G-20 or China containment?

Multilateral diplomacy appears to be losing its practical value by the day. The absence of any concrete follow-up actions is exposing the effectiveness of hitherto important forums like SCO, BRICS and even G-20. Barring a few minor changes in the final declarations, and sending mixed signals to the world, such global eco-political platforms are now being utilised to only declare their ‘intentions’ on issues of global importance. Such events are also used to gauge, strengthen, or promote bilateral trajectories and showcase individual aspirations. Simultaneously, certain intended messages are also flashed in the context of major powers’ geo-political agenda. The recently concluded G-20 Summit in New Delhi was no exception either.
The Global South, with its healthy economies, is represented in all the above-mentioned multilateral fora. To begin with, why would several countries establish political and economic blocs, with similar stated objectives, when they have a readily available world forum to discuss all related matters, with representation from the entire planet earth; the United Nations. Moreover, if China, Russia, and India are members of BRICS, SCO, and G-20, whereby, they could meet, discuss, and agree on political and economic issues facing the world, at the summit level, why would they remain open to joining any such future arrangements?
One could argue that G-20, being a West-driven platform, has different aims than those of the Global South. Agreed, but then why do the outcomes of all meetings at these multilateral forums resonate with each other? Read the last three declarations of these three organisations and compare the texts, contents, subjects and even the language and see if you could find any major difference among the respective final documents.
It is then no surprise that the G-20 Delhi declaration was not examined in detail by the world commentators. Interestingly, the drafting committee of the declaration did not bother to translate the theme of the summit in English language. In the opening paragraphs, the summit’s theme has been described as ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’–‘the world is one family’.
Subjects such as sustainable growth, unlocking trade for growth, preparing for the future of work, advancing financial inclusion, fighting corruption, and delivering quality education are common for all such organisations. These topics were again discussed in Delhi, producing the same old results. Example: the G-20 ‘recommitted’ to achieving the SDGS? Haven’t we talked about the revered subject of sustainable development a bit too much already? Haven’t we resolved to achieve the goals of sustainable development multiple times already? The 1992 Rio Earth Summit? The Kyoto Protocol? The Paris Agreement? Was there anyone in the G-20 Summit who wondered why would they ‘recommit’ on the same issues repeatedly? Looking at the pattern, would anyone be surprised if the G-20 Summit scheduled to be held in Brazil next year ‘recommitted’ certain oft-repeated ‘resolves’ yet again?
Another example: Just like any other such organisation’s final document, the Delhi Declaration, after reaffirming, highlighting, emphasising, supporting, encouraging, reiterating, and appreciating several factors, committed to ‘urgently accelerate our actions to address environmental crises and challenges including climate change.’ Recognising the need for increased global investment to meet ‘our climate goals of the Paris Agreement, to rapidly and substantially scale up investment and climate finance from billions to trillions of dollars globally from all sources.’ Sounds familiar?
Similarly, the G-20 leaders once again urged ‘the international finance system’ to ‘deliver significantly more financing to help developing countries to fight poverty, tackle global challenges and maximise development impact.’ While addressing debt vulnerabilities in low and middle-income countries, the Declaration just ‘re-emphasised’ its importance without offering any concrete proposal to address this perennial issue. On the other hand, it did not forget to practically strengthen the World Bank and the IMF.
As usual, the leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations while underscoring the importance of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and its efforts to curb terror financing and money laundering. However, they refrained from ‘condemning’ the Russian ‘special operation’ in Ukraine. In fact, in comparison to the Bali Declaration, the language used in the Delhi Declaration was much diluted and indirect. On the war in Ukraine, the leaders only ‘reiterated’ their respective positions taken at the United Nations.
Contrarily, several other non-G20 matters made headlines. India tried to announce its entry into the bigger powers’ elite group albeit unsuccessfully. President Biden’s reception at the airport at the ministerial level was considered a manifestation of India’s arrival at the world stage as a major global power. Perhaps, the worried look at Biden’s face was not because of his ‘low-level’ reception at the airport. In all probabilities, his mind was more on Kim Jong Un’s visit to Moscow than such ‘petty’ matters. Even the hosting of a routine rotatory meeting was projected as India’s grand diplomatic success thereby sending an unambiguously false message to the world. On the other hand, New Delhi tried to underplay its initial diplomatic embarrassment i.e., the conspicuous absence of President Xi Jinping and President Valdimir Putin.
Similarly, Türkiye’s favourable statement on India’s inclusion in the UN Security Council’s exclusive club was given more importance than Erdogan’s rebuff to the India-ME Transport Project. ‘We say that there is no corridor without Türkiye’. There goes the idea of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) that aims at establishing shipping and railway lines through the UAE, KSA, Jordon and Israel before reaching Europe. Objective analysts would have smiled when the IMEC was equated with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (B&RI).
In addition to providing all Member-States an opportunity to participate in a routine summit and take some ‘memorable’ pictures, the G-20 huddle seemed to have focused on only one point. India, conceived to be the other rising Asian giant, will be given additional responsibilities to contain China. The rest was business as usual.

Najm us Saqib

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at najmussaqib1960@msn.com.

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