As India is going to host the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in the summer of 2023, to be followed by the Summit of State Leaders of Group of 20 in New Delhi on September 9-10 and subsequently the World Cup of One-Day International, Soroor Ahmed opines that using propaganda about holding any Summit does not yield political dividend.

Amidst global tension and intense media warfare it would be a testing time for Indian diplomacy as the country is going to host the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in the summer of 2023, to be followed by the Summit of State Leaders of Group of 20 in New Delhi on September 9-10 and subsequently the World Cup of One-Day International. Apparently, they are routine developments and no unusual meaning should be attached to them. But in the changing atmosphere they are being viewed quite differently.

As India is holding these multi-lateral meetings on the basis of being the current chairman of the SCO and G-20, one surely expects the government to rise to the occasion and behave maturely.

Since China’s President Xi Jinping is most likely to attend both these get-togethers, much depends on how these two Asian giants defuse the tension on the border. India would also like President Vladmir Putin of Russia to attend the New Delhi Summit, though he skipped the last one in Indonesia and sent his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Much depends on the way the war in Ukraine proceeds from here.

CHINESE INTRUSION

Ironically, the latest Chinese intrusion in Arunachal Pradesh took place just three weeks after the Bali (Indonesia) Summit of G-20 and less than three months of SCO meet in Samarkand (Uzbekistan). Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were present on both the occasions but they did not meet separately.

In 2023 Xi Jinping’s trips to India will be different as he would be attending international meetings, unlike the previous bilateral visits. The last such one-to-one informal summit took place between October 11 and 13, 2019 in Mamallapuram, more than a year after the Wuhan Summit of April 27-28, 2018. The Mamallapuram trip was undertaken just three months after the de-operationalisation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019. Beijing took strong exception to the Indian government’s action.

Xi Jinping would be coming to India for the first time after the June 2020 border clashes between the armies of the two neighbours which left 20 Indian soldiers dead and many others sustained injuries. Several others were captured by the Peoples Liberation Army and later released.

The Wuhan Summit took place a year after the two months and a half long standoff between China and India on Doklam Plateau in the summer of 2017.

ROLE OF MEDIA

The problem today is that while the Narendra Modi government is not speaking much on the issue of border clashes and efforts are being made to bring down tension, especially in Ladakh, the Indian media, in particular the television channels, appear to be in jingoistic mood.

Curiously, more than the border tension, the electronic channels are going all out to highlight the spread of Coronavirus in China. Many Indian experts are of the view that by grossly exaggerating the news of pandemic the media is not serving any purpose and is jeopardising the move to minimise the tension with Beijing.

No doubt China is once again in the grip of COVID yet the death toll is certainly not as high as is being projected in the Indian TV channels. In that way they have even left behind that western media.

Independent political observers in India are of the view that perhaps the news of Coronavirus in China is being over-reported to distract the attention from Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is drawing huge crowds and a sizeable section of media was compelled to take notice of it especially when it reached Delhi. The fear of the pandemic was spread to dampen the spirit of the people and fail the 3,570 km long march of Rahul Gandhi which started from Kanyakumari and will conclude in Kashmir.

The moot question is: How appropriate it would be to further antagonise a big and powerful neighbour just for the sake of domestic political end? It is not that the Chinese are not aware of what is happening in India. In such a background, how can one expect the normalisation of situation? After all India and China are big trade partners as well as competitors.

G-20 HYPE

Apart from over-blown COVID stories, a non-stop campaign has been launched to make a political capital of the 18th G-20 Summit of State Leaders. It is on the insistence of India that the venue of the meeting was changed several times.

As per reports, India first wanted to organise the Summit in 2018, that is just a year before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. But Argentina then opposed the demand.

India then wanted to host it in 2022 to mark the 75th year of the Independence. Then suddenly it asked for 2023. The general perception is that India insisted for 2023 as it would help the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to politically use it ahead of 2024 parliamentary election.

The truth is that using propaganda about holding any Summit does not yield political dividend. India has in the past hosted several such international conferences. The BJP has not learnt from the India Shining campaign of 2004 which ultimately led to its defeat in the Lok Sabha election of 2004.

ORIGIN OF G-20

G-20 was actually formed in 1999 after the collapse of East Asian economies in 1997. Then the finance ministers and heads of the central banks of the member countries would participate.

It is not that India has become the chairman of the G-20 for the first time. It became second chairman more than two decades back, but that development was not advertised with so much fanfare for political objective.

It was since 2008 that Summit of State Leaders have started taking place. This was immediately after the September 2008 global economic crisis. The finance ministers, heads of central banks and other top officials related to the field of finance also take part in them.

In 2009 and 2010 the Summits were held twice. In that way New Delhi would be hosting the 18th such meet. Much smaller countries like Indonesia have already chaired the G-20 before India.

CRICKET WORLD CUP

Besides, India will also be hosting the World Cup later next year. If the Chinese President is going to be invited, in the same way Pakistan, with which our relationship is not good now, would be taking part in the cricketing jamboree. Even Afghanistan, now a Test-playing country, would be taking part in this One-Day International tournament. Let us see whether cricket helps reduce the tension in the region.

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