countries believed these international financial institutions (IFIs) were biased, as Western shareholders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were unwilling to redistribute voting shares fairly to quickly-grown developing nations. Many political analysts agreed that with the Western world's military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and the 2007-08 global financial crisis caused by the greed of Western bankers and flawed internal laws, emerging economies worldwide require unity against the political and economic domination of the Western world. 

Therefore, no one was surprised when in 2012 the BRICS member countries established a $100 billion New Development Bank (NDB) in Shanghai as an alternative to Western-centric IFIs. Its primary role is to fund infrastructure development projects in emerging economies. The NBD has plans to expand its membership. For example, it has approved Bangladesh, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Uruguay to join in 2021. Other countries also intend to become shareholders in the near future. 

The BRICS group is also determined to take firm steps to end the US dollar's dominance in international settlements. "Why should every country have to be tied to the dollar for trade? Who decided the dollar would be the (world's) currency?" Brazilian President Lula da Silva said on 14 April in Shanghai during the ceremony to introduce his political ally Dilma Rousseff as president of NDB. At the summit held in July 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that BRICS nations were planning to introduce a "new global reserve currency." "We are ready to work openly with all honest partners," he added. 

This year's summit attracted much attention due to the expectation that the BRICS will expand. The block agreed on Thursday to admit Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the UAE. 

Unsurprisingly, countries in Central Asia, such as Kazakhstan, have expressed interest in joining BRICS, as all of them maintain friendly relationships with all its members. They also share strategic partnerships with Russia and China, their key trade and economic partners. The presidents of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan took part in the dialogue on global development on June 24, 2022, which took place as part of the 14th BRICS summit.

Central Asia's most significant characteristic is its lack of access to the sea. With such access, countries can easily engage in international trade via the sea. However, for landlocked nations like those in Central Asia, trading with the world requires establishing good relations with neighboring countries first. Hence, throughout history, we have sought opportunities for cooperation and friendship with all nations. We do not have the luxury of fighting or quarrelling with anyone. As a result, Central Asia has always been and will continue to be a friendly neighbor to the rest of the world. 

The BRICS grouping is a significant player on the global stage, expected to continue impacting the world's economy and politics in the coming years. Cooperation between BRICS and Central Asian countries should prioritize modernization and high-quality development. With their well-educated populations, nations in the region are well-suited to collaborate with BRICS on developing advanced 21st-century technologies. 

The author is former prime minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, and a visiting senior fellow at the Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding, Peking University, a member of Nizami Ganjavi International Centre, and the author of the book "Central Asia's Economic Rebirth in the Shadow of the New Great Game" (Routledge, 2023). opinion@globaltimes.com.cn