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Defending the IBSA Model

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April 30, 2013

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In an article for the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan—a senior advisor at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author in the upcoming issue of Americas Quarterly—writes about the future of IBSA, the three-country coalition of India, Brazil and South Africa. As the three countries celebrate the IBSA Dialogue Forum’s 10th anniversary in New Delhi this June, Kurtz-Phelan argues that common democratic values and development experiences may give IBSA more staying power than the larger BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China,  and South Africa)—if IBSA members can overcome their own challenges at home.

A longer version of this article will appear in the Spring 2013 issue of Americas Quarterly.

Defending the IBSA Model

By: Daniel Kurtz-Phelan

In 2003, Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva found himself with his counterparts from India and South Africa on the sidelines of a G-8 Summit in France. They had been invited to the summit as observers but the invitation served mostly to underscore a common frustration. “What is the use of being invited for dessert at the banquet of the powerful?” as Lula later put it. “We do not want to participate only to eat the dessert; we want to eat the main course, dessert and then coffee.”

This coming June, the leaders of the three countries will meet in New Delhi to mark the 10th anniversary of the IBSA Dialogue Forum (for India, Brazil and South Africa), a group created to address that frustration years before the Brics had become anything more than a catchy acronym. In 10 years of existence, IBSA has spawned dozens of MOUs and working groups, launched joint development projects and diplomatic missions, made the expected grand proclamations about a new global order, and gotten its leaders and foreign ministers together at more or less regular intervals (no small accomplishment).

But the New Delhi summit is unlikely to generate the kind of effusive headlines that attended last month’s meeting of the Brics in Durban. If anything, most observers seem to expect that – given the overlapping membership and the economic and geopolitical weight brought by China and Russia – the Brics will eventually make IBSA just one more failed multinational body on the ash heap of history.

Yet, as I argue in a forthcoming issue of Americas Quarterly, there is plenty of reason why IBSA is likely to survive – and may have more staying power, even without the heft. For one thing, its members see real value in a grouping that provides some distance from the behemoth of the Brics. Chinese commercial and investment practices have become domestic political issues in all three countries. India has regional tensions with China.

Read the rest of the article here.

A longer version of this article will appear in the Spring 2013 issue of Americas Quarterly, “Latin America Goes Global.”




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