G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting urged not to be kidnapped by geopolitical rift
‘A test’ for India to play leadership role in multilateral mechanism with more urgent issues needed to be handled
Published: Mar 01, 2023 10:16 PM
Children stand next to the G20 logo after its unveiling in New Delhi, India on December 1, 2022, when India formally took over the Group of 20 presidency from Indonesia. During its presidency, it will hold about 200 meetings in 32 different sectors and on multiple locations across the country in 2023. Photo: AFP

Children stand next to the G20 logo after its unveiling in New Delhi, India. Photo: AFP

India is welcoming representatives of 40 countries including non-G20 members and multilateral organizations from Wednesday to Thursday as the country, with an ambitious G20 agenda, is hoping to play a powerful role as a developing country at the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting. While discussions on Russia-Ukraine military conflict are likely to dominate the event, Chinese experts believe that it's also the time to test whether India could really play a leading role by preventing the multilateral platform designed for economic cooperation from being kidnapped by geopolitical confrontations.  

As one of the most significant G20 meetings, the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting is taking place a few days after a gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 member countries in Bengaluru failed to issue a joint statement due to the US-led West's escalation of tensions with Russia, which also cast a shadow over such multilateral economic cooperation dialogue that should aim to solve urgent issues such as debt problems and climate change, and also facilitate post-pandemic recovery. 

India has been under growing pressure, as some Indian officials were quoted as saying in media reports that the country does not want the Ukraine crisis to dominate the event. As holding this year's G20 presidency, India has been trying to remain neutral on the crisis and some India media said the country is set to make all-out efforts to bring out a joint statement following the crucial meeting. 

"Whether India would successfully host this year's G20 events depends on whether the country will be able to resist the US-led West pressure on dominating the event with geopolitical issues, which will also be a touchstone for G20 as a major platform to discuss the world's economy," Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

A test for India 

The US-led West has been insisting on putting geopolitical and security issues on the G20 agenda, which not only erodes the positioning of the mechanism and spirit of the G20 as a global economic governance platform but also hurts global cooperation to cope with the current challenges, experts said. But given the growing division at the recent G20 meetings, it will be difficult to coordinate positions of different countries at the foreign ministers' gathering, especially amid the Ukraine crisis, they noted. 

Some Western media also called it a test for Indian diplomacy as it's time to see if the country could navigate foreign relations while avoiding rivalries affecting the outcomes of the meeting that senior diplomats such as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang are expected to attend. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday that Foreign Minister Qin Gang will attend the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in New Delhi on March 2 at the invitation of External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar of G20 President India.

During the two-day event, Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and several dignitaries are scheduled to share their perspective on emerging global challenges and international matters. And a dinner was scheduled to be hosted for the Foreign Ministers and Heads of Delegation on Wednesday, according to media reports.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said in the Tuesday briefing that as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, it is important that the G20 focus on the prominent challenges in the global economy and on development and play a bigger role in driving world economic recovery and global development. 

"China stands ready to work with all parties to ensure that the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting will send a positive signal on multilateralism, food and energy security and development cooperation," she said. 

On whether Chinese and Indian foreign ministers will have a positive interaction at the sidelines of the event, some experts said any improvement in China-India relations depends on how the Modi government handles the border dispute issue and whether it will make it a premise for developing bilateral ties. 

China highly values China-India relations, and we believe that maintaining a good relationship between China and India - two civilizations each with a population of over 1 billion people, neighbors and emerging economies - is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their peoples, Mao said on Wednesday at the press briefing. 

A meeting of foreign ministers of the Quad countries is also scheduled to be held on the sidelines of the gathering, according to media reports. Some experts warned that India should not let the US-led West hijack such an event and turn it into a tool of containing China, which will affect the outcome of the gathering. 

China's solutions 

In response to a Bloomberg report saying India is "seeking to convince Moscow and Beijing to go along with a consensus on describing Russia's war in Ukraine," similar to the one reached by leaders of the G20 in 2022, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said China's stance on the Ukraine issue is clear and consistent and fully laid out in the recently released China's Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis, which is centered on promoting talks for peace.

"The international community, including the G20, needs to play a constructive role in deescalating the situation, reducing the temperature and facilitating a political settlement to the crisis," Mao said. 

Some experts believe that China will introduce its Global Development Initiative, which puts development first and the people at the center and seeks to expedite the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, into the gathering, and provides solutions in tackling food and energy crisis as well as climate change. 

"Whether the G20 will be fragmented and become a tool of geopolitical wrestling will also affect globalization. Developing countries need to be much more united, for example, to enhance cooperation within the BRICS mechanism to offset the negative impact of geopolitical pressure," Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

While some US media outlets have taken Blinken's warning to Beijing over the Ukraine crisis as the latest sign of deteriorating US-China relations, some experts believe that there will be a certain level of interaction between Chinese and US officials at the event. 

"The US will surely seize every opportunity to pressure not only Russia but also China, for example, by making up stories that China is supplying lethal weapons to Russia, to slander China and strategically contain the country," Wang said.