BRICS countries have come together to form a powerful economic bloc that aims to increase cooperation in trade, investment, and other areas. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Delhi: Nineteen countries expressed an interest in joining the BRICS group of nations as it prepares to hold an annual summit in South Africa.

The emerging-markets bloc of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will meet in Cape Town on June 2-3 to discuss its enlargement, Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s ambassador to the group, said in an interview in the city on Monday.

“What will be discussed is the expansion of BRICS and the modalities of how this will happen,” he said. “Thirteen countries have formally asked to join and another six have asked informally. We are getting applications to join every day.”

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China initiated the conversation about expansion when it was BRICS chair last year, as the world’s second-biggest economy tries to build diplomatic clout to counter the dominance of developed countries in the United Nations. The proposed enlargement triggered concern among other members that their influence will be diluted, especially if Beijing’s close allies are admitted. China’s gross domestic product is more than twice the size of all four other BRICS members combined.

The foreign ministers from the five member states have all confirmed they’ll attend the discussions in June, Sooklal said. In addition to its membership, they will also discuss “hot spots” including Sudan, where a cease-fire appeared to take hold on Tuesday after 10 days of conflict.

Since its formation as the BRIC in 2006, the group has only added one new member - South Africa in 2010.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the countries who’ve formally asked to join, Sooklal said in February. Other countries that have expressed interest in joining include Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain and Indonesia, along with two nations from East Africa and one from West Africa - which he didn’t identify.