India is likely to press for the establishment of a well-defined criteria for the proposed addition of new members to the BRICS grouping of emerging nations, instead of extending membership solely on the basis of recommendations by present members, as Sherpas meet in Durban this week to decide on the crucial issue ahead of the BRICS Summit next month, sources have said.

“If BRICS nations decide on taking in new members, India would want formulation of well-established criteria for qualification. Once the criteria is in place, some eligibility condition could be mutually decided, for instance meeting of three out of five stated criteria,” a source tracking the matter told businessline.

BRICS nations, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, now form one of the world’s most important economic blocs, representing more than one quarter of global GDP, and 42 per cent of the world’s population, according to an UNCTAD report.

It was China which first proposed the expansion last year when it chaired the group, and many interpret the development as the country’s move towards expanding its sphere of influence by getting in more ``like-minded’’ countries. 

19 interested

As many as 19 countries have expressed interest in membership of BRICS, 13 of them formally and 6 countries informally. The interested countries include Argentina, Nigeria, Algeria, Indonesia, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

“As there are so many countries interested in membership, it is important that they are evaluated fairly. For that there must be some criteria which could be jointly determined such as GDP, population size or any other relevant parameter,” the source said.

Some existing members are pushing the candidature of certain applicants, like Brazil rooting for Argentina and China and Russia putting their weight behind Saudi Arabia. “While it is important that the new members that are admitted to the grouping should have the acceptance of all members, some amount of objectivity needs to be there in the process of selection. For instance, when South Africa qualified as a member, why should Nigeria, a bigger economy, be out of it?,” another source noted. 

The BRICS Sherpas, in their three-day meeting starting Tuesday, will try to come to an understanding on whether there needs to be an immediate expansion of the grouping and, if yes, how many new members should be accommodated and how are they to be selected, the source said.

“They Sherpas will give their report which will be considered at the BRICS Summit in August,” the source added.