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India stands up to Xi’s bluster

opinionEditorialIndia stands up to Xi’s bluster

The year 2023 will be a special period in the roster of G20 annual meetings. It is the year after the members of NATO became engaged in a proxy battle with the Russian Federation, so far in Ukrainian territory. It is the year that followed the “informal” distribution of a set of maps in the Samarkand summit of the SCO during 15-17 September 2022 by the Chinese delegation. The maps were inaccurate, to say the least, as it showed vast tracts of sea and land territory as belonging to other countries but which the cartographers labelled as Chinese. The international institution that was given the task after World War II to keep the peace globally was fractured, as its permanent members were divided into Russia and China on one side and the US, Britain and France on the other. It was only at the last moment that a sufficiently anodyne agreed statement was presented to the world by all the members of the G20. If 2022 was difficult, it was clear that 2023 would be even more challenging. Rather than walk away from the challenge by consigning the rotating chairmanship of the G20 to an insignificant space, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided on the opposite course. The group would get a makeover and be placed in a much higher orbit in the world of international diplomacy than it ever had been before. There would be explosions all around, and many minefields to traverse, but India would wade through them and brave the fire. The country would showcase the concerns of the Global South in a manner not witnessed before within the G20. What this writer christened the G200 (standing for the group of 200 members of the Global South) would be given a seat at the table each time there was a meeting during the Indian presidency, and there were an unprecedented number of meetings. In each, task forces set to work in order to come up with diagnoses and solutions to the problems facing the world, and by the time the 2023 Summit takes place in Delhi, each of them would have cogitated and come up with reports that would be of immense value to those policymakers seriously rather than superficially concerned about the state of the world.

More than 95% of the work of the task forces set up under the Indian presidency is complete, which means that the leaders gathering in Delhi will have a full menu of options to consider in their deliberations. For too long, the G20 was a talking shop, a sideshow that featured indifferent international theatre. All that changed in 2023. Next year, it is certain that Brazil will enthusiastically take up the baton given to South America’s largest country by India, the world’s most populous country, and thereby ensure that the G20 remain on the elevated trajectory that it has been placed in durinG2023. Of course, there are those who seek to ensure that any peer country is seen to be less than successful, and that appears to be China’s dynamic with India where the 2023 G20 is concerned. This would surely have been anticipated by Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and shock absorbers created to offset the effect of any of the “shocks” to the 2023 G20 Summit that CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping was likely to attempt. In case reports that Xi is skipping the 9-10 September Summit are accurate, it would be out of frustration that thus far, the proceedings of the G20 have gone well. Xi’s absence would indicate in a way few other actions can that he is not sincere in his protestations about boosting the prospects of the Global South. After all, the concerns of the Global South are at the centre of the deliberations thus far of the different mechanisms of the G20. Vladimir Putin showed grace and regard for India by not attending. Were he not to attend the Summit, Xi would demonstrate a lack of grace as well as make public his dislike of the world’s most populous democracy, indeed the most populous country in the world. Prime Minister Modi will continue on the path he has mapped out, flagging the concerns of the Global South in particular and the need for the G20 to work harder at making the world a better place. Not every leader of a big country sees life in Zero Sum terms in the manner that Xi Jinping quite clearly seems to. Given the strong foundation that has been built over the past nine months, what is certain is that the 2023 G20 Summit will be a success. That would be a victory for the entire Global South, in the way that the Chandrayaan-3 landing has been


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