Ultra-luxury homes which are priced over Rs 40 crore each, have had an unprecedented bull run in 2023, with both the number of sales and sales value of such assets hitting new peaks.
The BRICS grouping, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa held its 15th summit at Johannesburg, South Africa, last week where the five countries agreed “unanimously” to expand the group to include Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran, as full members from January 2024. The expansion raised the question: Was India’s hand forced? The answer is unequivocal: Yes. But that has less to do with India ~ which has been adroit in its diplomacy, intent on preserving its strategic autonomy in a fragmenting world order, and rolling deftly with the punches ~ and more to do with China’s strategic ambitions which it is pursuing ruthlessly. That the BRICS expansion has significant geopolitical implications is obvious. Delhi has learnt over the past five years that any bloc of nations that includes China as a member is susceptible to Beijing’s sway. Yet, our foreign policy cannot operate on the principle that we cut our nose off to spite our face. It would have been diplomatically churlish and strategically self-defeating for India not to have gone along with the decision to invite new members into BRICS given that the other member-states were all for the move.
It is not the first time that China has got its way, of course. India became a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2017, for example, knowing very well the grouping’s China-orientation because isolating itself from the Central Asian Republics and leaving Beijing to call the shots would have been a foolish move. In a world where international institutions are unreformed and un-reformable ~ the United Nations is an example ~ Delhi cannot be expected to just wait it out on the side lines hoping the United States-led West’s piously articulated intentions translate into a permanent seat for India in the United Nations Security Council given the ever-present Chinese veto.
South Block has to deal with the world as it is and the policy not to disengage with any bloc just because China is powerful within it is essential for defining the Indian grand strategy over the coming decade. To take the long view, focusing laser-like on economic growth, ensuring our demographic dividend is not squandered, and continuously adding to our comprehensive national power (CNP) is essential for India over the next few years. Till such time that India is a $9-12 trillion economy in nominal terms, it would be counterproductive for Delhi to look for tangible results from its limited power-projection ability. Instead, India must stay engaged, especially with those nations drawing close to China.
This is vital because when the country does acquire a sound economic basis to begin projecting power overseas and leveraging the international situation, it must not have a massive mountain to climb. Only constant engagement with powers on either side of the emergent power rivalry will ensure that as, when, and if China has to be confronted, Delhi does so on the most favorable terms it can create for itself. The reality which BRICS reflects for India is that global trade has already moved East and India’s dependence on Western markets is slowly but surely being subjected to the law of diminishing returns. That the new members of BRICS have economic and strategic interests that coincide in large part with India’s is not such a bad thing