Beijing’s outreach to the Global South is driven by ulterior motives and strategic agendas.
While China is busy courting developing countries with its focus on sending billions of dollars to poor nations in what is known as its “debt-trap trick”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has presented India as a different kind of leader of the “Global South” by setting the narrative of “development, self-reliance and autonomy” for the diverse group of 130-odd countries. PM Modi’s focus on “development priorities” of these countries at the second “Voice of Global South Summit” hosted by India virtually on Friday further cemented New Delhi’s position as a responsible voice and leader of the group which encapsulates two-thirds of the world’s population, and covers Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Latin America and the Caribbean. He gave substantial ground for the countries of the Global South to rally behind India in the on-going march towards the goals of development and self-reliance.
There was a clear signal for a belligerent China even as PM Modi said “the message from the summit is that the Global South wants its autonomy and it is ready to take big responsibilities in world affairs.” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also took a veiled swipe at China, saying that the Global South should focus on self-reliance by diversifying production, building reliable supply chains and promoting local solutions to overcome perils of dependence on far away geographies.
The second virtual summit of the developing countries ended up with India reaffirming the fact that it is better positioned than China to lead the Global South efficiently and effectively. In fact, China has been increasingly positioning itself as leader of this group, but it has always betrayed the fact that Beijing’s outreach to the Global South is driven by ulterior motives and strategic agendas. China is also sparing no effort to prevent India from assuming the leadership role in the Global South.
On the contrary, India views the Global South as a group of countries having shared interests. New Delhi has always shown interest in bridging the gap between the Global North and Global South.
Diplomatic sources told The Sunday Guardian that PM Modi is keen to maintain the “massive momentum” that India has been able to achieve so far in playing a leadership role in the Global South. PM Modi’s announcement to “start an annual international conference in India from next year focusing on the development priorities of the Global South” is being seen as part of New Delhi’s strategy to ensure frequent and wider outreach to and engagement with the developing countries. The development problems will be addressed through consultation and shared vision at such annual conferences. India is aware that the Global South countries are lacking in development and many of them are getting poorer with the passage of time, said a diplomat, adding, “This is where China comes into the picture. It lays debt trap which becomes unavoidable for the economically weaker nations.” The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the only solution that China presents to the Global South, which has turned out to be a disastrous financial weapon wreaking havoc in small countries. In this context, PM Modi significantly said that “the main objective of the annual international conference will be to identify practical solutions to the development problems of the Global South”. In what highlights India’s strategy to continue to be a strong voice of the Global South, New Delhi has held two summits of the group within a year. Apart from this, participation of a large number of leaders from 130 nations in these summits has sent out a greater message to the world. That the Global South wants its voice in global governance is a strong and meaningful message that PM Modi sent out to the Western and powerful countries including the US and European nations.
Diplomats recall the speech of Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea at the Forum of India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FPIC) in May 2023 during which he had described PM Modi as “the leader of the Global South, urging India to be an “advocate” of the country. He had also said that the Pacific Island nations would rally behind India’s leadership at global forums. The developing nations appreciate PM Modi’s efforts to amplify the voice of the Global South at various forums. India put the voice of the Global South on the agenda in an important forum like G20. PM Modi is making sure that the echo of the voice raised at the G20 continues to be heard on other global forums. Scores of nations are appreciating India’s efforts to help them address the problems and challenges at various levels. According to sources, leaders of more and more countries in the Global South are personally expressing gratitude to PM Modi for helping their nations during the crisis. PM Modi’s overall sincere approach to the problems facing these countries has been admired by them, sources said.
“Everyone’s support and everyone’s development is necessary for global prosperity, but we are all seeing that new challenges are emerging from events in the West Asia region. India has condemned the heinous terrorist attack in Israel on 7 October, and along with restraint, has emphasised on dialogue and diplomacy…it is time that the countries of the Global South speak with one voice for the greater global good.” “These words from PM Modi at the Voice of Global South summit were soothing for all the countries of the group,” said diplomats. It also shows India’s mature approach to global problems. Throughout its G20 Presidency, India has worked to ensure that the concerns of the Global South receive due cognizance and that the priorities of the Global South were duly factored in finding solutions to the most pressing global challenges, the Ministry of External Affairs said. India has always walked the talk when it comes to raising the issues of the Global South, said Jaishankar in a message to the countries of the group. “So how has India walked the talk, when it comes to the Global South? Stress situations normally provide a good indicator of intent and behaviour. During Covid (pandemic), Made-in-India vaccines were sent to about 100 countries. And about 150 nations imported medicines during this period from the Pharmacy of the World,” EAM Jaishankar had said while detailing how India worked to advance the cause of the Global South.