When was the last time you heard Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa taking the west by surprise as in one entity? It is hard to remember. Even when we are witnessing an obstreperous rise of news and information mechanisms, a coherent narrative on any global issue has been missing from these nations. In a world that is dominated by US led institutions, BRICS was seen as a challenge to the US-UK condominium. This collaboration was also significant because it involved Asia's two regional powers which are known in the world for their stable economic growth. India and China along with Brazil, Russia and South Africa account for 40% of the world population. Their collective GDP is more than 30% which makes then inevitable players in international politics.
In recent years each member of BRICS has shown propitious signs of growth as well as proximity to the superpowers. For example, China is working towards forging better ties with US. India is attempting to be noticed, notified and narrated from a fresh perspective. South Africa and Brazil in spite of challenges ranging from corruption to fissile politics are gaining momentum. Russia on the other hand found itself isolated in the wake of alleged spy poising in London, however, after a knee-jerk reaction and tit for tat diplomacy –where it expelled the same number of foreign officials as UK and US- caved in to the pressure and offered a peaceful dialogue. In short, all these nations have shown willingness to engage with the world. This is where it becomes interesting.
Among all these nations, India is arguably the only nation with huge diversity, vibrant democracy with occasionally playing hide and seek with development. In Narendra Modi, India has a leader who has attempted to galvanise the Indian community abroad and send a message of openness to the world. He is a leader who is ahead in the competition when it comes to communication and therefore it could be a golden hour for India! However, his credibility as a leader is also questioned by many in light of the ghastly killings of people in the name of eating beef. Sheer wanton vandalism has been displayed in the name of religion. Though the Prime Minister has never condoned any such incident, his fraught silence has put his party in parlous position.
The question here is the credibility of BRICS with a country like India which has been considered a model for many developing countries especially those who were or are struggling to build a nation after achieving freedom from colonial masters. Can Narendra Modi be THE leader of BRICS? One might argue about Xi Jinping being the leader of a more powerful country. Not to forget that the blanket of secrecy in and around China makes many weary about it. Putin, is a strong leader but anyone who followed the recent elections in Russia would not find it difficult to place Indian system above Russia. Brazil and South Africa lack a leader who could claim to be a mass leader. That leaves us with Modi who has the experience of running a state government and flamboyant diplomacy. I mean who can forget his 'Main Aur Barack Aksar Ye Baatein Karte Hain' style of engagmement!
In the last three years, Prime Minister Modi despite addressing the world in a series of operatic events has not been able to maintain a clean and powerful image of India. Global media is agog with stories of lowest human denominations in India. Rape to lynching to murders of those who have been vocal against him or his party has grabbed the international attention. So, what is going to happen? Modi, still has a year and half before being throwing himself into a test of 'Acche Din'. Will he stand on the global stage in the next summit in South Africa and blow the whistle of leadership or at least insinuate that 'we are coming'. Would he go the route of self assessment and acknowledge the shortcomings thereby elevating both his individual and country's position in BRICS or would prefer to be flattered by adulation, time will tell.