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Washington, Sep 8 : Chinese President Xi Jinping is “snubbing US and India” and western powers supporting them by skipping the G20 Summit in New Delhi being attended by more than 20 global leaders, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, by sending his Prime Minister Li Qiang instead.
A section of the US media said even as New Delhi was on a 24/7 domestic coverage of the upcoming summit in New Delhi, the attention Xi was grabbing both in India and overseas around the world was quite large as he was skipping it for the first time in his presidency. His absence offers a new perspective on the relationship between the two biggest countries on earth, the report said.
Xi is minded not to attend, according to several anonymous sources cited by several Western media houses. An unnamed Brussels diplomat was reported to have revealed that he was not attending and would send Prime Minister Qiang in his place, which is now confirmed as is Russian President Vladamir Putin giving the go by due to domestic pressing engagements and sending his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Xi met Modi in Johannesburg on August 23 on the sidelines of the BRICS summit. Xi is minded not to attend the G20 Summit in New Delhi, according to several anonymous sources cited by several Western media houses, the noted US weekly Newsweek said in a special report on G20.
As G20 gets underway on September 9, New Delhi is taking the vent very seriously. Offices and colleges are being closed and security measures are being heightened as more than 23 leading hotels will host over 25 global leaders during the event. Most people anywhere near the venue, Bharat Mandapam, will face challenges moving around as global leaders arrive, a section of the US media said.
While leaks about preparations, some more revealing than others, circulate, it can mean only one thing: that Indian security officials had asked various nations to reduce their motorcades, meaning we can be fairly sure of who is attending, reports said.
“I hope he (Xi Jinping) attends,” US President Joe Biden said on Thursday in Washington, D.C.
US government officials are playing down the chances of a Xi-Biden meeting in New Delhi, suggesting it would be more likely at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco in November, the Newsweek said, quoting agency reports.
The G20 consists of 19 nations and the European Union, which meets annually, and the presidency rotates each year, with 2023 being India’s moment. The first — and last — time China hosted the event was in 2016, in the city of Hangzhou, in eastern Zhejiang province.
The first G20 was held in Washington in 2008. The G20 is a body of developed and developing nations that addresses major global economic issues, and brings developing countries into the debate on political and economic issues leading up to an organised global geopolitical and economic order.
Sino-Indian relations worsened as China published a new map of its territory, in which it lay claim to lots of its neighbours’ land, including Arunachal Pradesh, over which China and India have feuded over, and Aksai Chin, that China controls, but India still claims.
New Delhi did not see that augur well coming as it did in the run-up to the summit as it seemed a deliberate attempt to cause tensions. While India protested vehemently, China had nothing to say, except to state “remain calm”.
Even as India issued China with a “strong protest” over the land grab map, Western powers see the summit as an opportunity to lobby India and China over issues such as Ukraine, climate change and food security. India sees its presidency of the summit as its cherished goal of its lead country status in the Global South, reports said.
The Indian media, US papers and magazines said, have been asking why Xi would opt out of this G20 meeting, when he had previously attended every G20 meet in-person since becoming China’s leader in 2012. Of course in Rome in 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic prevented any in-person meeting.
“A decision not to travel to Delhi would be significant, especially given that he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met just a week ago on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in South Africa,” the Indian media observed, Newsweek said.
The Global South leadership is something the West needs to pay more attention to, given these “will-he-won’t-he” moments. Both India and China are fiercely competitive, and Beijing considers the optics of a trip to Delhi to meet world leaders in Modi’s backyard a step too far, given Modi’s knack for theatrics and “56-inch chest” hugs, the report noted.
Xi is clear in his mind in sending the West a message. The BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — and ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) — groups and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are the forums where he wants to focus China’s attention, going forward.
Xi travelled to South Africa for the BRICS summit on August 22 where he met Modi on the sidelines in what was described as a convivial and useful exchange.
Sana Hashmi of the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation told Newsweek: “Xi’s probable decision to cancel his G20 summit visit appears to be driven by concerns of potential snubbing within what he perceives as an anti-China coalition (The Quad — the US, Australia, India and Japan) supported by Western nations. This decision is also influenced by India and several Southeast Asian countries rejecting the map.
“This cancellation highlights a discrepancy between China’s rhetoric and actions. While China has emphasised the significance of multilateral summits, especially with Global South countries, Xi’s absence suggests otherwise. It suggests that he may not view the G20 as an impartial and multilateral forum, where he’s willing to work for collective good, instead prioritising bilateral differences,” Hashmi was quoted as saying.
As Chinese PM Qiang replaces Xi at the summit, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “At the invitation of President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair, Premier of the State Council Li Qiang will attend the 26th China-ASEAN Summit, the 26th ASEAN Plus Three Summit and the 18th East Asia Summit to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, from September 5 to 8, and pay an official visit to Indonesia.”
Of course, he can still make it to New Delhi by September 9, reports said.