By Haider Abbas
The G-20 Summit is to be hosted under the Presidentship of India this year and its Anti-Corruption Working Group Meeting as part of G-20 Summit from March 1 to 4 is right now underway in New Delhi. It is one of the most powerful group in the world which plays a pivotal role in international financial Stability, environment changes, greenhouse gas emissions and for sustainable development. But, the unexpected has happened. Japan and South Korea, very powerful nations have opted out of it and instead China, another unexpected, is set to join it. The reason primarily is the on-going Russia Ukraine war!
This major change into geo-politics came, as Japan and South Korea, both great allies of US, have found that during the entire last year of the Russia-Ukraine war, India has not as yet condemned Russia. Instead India made the best use of it as Russia supplied heavily subsidized oil to India. The Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayash and South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, therefore, have decided to give a skip to G-20 Summit. Russia and China, on the contrary have reportedly made to it. What however has baffled the analysts more is that the Foreign Minister of China Qin Gang has given accent to his presence!
It may be mentioned that Qin Gang has only recently assumed his office, and yet China is to send him, despite the fact that in recent past China has only ‘virtually’ joined the meetings of ‘such-importance’, or else had sent any low-ranking officials, but this time Qin Gang is to personally attend, shows the importance China attaches to the event. As understood China has also refused to condemn Russia on the on-going war, reported BBC 1, three days before its diplomat was to embark on his journey to New Delhi. India, therefore is now almost sandwiched between ‘balancing’ its geo-strategy pertaining to US, Japan and European Union on one side and Russia on the other side.
The absence of Japan is may be the signal that QUAD, a Japanese initiative which includes India, US and Australia, a conglomerate against China, may get-broken, but it is quite premature to conclude for it right now. But, the faultlines within G-20, which had started to begin after Russia had retaken Crimea (2014), are now getting more visible after the Russia-Ukraine war. Perhaps, this present meeting of G-20 is also likely to remain inconclusive on ‘condemning’ Russia over the war on Ukraine-all due to the robust presence of China. It may therefore, in the same context, be understood that China, as a part of ‘shield’ to Russia had decided to participate in the summit. Will G-20 put sanctions on Russia after US, EU have all done so? Perhaps not. US and EU have put extremely harsh economic sanctions on Russia and have provided billions of USD humanitarian and military aid apart from military weaponry to Ukraine against Russia.
It may be interesting to note that once the G-8 is now G-7 as Russia has been ousted from the group which included Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US. The next big question which stares over the fate of G-20 is also as to how G-20 situates to the Russia-Ukraine war, as all the G-7 nations are a part of G-20 too! But China is not what it will let do. Russia, had sensed it well and has gone on record to accuse G-20 to have destabilized the talks in India, reported News18 2 on February 25. As expected there were angry exchanges during the summit as BBC 3 reported that the US secretary of state said the meeting had been marred by Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified war”. Russia’s foreign minister accused the West of “blackmail and threats”. While, India had wanted to focus on other issues affecting developing nations, but it said the differences over Ukraine “could not be reconciled”. “We tried, but the gap between the countries was too much,” India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar said.’ The outcome of G-20 meeting, therefore was a foregone conclusion, as the Finance Ministers of G-20 nations meeting on February 26, had both Russia and China block the standard communiqué, informed TOI 4. It used a footnote “agreed to by all member-countries except Russia and China”. G-20 could not dare condemn Russia.
But India had to withstand the pressure from the whole West as West priority is only Russia and there is no denying the fact that had the war not started, NATO and EU were to have landed on the very doorstep of Russia via Ukraine. France had gone to the extent to accuse India of ‘going-soft’ on Russia and wanted strong criticism of Russia, told Money Control 5. The Finance Ministers could not yield any result and the same suit is set to be followed by the Foreign Ministers too, with Japan and South Korea, having walked-off from it, therefore, the same pattern is to exist, with India to just remain as an onlooker.
India on its part took to its diplomacy and had decided to not to use the word ‘war’ in context to Russia and Ukraine and instead use ‘challenge’ or ‘crisis’, highlighted South China Morning Post 6 that Indian delegates repeatedly (had) tried to get finance ministers of the Group of 20 to call the war a ‘challenge’ or ‘crisis’. India treaded a very cautious line as India faces an uphill challenge from China in the Himalayas and pins its desperate hope on US to counter China, and therefore, also cannot afford to antagonize Russia as well.
The war has entered into its second year and as yet India has maintained an equal-balance between US and Russia, despite now being almost in US block, but in case a conflict arises between India and China, how Russia is to situate is what counts the most. It will be worthy to mention, that on the very onset of the war, China and Russia, during the Beijing Winter Olympics (February 2022) had decided to fight-war-each other’s wars.
But, now what the geo-politics clearly suggest is that there is no room left for any doubt that China and Russia and into-together to challenge the unipolar monopoly of US in the whole world.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.