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South South Cooperation

NAM or IBSA, which plays a better role for India’s leadership in global south?

IBSA – India, Brazil, South Africa

IBSA is called as new model of south south cooperation. What is similarity in IBSA and NAM? The common aims i.e. South-South cooperation. Origin of IBSA. IBSA is seen as a brainchild of the then minister of commerce Yashwant Sinha. Context of IBSA. IBSA was first established in 2003. The context of IBSA was the disappointment with the developed countries towards implementing the development agenda agreed at Doha in 2001. The three most advanced countries of the global south tried to show their solidarity in addressing the developmental needs of the global south.

Politics of development.

Since the end of decolonization, developing countries have been emphasizing on the historical responsibility of the countries of North towards the development of the south. They had utilized the platform of NAM and NAM countries coming together as G77 group at UNCTAD (UN Conference of Trade And Development). UN had set up Brandt commission to address the concern. Brandt commission came up with the terminology of North and South. The commission recommended that developed countries should give at least 0.7% of their Gross National Income as official development assistance.

In 2002 Moterry consensus, 2015 Addis Ababa convention further commit developed countries to enhance the development assistance for the achievement of new sustainable development goals. If ODA is an example of North-South cooperation, IBSA fund is a example of South-South cooperation. With IBSA fund, there have been the implementation of 26 projects in 19 countries, primarily LDCs (Least Developed Countries) like Haiti, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, IBSA fund has been awarded UN millenium development goals award for its contribution.

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Nature of IBSA initiative.

Though a platform for South-South cooperation, yet it was a strategic move by India. Purpose of the strategic move. To regain the lost ground in the developing world. India’s leadership has been overtaken by China. Hence India needed to rebuild its leadership.
Since the end of cold war created question marks on non aligned movement, non aligned movement had grown too big with internal contradictions, it made sense to create a new and smarter model.

C Rajamohan has clarified that NAM didn’t loose relevance in post cold war situation, it didn’t had relevance even during cold war.
As the ruling party in New Delhi (NDA) had different ideological orientation, they preferred a new model. It is also based on the realization that USA has been critical of non aligned movement, so a new incarnation was needed, which is not irritating for India’s new strategic partner. IBSA was welcomed by USA because it was a platform to limit Chinese hegemony.

Response of China

China knew the intentions behind IBSA and had proposed its inclusion in IBSA making IBSA into CHIBSA. India outsmarted China by establishing IBSA as the platform of the three multicultural democracies of the global south. China outsmarted India by bringing South Africa, a much smaller economy in BRICS. BRICS contained all the three parties of IBSA. Even BRICS agenda is South-South cooperation. According to China, IBSA should get merged with BRICS. It is to be noted that IBSA’s 6th annual meeting was scheduled to be held in New Delhi in 2013, unfortunately till date govt. of India has not announced any date for its summit. So far five IBSA summits took place without interruption. IBSA dialogue forum was formed in 2003, it was elevated to the summit level in 2006. 1st summit took place at Brazil.

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What is the recent development?

In June 2018, foreign ministers of IBSA met on the sidelines of BRICS summit in South Africa. It seems govt. of India is now interested to revive.

IBSA or NAM? Which is better initiative?

IBSA is a smart version of NAM. However at present neither NAM nor IBSA is having relevance, both require leadership. Both the platforms need to be reoriented if they are seen as meaningful to advance India’s interest. IBSA is definitely a better choice because there are only 3 countries to take decisions but it does not mean that NAM has gone out of relevance. The logic of IBSA is geo-economic, the logic of NAM is geo-politics. They complement each other.


What is BRICS. Birth of BRICS is coincidence. It is a product of Goldman Sachs and investment firm’s economist Jim O’Neil who coined the acronym BRIC in 2001. He predicted that The combined GDP of these countries will surpass the GDP of G7 countries by the year 2030. (check).

In formal sense, BRICS came into existence in 2009. The first summit took place at Yekaterinberg in Russia in the aftermath of Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

Global financial crisis started in USA, reached to Eurozone, in such situation the hope of the global economy was on BRICS economies though they also felt the heat of the cooling down of the global economy. China and India had been demanding the reform of Global Financial institutions like IMF since long. The 2008 crisis is a financial crisis. It gave opportunity to ‘semi-peripheries’, to lecture the core countries, it is their irresponsible and consumerist approach which has caused problems around the globe. Fareed Zakaria described the establishment of BRICS as the beginning of ‘Post American world order’. It symbolized ‘the decline of west and the rise of rest’. It also showed that the center of gravity of international economy has shifted towards Asia Pacific.

Potential of BRICS

BRICS countries represent 20% of the global GDP, 40% of the world’s population and 17% share in the global trade.
The two members are permanent members of UNSC, the other are aspiring members. They have huge natural resources, military industrial complex, skilled and semi skilled man power. Thus if materialized, it gives a real challenge to the hegemony of the west in general and to USA in particular.

Future prospects of the BRICS

The progress of BRICS has been extremely slow. However in recent years we see BRICS countries started building brick by brick. Some of the concrete achievements include the New Development Bank, Currency reserve arrangement, establishment of the business council. BRICS is also fast moving in building new model of south-south cooperation, it has institutionalized the partnerships with Africa and Latin American countries.

In its quest to establish Sino centric world, China is bringing lot of energy in the BRICS. BRICS has assumed huge significance for China. It is a platform which is dominated by China. It serves multiple objectives of China. 1) It has potential to make Renminbi a global currency.  2) It is a platform which weakens India’s leadership in Global South.  3) It is a platform which allows China to utilize India’s strength to challenge US hegemony.

For India, BRICS gives it a much needed strategic space, to balance its relationship with east and west.

Response of western scholars.

Western scholars have always been apprehensive about BRICS, they call BRICS as ‘motley cow’. For them BRICS has no future. The BRICS as a platform aims to challenge US hegemony but the members have more contradictions among themselves. The BRICS solidarity can easily crumble under the pressures of geopolitics. The territorial dispute between India and China and to large extent between China and Russia has not completely settled. So far intra BRICS trade has remained just 6.5% of their total trade with the outside world. They have more economic interdependence with USA and Europe than among themselves. There is a huge gap in political ideologies. The two countries are authoritarian while other three are formal democracies. There is very little political and cultural integration. People to people contact is minimal. It seems that BRICS will crumble as the tensions between India and China may grow. The victory of Jair Bolsonaro, the far rightist president of Brazil, shows that BRICS may not advance the case of liberalization of international economy. So far BRICS has not achieved any of its core objectives. The most important being the reform of global financial architecture.

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The BRICS has grown in influence, expanded its arc of interest, established new institutions and partnerships. Thus the first decade is not a waste journey. They are developing the habit of cooperation but still it is far from achieving its core goals. BRICS can be described at best as ‘unity in divergence’.

How important is BRICS for India

BRICS’ importance for China is clearly evident. China went to the extent of ending Doklam stand-off to show that BRICS is alive. China went ahead to appease India by including the names of global terrorist organizations, in BRICS declarations. This shows that BRICS is very important and China would like it to sustain.

BRICS may not be as important for India, yet it gives space to assert India’s strategic autonomy and to gain some bargaining power vis-a-vis USA. According to C Rajamohan, though BRICS is a motley cow, but India looks cute in BRICS.

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great analysis