Graham Stack in Kyiv -
Russia will on July 8 open the first joint summit of two of the world's largest international organisations that exclude Western powers: the BRICS group of large emerging markets comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, together with the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), comprising China, Russia and the Central Asian republics.
Symbolically, the summit will take place in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Muslim constituent republic of Bashkortostan, situated in the Urals region that straddles Europe and Asia.
Ironically, given that Western analysts regularly call for Russia to be excluded from the BRICS concept because of its poor growth rates, Russia has been the driving force behind developing BRICS from an acronym into an alliance, having pioneered the first BRICS summit in Russia's Yekaterinburg in June 2009.
The Ukraine crisis and breakdown in relations with the West in 2014 strengthened Russia's strategic links with Brazil, India and China, and showed growing loyalty to Russia by the BRICS. "The current anti-Western political agenda of the BRICS has indeed provided the group with strong identity and raison d'etre beyond its initial artificial definition as a loose group of disparate yet rising economic powers," researcher Marco Vieira of Birmingham University told bne IntelliNews.
While BRICS started off as a concept grouping similarly large emerging markets, Russian Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev argues that it is becoming an economic reality, as inter-BRICs trade grows. "The volume of trade within the BRICS in recent years increased by more than 70% and reached $291bn in 2014," Ulyukayev said on July 6, as quoted by newswires, adding that the trade turnover between Russia and other BRICS in 2014 amounted to $105bn.
Ulyukayev also said that BRICS have increased their share in global GDP from 19% in 2001 to 30% of total global GDP in 2014, as quoted by news agency Tass. "Our countries make up more than 17% of the global trade, 13% of the world service market, 45% of the world's agricultural production," he said.
Russia's alliance building efforts will take another step forward during the SCO summit proceedings - where the accession of India and Pakistan to the organisation will be the hottest topic.
SCO's focus remains on security across Central Asia, but the prospect of Indian membership of the SCO may be a step towards creating another front of emerging powers to counterbalance the West. SCO could become in geopolitical terms – given its expanse of territory across the Eurasian global 'heartland' - what the BRICS are in terms of growing global market share.
However, here the going may get trickier, since the three rising Eurasian powers are not only potential allies vis-a-vis the West, but potential mutual rivals.
"Russia's support [for Indian accession to SCO] is very natural - they embrace a bigger membership in this framework, the more the merrier, because there is a better chance to enhance stronger like-minded partnerships in their quest to create a more feasible organisation for the 21st century," believes Alica Kizeková of Prague's Metropolitan University.
"Russia's leadership believes that existing Western multilateral constructs are archaic and unable to tackle the current threats and challenges in the region," she adds.
However, India has historic border disputes with China that have kept relations between the two giant countries tense. India's accession to the SCO would mean that the role of the organisation as a global platform for non-Western great power coordination would be enhanced, believe analysts, and Russia's international standing consequently strengthened.
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