The G20’s criticism of Russia reflects the rise of a new Asian power: India

Hong Kong

When world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, issued a joint statement condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine, one familiar phrase stood out from the 1,186-page document.

“Today’s era must not be one of war,” he said, echoing what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian leader Vladimir Putin during a face-to-face meeting in September.

Media and officials in the country of 1.3 billion were quick to claim the inclusion as a sign that the world’s largest democracy had played a vital role in bridging differences between an increasingly isolated Russia and the United States and their allies.

“How India Unites G20 in PM Modi’s Idea of ​​Peace,” ran a headline in the Times of India, the country’s largest English-language newspaper. “The Prime Minister’s message that this is not the era of war … resonated very deeply in all delegations and helped bridge the gap between different parties,” the foreign secretary told reporters on Wednesday of India, Vinay Kwatra.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo shake hands during the handover ceremony at the G20 Leaders' Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on 16 of November 2022.

The statement came as Indonesian President Joko Widodo handed over the G20 presidency to Modi, who will host the next leaders’ summit in the Indian capital New Delhi in September 2023, about six months before it is expected to take place head to the polls in a general election. and compete for the third time in the first seat of the country.

As New Delhi deftly balances its ties with Russia and the West, Modi, analysts say, is emerging as a leader who has been wooed by all sides, winning him support at home while consolidating the India as an agent of international power.

“The national narrative is that the G20 summit is being used as a big banner in Modi’s election campaign to show that he is a global statesman,” said Sushant Singh, senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “And the current Indian leadership is now seen as a powerful country sitting at the high table.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 16, 2022. (Photo by Sergei BOBYLYOV / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI BOBYLYOV/SPUTNIK) /AFP via Getty Images)

Modi tells Putin: Now is not the time for war (September 2022)

In some ways, India’s presence at the G20 was overshadowed by the long-awaited meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden, and the scramble to investigate the killing of two Polish citizens after the which Warsaw said was a “Russian-made missile”. landed in a town near the NATO member’s border with Ukraine.

Global headlines detailed how Biden and Xi met for three hours on Monday, trying to prevent their rivalry from spilling over into open conflict. And on Wednesday, G7 and NATO leaders called an emergency meeting in Bali to discuss the explosion in Poland.

Modi, on the other hand, held a series of talks with various world leaders, including newly appointed British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, ranging from food security and environment, to health and economic revival; distance his country from Russia.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a bilateral meeting on November 16, 2022 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.

While India had a “modest agenda” for the G20 revolving around issues of energy, climate and economic turmoil as a result of the war, Western leaders “are listening to India as part of important in the region, because India is a country.” which is close to both the West and Russia,” said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of diplomacy and disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi.

New Delhi has strong ties with Moscow dating back to the Cold War, and India remains heavily dependent on the Kremlin for military equipment, a vital link given India’s ongoing tensions on its shared border with the Himalayas with an increasingly assertive China.

At the same time, New Delhi has been moving closer to the West as leaders try to counter Beijing’s rise, placing India in a strategically comfortable position.

“One of the ways India made an impact at the G20 is that it seems to be one of the few countries that can engage all parties,” said Harsh V. Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London. “It is a role that India has been able to bridge between multiple antagonists.”

Since the start of the war, India has repeatedly called for an end to violence in Ukraine, without condemning Russia’s invasion.

But as Putin’s aggression has intensified, killing thousands and throwing the global economy into chaos, analysts say India’s limits are being tested.

Observers note that Modi’s stronger language at Putin in recent months came against the backdrop of rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices and the hardships it was creating for other countries. And while this year’s G20 was viewed through the lens of war, India could bring its own agenda to the table next year.

“India’s assumption of the presidency comes at a time when the world is very focused on renewable energy, rising prices and inflation,” said JNU’s Jacob. “And there is a sense that India is seen as a key country that can meet the needs of the South Asian region and beyond.”

US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Chinese leader Xi Jinping attend the G20 Leaders Summit in Bali , Indonesia, on November 15.

Rising global prices for various energy sources as a result of the war is hitting consumers, who are already struggling with rising food costs and inflation.

Speaking at the end of the G20 summit on Wednesday, Modi said India was taking charge at a time when the world was “facing geopolitical tensions, economic slowdown, rising food prices and energy and the long-term harmful effects of the pandemic.”

“I want to ensure that India’s G20 presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented,” he said in his speech.

India’s positioning at next year’s summit is “very much about being the voice of the developing world and the global south,” said Pant, of King’s College London.

“Modi’s idea is to project India as a country that can respond to today’s challenges by echoing the concerns that some of the poorest countries have about the contemporary global order.”

As India prepares to take over the presidency of the G20, all eyes are on Modi as he also begins his campaign for India’s 2024 national elections.

At the national level, the populist politics of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have polarized the nation.

Although Modi remains immensely popular in a country where roughly 80% of the population is Hindu, his government has been repeatedly criticized for a crackdown on free speech and discriminatory policies towards minority groups.

Amid such criticism, Modi’s political allies have sought to boost his international credentials, presenting him as a key player in the global order.

“(The BJP) is taking Modi’s G20 meetings as a political message that is strengthening India’s image abroad and forging strong partnerships,” said Singh of the Center for Policy Research.

This week, India and Britain announced that they will go ahead with a long-awaited “UK-India Young Professionals Scheme”, which will allow 3,000 Indian nationals aged 18-30 to live and work in United Kingdom for up to 3,000 years. two years

Meanwhile, Modi’s Twitter account showed a series of smiling photographs and videos of the leader with his Western counterparts.

“His domestic image remains strong,” Singh said, adding that it remains to be seen whether Modi can maintain his careful balance as the war drags on.

“But I think his international standing comes from his domestic standing. And if that remains strong, the international public is bound to respect him.”

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