There are few predictions one can make with confidence regarding the situation in Ukraine. But here is one: Russia’s fellow BRICs (Brazil, India and China) will have absolutely no influence over any diplomatic solution.
The BRIC nations were never meant to become important diplomatic players – they were, remember, a loose collection of economies that for a short period of time were all recording impressive growth, nothing more. But then they began to have their own summits and were promoted as part of, for want of a better phrase, a “new world order”.
For the two democracies within the group, Brazil and India, there was something to celebrate here. Alongside Mexico and Turkey, two nations which they have far more in common with, there was the possibility that after two decades of western diplomatic dominance a rival voice would emerge. Brazil, highly critical of western action in Libya, made a strong intellectual case for respect for human rights being linked to respect for sovereignty.
But while criticising the US came rather easily, these brave defenders of sovereignty struggled to find their voice when Russia carved out a portion of Crimea. When the United Nations General Assembly voted to support Ukraine’s sovereignty Brazil failed to join the 100 nations in favour. They, like India, chose to abstain. One imagines that if the US had annexed a part of Mexico, Brasília would not have sat quietly on the fence.
India, too, has been silent. So much so, that we rarely even wonder what the world’s largest democracy thinks about the pressing international issues of our time. While reporters scramble to hear the latest press conference from John Kerry or William Hague, few would make a similar effort to get the views of India’s external affairs minister, Salman Khurshid, a man so well known around the world that you’re not entirely sure if I’ve just made him up.
That India, currently in the midst of a fascinating election, has so little to say about the world around them is a huge missed opportunity. We need India to be as involved as Turkey; just as we need Brazil to continue to provide an alternative voice even when the US is not the supposed villain. Not just to show that this is not “the West” versus Russia but to help to shape the debate, to provide a different view, one that comes from a democracy.
India will have a new foreign minster next month. Let’s hope it’s worth learning his name.
Steve Bloomfield is foreign editor for Monocle.