April 18, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

G20 brings India-US closer, as China boycotts the meet

The Nepal Weekly
September 12, 2023

President Xi Jinping’s decision to stay away from the Group of 20 summit may have been intended to deny India its moment. Instead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi — along with the U.S. and Europe — figured out how effectively they can counter China on the international arena.

Fellow G20 nations hailed India’s success in reaching agreement on a joint communiqué that remained in doubt just days before world leaders met in New Delhi for their most significant annual diplomatic show. Apart from finding consensus on Russia’s war in Ukraine, the most difficult issue, they also elevated the African Union as a full G20 member and took action on issues like climate change and debt sustainability that got priorities of emerging markets.

The final outcome irked Ukraine, which saw the compromise on war language as weaker than what leaders produced just 10 months ago in Bali, Indonesia. But for the U.S. and its allies, criticism of a communiqué that on substance was similar to Bali and has little impact on the ground is a small price to pay for giving Modi a win that bolsters India’s status as a rising power capable of countering China’s global influence.

U.S. President Joe Biden led the charge, seeing in India his administration’s best hope of isolating China and Russia — and providing a booster shot to the U.S.-led world order. The result showed that Washington is finally learning the language of the so-called Global South, with India as its main guide.

 “Some commentators pointed to watered-down language on Russia-Ukraine as a sign of Western ‘climbdown,’” said Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But there’s another way of looking at it: The West is also invested in making sure India got a win. A lack of consensus would have been a huge disappointment for India.”

If there was a moment that illustrated the summit dynamics, it was Biden’s meeting on Saturday to discuss White House-led efforts to deliver more financing to developing countries.

Along with World Bank President Ajay Banga, the first Indian American to hold the role, Biden was snapped with Modi, Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa — key members of the BRICS grouping, minus China and Russia. That bloc expanded earlier this month, posing a challenge for the Group of Seven advanced economies.

U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer swiped at China by referring to those nations as “the three democratic members of the BRICS,” saying they and the U.S. were all committed to the G20’s success. “And if China is not, that’s unfortunate for everyone,” Finer said. “But much more unfortunate, we believe, for China.”

Without stopping there the U.S. separately announced a deal with India, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries to develop an ambitious rail and maritime network across the region. Biden hailed it as a “game-changing regional investment,” cementing the deal with a three-way handshake that included Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the U.S. president had cast as a “pariah” ahead of the last US election.

That kind of pronouncement is more likely to appeal to Middle East interests than badgering over human rights, even if the project’s time line and funding remains vague. The U.S. denied it was meant to counter China’s growing influence in the Gulf, but a French official acknowledged it was designed to provide competition for Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying that wasn’t a bad thing.

“I want to see China succeed economically,” Biden told reporters Sunday in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he flew after the G20. “But I want to see them succeed by the rules.”