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G20India’s G20 Summit was a big success for Modi’s Electoral Prospects

India’s G20 Summit was a big success for Modi’s Electoral Prospects

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Delhi Declaration Manages to please both Russia-China, US-led West

By Annie Domini

In hindsight, the New Delhi summit of countries under India's presidency, from September 8 to 10, could be seen as a one-size-fit-all type of clothing, which wrapped around deep differences of rival geopolitical blocs, primarily led by the United States on the one hand, and China-Russia on the other. India is increasingly situating itself as a bridge country that's a conciliatory link nation between choppy waters of relations, and it has indeed managed to give the otherwise moribund G20 grouping a decent facelift under its presidency.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with his penchant for extravagant event management, the rotational G20 presidency had been turned into a vehicle for the ruling party's nonstop propaganda, an excuse to project him as the “Vishwaguru”. The G20 logo carrying the lotus symbol, synonymous with his party, the BJP, as well as Narendra Modi's face on massive hoardings and billboards dotting every street in Delhi and other Indian cities — were already preparing the average Indian for a blitzkrieg of G20 advertising. Eventually, central Delhi was barricaded and forced into a quasi-lockdown, its homeless evicted, slums demolished, strays locked up and the poor forced behind absurd green screens, to sanitise the area for its global glory.

Nevertheless, the G20 summit became notable for both the presences as well as conspicuous absences. US president Joe Biden, clearly the most anticipated guest, flew in and rubbed shoulders with Modi and other leaders in several choreographed and photographed events, such as the one at Rajghat paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi. Others like UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waltzed around with his wife Akshata Murthy, taking in the adulation of being ‘India's son-in-law'. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Italy's Georgia Meloni, France's Emmanuel Macron, Australia's Anthony Albanese, European Union chief Ursula Van der Lyon, World Bank's Ajay Banga, IMF's Gita Gopinath, all made their presence felt in various degrees.

On the other hand, Brazil's Lula De Silva, South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman and others tried to make up for two crucial absences — that of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin — both of whom were represented by their deputies, premier Li Qiang and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Importantly, African Union became a permanent member of the G20 grouping, a significant development in sync with the current times of the middle continent asserting itself in global forums.

The Delhi Declaration, which was announced on September 9,turned out to be a laudable diplomatic coup, pleasing everyone in the room, including the presidents of Russia and China. By omitting any reference to Russia and using the phrase “war in Ukraine” instead of either Russia-Ukraine War, or war against Ukraine, the Delhi G20 document signified a key turn in geopolitics, in which the West is clearly winding down its nefarious adventure of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian, while the Global South stands firmly neutral and refuses to condemn Moscow for its stance. Expectedly, the Western media is confused between New Delhi helping out its old friend Moscow, while shaking hands with Washington very publicly.

Moreover, the Delhi Declaration ticked all the boxes of current international discourse, focussing on climate contingencies, peace, stability and security of all nations, strengthening of multilateral platforms by making them more representative, pandemic preparedness, reforming global financial institutions, care, education, skill development and a balanced, sustainable growth, among several others. Many of the points read similar to those in the Johannesburg Declaration of the BRICS XV summit in South Africa, held last month, even though the tone was milder, with all criticism of the West turned into platitudes for more international cooperation and less competition.

The announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic corridor, as its name suggest, is a significant achievement, evidently to counter China's Belt and Road Initiative and its growing hold on West Asia and rest of the world. Backed by the United States, the IMEEC would be one more potential route for India to trade with the Gulf States as well as the West, along with the existing International North-South Transport Corridor between India, Iran and Russia, as well as the Middle Corridor between China-Central Asia-Türkyie (or Georgia/Black Sea)-Europe.

While the sight of Modi, Biden and Crown Prince Bin-Salman made for great photographs, it must be remembered that for this latest trade route to see the light of day, much new infrastructure would need to be built, including putting in freight corridors through the harsh Arabian deserts. Moreover, the route will pass through a number of ports operated by the Chinese in West Asia, with the exception of Haifa in Israel, for which billionaire Gautam Adani, very close to Modi, bought the rights of operation in January of this year for a hefty sum of over a billion US dollars. In addition, the convoluted logistics of the alternative route needs to be ironed out, especially when shorter route through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal already exists, and BRICS's new member, Egypt, mainly controls this indispensable shipping route valve.

Another significant development came on September 8, when the India-US joint statement came on the sidelines of G20. Para 18 of the joint statement has raised eyebrows amongst observers of external affairs as well as among the leaders of opposition, stating: “Both sides recommitted to advancing India's emergence as a hub for the maintenance and repair of forward-deployed U.S. Navy assets and other aircraft and vessels. The leaders also welcomed further commitments from U.S. industry to invest more in India's maintenance, repair, and overhaul capabilities and facilities for aircraft.” Opposition MP Manish Tewari has asked if this could be construed as the beginnings of having US military bases in India, a development that would put a massive question mark over New Delhi's legendary and time-tested neutrality, and certainly make BRICS partners, China and Russia, rather uncomfortable.

However, neither Moscow nor Beijing has yet made much of these details. In fact, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov commended India on a successful G20, saying that New Delhi prevented the West from making G20 about Ukraine, and instead made it about greater bargaining rights for the Global South. Biden, meanwhile, flew to Hanoi for US-Vietnam bilateral summit, where he rued that the Modi administration didn't allow for press conference, although he did mention human rights issues to the Indian Prime Minister. However, the Indian mainstream media would brush it aside, and hail the G20 as historic, which it was in a mellow way of averting major diplomatic confrontations, and politely asking for more representation for the Global South in multilateral forums and financial institutions.

At Rs 4200 crore spent, the New Delhi meet was easily the most expensive G20 summits in years, and all the showbiz was about projecting Modi at the centre of the world stage. Away from the cameras, Manipur is still witnessing ethnic violence, despite the Delhi Declaration's paean to non-discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds, in its para 78. However, none of that matters to Modi, who's now busy repainting India as ‘Bharat', with the nameplates, souvenirs, venues saying ‘Bharat' more prominently than ‘India'. It's a subtle shift geared towards the next general elections, appropriating the language of decolonization to suit narrow the prime minister's Hindu nationalist ideological interests. For Modi, international politics is mostly a longer route for strengthening his home turf. (IPA Service)

 

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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