News Update

G20 Summit: New Delhi deserves a chortle! Mwahahaha!

TIOL - COB( WEB) - 885
SEPTEMBER 14, 2023

By Shailendra Kumar, Founder Editor

NOTWITHSTANDING the lengthening silhouette of geopolitical fissures, New Delhi pulled it off like an accustomed swashbuckler! The rainbow-coloured gyrating lights adorning the venue of 18th G20 Summit, the Bharat Mandapam, have been switched off but not the 'flames of joy and contentment' in the hearts of Raisina Hills heavyweights! The biggest geopolitical event ever hosted by India ended, adding several ounces to New Delhi's diplomatic heft on the world stage! The global leaders flew back, frozen in awe and wow of New Delhi's rich culture-tinged hospitality, prosperity of diversity and India's ability to handle over 30 heads of States and Governments and over 15 heads of international organisations. Their visceral fear of lingering mess as New Delhi was a first-timer for such an event, melted as soon as they landed and were meticulously valeted to their accommodations and briefed in details about the divergent views and the need for one voice! Prime Minister Narendra Modi took extra bout of pain to meet most of them prior to the event and cajoled them to travel to the convergence thresholds on pending geo-economic issues.

Prior to the D-day, most global think-tanks and also the diplomatic community across the world were of the view that New Delhi was chasing a mirage to come out with an official joint communique! Their perceptions were moulded by the on-going Russia-Ukraine war; Sino-American trade skirmishes and finally, the decision of the Chinese President to 'rabbit away' from New Delhi Summit. Failure at Bali Summit last year to forge consensus was another emblematic piece of evidence which did not favour New Delhi! But they indeed misjudged New Delhi's ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the mercurial geopolitical canvas! And the rabbit sprang out at the global media briefing session when the toothsome 'Foursome' - the Union Finance Minister, the External Affairs Minister, the G20 Sherpa and the External Affairs Secretary, unfurled the 'New Delhi Leaders' Declaration' - 83 paras with 100 % consensus without a single dissenting note! W(B)idened eyes and raised eyebrows greeted the announcement on the first day itself - mesmerised and awe-struck!

The Western media, a prisoner of prejudices and stale perceptions about India, never expected New Delhi to bridge deep canyons of differences among the sparring blocs and broker consensus with unmatched alacrity even before the event was concluded! The most arduous challenge before New Delhi was not to let some leaders, tethered to the weight of the past, Ukrainize the agenda and spoil the broth! And it got tacit support of the US to water down the language on Ukraine. America knew that a failed G20 Summit like the Bali one would be construed as a win for China at India's expense! And the trio of South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia, indeed efficiently embodied the role of a solid bridge builder to calm down febrile geopolitical 'guerrilla'! And finally, the adroit phrasing of the para on the Russian invasion which had ruffled many Western feathers, mollified them as well as Russia and China on the other side of the fence, to such an extent that they were left with only head-nodding choice! The Joint Declaration put the world at its wit's end! A case of stunning diplomatic amazeballs!

Here, it may not be wrong to say that China has been beaten in its own game! How? Mr Xi Jinping has surreptitiously been working to lift the heft of BRICS by offering membership to Global South countries which have sworn their fealty to his 'red bloc'. His intent is to raise the geopolitical stature of BRICS to such a level that it transforms into a decent comparable to G20 and plays a critical role in expanding its fief in the emerging international order! However, by roping in the African Union, India has beaten China by proving its kick-ass leadership. Secondly, India did not disappoint the G-7 which has been backing it as a counter-weight to China on the world stage! Thirdly, a master-stroke came when the announcement was made about India, Middle East, Israel and Europe Economic Corridor - multinational rail and shipping project. It has the backing of the US too. The participating nations also intend to lay pipelines for clean hydrogen export and cables for electricity and digital connectivity. This project is meant to challenge China's ballyhooed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which stands exposed in many countries for its hidden agenda. The latest to abandon the on-going project is Italy. As soon as the Italian Prime Minister reached home from New Delhi, she made her decision public - may be seen as a slap on the face of angst-ridden Mr Jinping!

