HOSTING an international summit in which the world’s leading economic powers are among the participants is no easy task. More importantly, these are countries with strong, and sometimes opposing, viewpoints. India emerged from the G20 summit duly pleased with the results achieved. One had, quite naturally, expected that there would be criticism of the results or the manner in which the summit was conducted. But, apart from continuing criticism in the Chinese media, which kept harping on India’s purported shortcomings, there was widespread international understanding and support for the conduct of and the decisions taken at the New Delhi summit.
China’s much-touted Belt and Road Initiative has only resulted in member countries being unable to repay Chinese loans.
Ukraine’s criticism of the Delhi Declaration with regard to its ongoing conflict with Russia was predictable. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his team devoted considerable time and effort to ensure that the summit resolutions were acceptable to the US, Russia, China and the international community. India’s stand is that solitary, politicised criticism of a participant on sensitive issues achieves nothing. Interestingly, influential and responsible sections of the Pakistan media were also impressed by what transpired in New Delhi. A Karachi-based academic, Dr Moonis Ahmar, observed: “The G20 summit is just one example of India’s success in the last two decades... it has made an indelible mark on the global economy, and in the information technology, education and research sectors. This is the lesson that Pakistan must learn from India instead of looking for the so-called failures of the G20 summit.”
The most controversial issue the summit faced was the Ukraine war, with Russia and China pitted against the Western world. The division between the two sides appeared unbridgeable. It was evident that the Western demand for making Russia eat a humble pie would be rejected by Moscow and Beijing. Moreover, there is logic in Moscow’s claim on access to Crimea, which is located on its southern shores. Crimea was a part of Russia since 1783, when it was annexed by the Tsarist empire. Crimea has historically been the base for Russia’s Southern Naval Fleet. It was transferred to the Soviet republic of Ukraine in 1954, primarily for administrative reasons. Crimea was historically not a part of independent Ukraine. While the Russian claims on Crimea appear justifiable, mutually acceptable arrangements need to be devised on relations between Russian-majority areas of southern Ukraine and the Ukraine Government.
There is obviously no military solution to the territorial issues in southern Ukraine, which need to be resolved by respecting Ukrainian sovereignty, while guaranteeing the rights of the Russian population. Indian diplomats played a key role in devising a consensus on Ukraine. India’s formulation avoided criticism of any party. It called for upholding principles of international humanitarian law, while shunning threats of the use of nuclear weapons. While Ukraine criticised the Indian proposal, which was adopted by the G20 nations, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the Indian resolution took a clear position by asserting that the territorial integrity of countries should not be undermined by a resort to violence. Russia voiced full support for the Indian-formulated resolution, which was also backed by the Biden administration.
One of the most serious repercussions of the Ukraine conflict has been the closure of sea lanes for the supply of vitally needed wheat from Ukraine and Russia, primarily to African countries. As tensions grew, Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal for the safe transport of food and fertilisers. There was a strong call at the summit for the restoration of transport corridors for the supply of wheat to needy countries. One hopes that this call will be respected by Russia and Ukraine. The G20 nations, which account for 85 per cent of the global economy, also firmly asserted that “the use, or threat of using nuclear weapons, is inadmissible.”
G20 summits primarily focus on financial and monetary issues. The Delhi summit, however, went further. The European Union joined Saudi Arabia, the UAE, India, Germany, Italy, France and the US to announce the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). This project is meant to stimulate economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Gulf and Europe. It will include a railway which, on completion, will provide a reliable and cost-effective, cross-border ship-to-rail transit network to supplement existing maritime and road transport routes, enabling goods and services to transit between India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Europe.
Chinese President Xi Jinping chose to absent himself from the Delhi summit, an action widely attributed to his prejudices against India. China’s much-touted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has only resulted in member countries being unable to repay Chinese loans. Virtually all recipients of this Chinese ‘assistance’ have been saddled with unrepayable debts. Recipients of China’s ‘aid’ have found its projects, predominantly involving the construction of uneconomical and scarcely used roads, of little utility.
While the focus has been on India’s relations with the US, inadequate attention has been paid to India’s ties with the Gulf countries, notably the UAE and Saudi Arabia. India’s relations with these countries have been steadily improving. New Delhi has also quietly assisted in dealing with the growing differences across the Indian Ocean with a visit to Saudi Arabia by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his US counterpart Jake Sullivan for restoring cooperation in the Saudi-US relationship. This effort resulted in friendly exchanges between Biden and Crown Prince Salman in New Delhi. Prince Salman had earlier reacted strongly to intemperate comments by Biden.
Delhi’s strategic presence in the Gulf region has also been strengthened by the I2U2 partnership between India, Israel, the UAE and the US. While China has not endeared itself to its partners with its largely failing BRI, the IMEC could have exactly the opposite strategic outcomes for its participants.
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