The BRICS and the challenge of maritime security

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Tomorrow I am heading to New Delhi as part of the Brazilian delegation at the BRICS Academic Forum (the track II meeting of the 4th BRICS Summit). Over the past weeks, a lot of analysts have predicted that the summit will focus on economic issues - yet I believe it is important to point out that the BRICS have significant potential in the security realm as well, and more needs to be done to explore this issue. 

As the global center of power is shifting towards the Indian and Pacific Ocean, and the need to import energy increases for both India and China, topics such as collective security of the seas will play an ever more important role in the debate about international security. A framework needs to be worked out to manage both oceans. The BRICS members have coastlines with the Atlantic Ocean (South Africa and Brazil), the Indian Ocean (India and South Africa), the Pacific (China and Russia) and the Arctic Ocean (Russia), and they are thus bound to play a key role in the governance of the seas. Both the Chinese and Indian navy are increasingly able to project their power outside of their respective oceans. Brazil is interested in defining a South Atlantic Security Space, it has defined Africa as a strategic priority, and it is developing a fleet of nuclear powered submarines. As ever larger ships can no longer pass the Suez Canal, we will see a revival of the Cape of Good Hope route, which could be controlled by Brazil and South Africa, but at this point the two still lack the capacity to play this role.

At the same time, piracy has turned into a global problem that requires a concerted effort. Drug trafficking along the African coast is set to increase. Guinea Bissau runs the risk of becoming a narco-state, and other failed states similar to Somalia may arise. Security has emerged as a topic during IBSA summits (in the context of large scale oil findings in the South Atlantic); yet given the BRICS’ global reach this may be a better forum to develop a viable framework. Rather than turning into a “NATO of the South”, the BRICS outfit could serve as a platform to develop ideas about how to manage these challenges that have appeared on the horizon.

Read also:

Why BRICS Matters

Time to bid farewell to the BRICS? Not so fast.

Strong China-India relations key to successful BRICS Summit

Book review: “Brazil, the BRICS and the International Agenda”

Photo credit: Kremlin