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Brics best friends mull making new ones

By Samantha Granville, BBC News, Johannesburg

Smiles, hugs, and waves. If there was an unintentional theme to day two of the Brics summit it was friendship. Making new friends, and keeping old ones.

It started off with a red-carpet entrance and a family photo-op for the group leaders before they headed into closed-door meetings for their main topic of discussion: bloc expansion.

While Brics members have all come out in support of growing membership, there are still divisions about how many countries should be allowed to join and how quickly.

Against the backdrop of the Ukraine war, Russian President Vladimir Putin sees Brics membership as a way of showing the West he still has friends.

He did not travel to South Africa because he is wanted under an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, but used a video address to attack Western powers.

“I want to note that it was the desire to maintain their hegemony in the world, the desire of some countries to maintain this hegemony that led to the severe crisis in Ukraine,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping agrees. He called for the acceleration of the expansion of the Brics group: “We should let more countries join the Brics family and pool wisdom to make global governance more fair and reasonable.”

But the more the merrier is not necessarily a good stance for the other three countries to take.

India is in a territorial dispute with China, so it will not want to admit new members that will consistently side with China. At the same time, it wants to maintain ties with the US and Australia so they need to be careful about who they align with.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wants to be friends with everyone. He thinks Brics should be more economic focused rather than a geopolitical force against the West, and spent his public time speaking about a common currency that could be used by Brics countries when trading.

Then last, but not least is South Africa. The newest country to join the friend group. It does not want to rock the boat too much, and wants to stay in the good books of both Western powers and Russia.

More than 20 countries have formally asked to be admitted to the bloc, but they will have to pass the criteria set out to join this friend group.

Let us see who makes the cut on the final day of the summit.

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