The New Delhi Declaration was in tune with the seminal nature of G20 - fundamentally, an economic forum! It was set up to deal with economic challenges of the world, which have now embraced climate change financing and Artificial Intelligence governance framework issues to its core. In the past one year, these issues have gone through the gyre of gene-editing to acquire traces of geopolitical rivalry also. Going by a number of fiscal, economic and financial decisions one may dub the New Delhi Summit as overwhelmingly runaway success but, in my eyes, such success is like showing red cape to the fuming dragon! In all respects, more than economic, it would have serious but pleasing geopolitical ramifications for India! How? In the fast-transforming multi-polar world, both India and China have been rubbing shoulders to lead the Global South. Interestingly, even the West is toiling hard to impress a number of countries from the Global South on various geopolitical issues. Though China may think that it scored over India at the BRICS Summit of ultimo but India had an ace up its sleeve! And it came out when the G20 leaders unanimously endorsed its proposal to induct African Union of 55 countries as its 21st Member like the EU. Indian diplomats did arduous legwork to convince G7 bloc and finally managed to offer permanent seat at New Delhi. Such a generous gesture along with invitation to heads of several AU countries as guest invitees would go a long way in earning trust of the mineral-rich but debt-burdened African countries. India has shown to the nations from Global South that it alone can be a reliable and dependable bridge between the West and the rest!

So far as the problems of Least Developed Countries are concerned, India has become their voice and got some relief for them. At the Summit, New Delhi persuaded the Western Bloc and the multilateral bodies to grant relief to prune debt-servicing burden for several African countries like Ghana and Ethiopia. Apart from public debts, India took up the cudgels on their behalf for climate change financing as poor Global South countries have been paying back-breaking prices due to abnormal change in weather patterns despite low-carbon emissions by them. With the rich countries agreeing to top up Paris Fund with USD 100 bn from this year, it is expected that many LDCs, including emerging economies like Indonesia (USD 21.5 bn sum is almost at its door for substituting coal-use) would immensely benefit. In simple words, India has proven by a flurry of actions that it can provide well-meaning leadership to the Global South unlike China which has given loans at extortionate interest rates and African countries have failed to service them. China has also put spoke in the wheel when IMF agreed to provide financial support provided such money was not diverted to China for debt-servicing. The Chinese game-plan to trap poor countries into deep trenches of expensive borrowings has exposed its greed to take over their rich mines in lieu of their inability to repay loans! What may further irk China against India is its initiative to work for the interests of the African continent which Mr Xi Jinping deems as his natural turf of influence. Similarly, China treats Latin American countries as its patented canvas of tutelage!

Besides the diplomatic coup at the Summit, New Delhi also benefited by inking several deals with the US which has been trying hard to pull India closer to the Western bloc. As soon as the US President landed in New Delhi, he joined the dinner hosted by the Prime Minister Modi at his official residence. Later both the countries pledged cooperation in several areas such as trade, communications, nuclear, science, space exploration and defence. India has requested for supply of 31 MA-9B drones and is keen to licence-build GE F-414 engines for use in locally developed Tejas fighter aircraft. The American President also lent his weight of gold behind India's claim for a permanent seat at the UNSC. Given that one of the P5 members is in the fray against India, how such backing by other countries of P5 would fructify is a question which needs to wait for an answer in the future reform of the UN! In a nutshell, the hardwork put in by a large team of PMO, MEA, MoC and MoF officials have paid rich dividends if one goes by the comment of a prominent opposition leader, Mr Shashi Tharoor, who hailed the diplomatic triumph of New Delhi! Ace! The 'Team India' indeed deserves recess for a 'family photo' like that of the G20 leaders! Time to pat one's own back! Mwahahaha!


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