At BRICS: India is a beacon of hope for Global South


Now that the BRICS summit is here, there is suddenly a chorus from both the West and India, that India should stay away from a platform where China’s word will become rule, sooner or later. While there is no doubt of China’s influence on the BRICS and its attempt to turn the platform into its own vassal state, should New Delhi give a free pass to Beijing so that it can widen and deepen its sphere of influence? India’s presence in BRICS, which at least 40 countries from the Global South aspire to join, prevents the body from sliding into the Chinese lap. India is the main bulwark when it comes to countering China’s influence and aggression. It is ultimately the leadership of the Global South that is at stake here, and China is unfit for that purpose, not just because it can no longer be counted as a developing country, but primarily because it is anti-democracy. How can one of history’s most malign and imperial powers aspire to lead anything, including the Global South? The Global South needs special nurturing, because if these poor countries fail, it spells trouble for the whole world. Influence peddling by China always has a strategic angle to it, and by bringing the economically poor nations in its ambit, sooner or later Beijing will turn them into chess pieces in the great game of the 21st century that it wants to win. For this to happen, it’s necessary for China to reshape the Global South with Chinese Communist characteristics. Take the example of Africa—South Africa has invited over 60 African nations to the BRICS summit as observers. A recent investigative report by a web portal called Axios and Danish newspaper Politiken exposes how the Chinese Communist Party “is teaching African leaders its authoritarian alternative to democracy at its first overseas training school” in Tanzania. CCP’s ostensible aim is “poverty alleviation” and spurring “economic development” by building African leaders. However, behind closed doors, political indoctrination in authoritarianism is going on, with the African leaders being told by their Chinese teachers that the ruling party—the One Party—is supreme and the government comes below it, say the two news outlets.
China’s “capture” of Africa, the poorest continent in the world, is reaching humungous proportions. It’s not just about building infrastructure or logistics bases as part of the Belt And Road Initiative, or about China’s foray into Africa’s energy sector to feed the Mainland’s own energy demand. It also has a strong military component, with the naval base at Djibouti on Africa’s eastern coast posing a direct threat to India. China is selling everything to Africa—from the “Chinese dream” to vaccines and arms, and is thus pushing them towards a debt trap from where there is no return. In contrast, India has a “softer” presence in Africa, with four pillars determining its relationship with the African nations—development partnership assistance and capacity building; trade and investment; defence and maritime security; and people to people ties. India’s outreach to Africa is people oriented and is in keeping with its policy of extending a genuine helping hand to those in need. According to a July 2023 Bloomberg report, 42 African nations received US$32 billion as credit line from India in the last one decade; apart from 195 project-based credit lines worth $12 billion. While this may seem minuscule compared to China’s pledge of US$134.6 billion in 10 years, but on the ground, India’s contribution is helping deepen valuable partnership with this continent and most importantly, showing an alternate path towards development, where a “poor” country can alleviate poverty without losing its democratic values.
Looking at it from the perspective of the broader Global South, India is the beacon of light for these countries, not China. Lest we forget Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape’s words to Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the latter visited that country earlier this year: “You are the voice that can offer our issues at the highest as advanced economies discuss matters relating to economy, commerce, trade and geopolitics… We are victims of global powerplay… You are the leader of Global South.” This is why India should not ever leave a platform where the Chinese are also there, because fundamentally it’s about India being the shining example to the Global South of people-centric governance despite all odds, while the Chinese communists are all about the onslaught of authoritarianism. India cannot allow the CCP to reshape the Global South in its own image.