China has invited Egypt, Kenya, Tajikistan, Mexico, Thailand and Guinea as guest countries for the upcoming BRICS summit but clarified that the invitation is not an attempt to expand the group under its 'BRICS Plus' approach.
China will host the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Xiamen city from 3 to 5 September in which leaders of the five countries will participate, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
China reportedly had to abort its attempt to create a permanent BRICS Plus after resistance from the other members of the bloc, including India, who apprehend a dilution of BRICS's goals if other counties, including Beijing's close allies, are brought in.
Interestingly, Pakistan, regarded as China's closest ally, is not among the countries Beijing invited, which represent five different continents and play a key role in China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) programme that involves construction of transport networks across dozens of countries.
"We need to have some further explanation about the BRICS Plus to help people better understand the rationale of this idea," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media in Beijing. Wang has been floating the 'BRICS Plus' approach since March this year.
Explaining this approach, Wang said the member countries have been inviting different countries during the annual summits of the group. He referred to India's decision to invite leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic) initiative - in which Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal are members - for last year's Goa summit.
Wang also referred to Russia, Brazil and South Africa inviting their neighbouring countries when they hosted the BRICS summits. "So actually this has been a practice that we have for number of years and this time, inspired by the experiences of previous BRICS leaders meeting, we have invited some countries for dialogue," he said.
Referring to the Goa summit, Wang said Chinese President Xi Jinping also attended the dialogue with BIMSTEC leaders and respected and supported the initiative of Prime Minister Modi.
"That dialogue was very effective," he said, replying to a question seeking explanation about China's 'BRICS Plus' concept and whether it has support of all other members, as the bloc takes decisions on consensus.
"Our practice is little bit different, we are not just inviting countries in our neighbourhood, but also countries from all around the world that are interested in BRICS mechanism, altogether five countries have been invited," he said.
"I want to stress that this is the arrangement for this year, and doesn't mean that these five countries will always be invited to BRICS meetings in future," he said.
China's invitation to the five countries has been supported by the leaders of the four other countries including India, Wang said.
"We have given a name to this practice of inviting non-BRICS countries, that is BRICS Plus, but as to how many countries that are going to be invited as Plus countries, it is not a fixed number," he said.
The guest countries will be decided by the host country, he said, adding that BRICS Plus acts with the aim and purpose of the dialogue which is consistent. "We want to broaden the discussion to non-BRICS countries as well. I am confident that the dialogue this year will also be a success and also help expand BRICS influence. This is not only consistent with the interests of BRICS members but also meets the common aspirations of emerging markets and developing countries," Wang said.
On concerns that only India and China have been registering faster growth in the BRICS bloc while the economies of Russia, Brazil and South Africa remained sluggish, he said their recovery is not easy as the world economic recovery is sluggish and the impact of the international financial crisis is still lingering.
"The five BRICS countries have maintained economic growth to different degrees. You mentioned that China and India are growing relatively faster than the rest three countries. They actually have recovered growth and enjoy a bright prospect," Wang said.