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India and China Auditioning for The Voice (Global South Edition)
Discourse Power | September 11, 2023
Greetings from Jerusalem,
With the G20 Summit taking place this weekend and endless speculation about why Xi chose to skip the event, Reuters and DW covered an interesting article from the Ministry of State Security (MSS)-affiliated think tank, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), that could provide three explanations.
The worsening relations between the two most populous nations are the common thread connecting all three:
Territorial disputes (see the recent Chinese map controversy);
Competition for discourse power and/or representation of the Global South;
India's role in tarnishing China's image by spreading the now-debunked "debt trap" theory.
The following statement from Professor Liu Zongyi of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), as featured in Sinification, supports this argument: "Ultimately, the G20 summit cannot be a success without China's active participation."
A full translation of CICIR’s article is provided below for your reference.
“By deviating from the G20's original intention and priorities and insisting on smuggling geopolitical ‘private goods’ to the global economic governance stage, India has abdicated its responsibility as the rotating presidency“
According to Xu Qin 徐琴 of CICIR's Institute of South Asian Studies, India's actions, such as the selection of the G20's venue, agenda, and other aspects, have betrayed the "small-mindedness" of its "grand scheme."
The following is a full translation of Xu’s article, published on September 9, 2023, on CICIR’s WeChat account:
“The 18th Summit of the Group of Twenty (G20) will be held in the Indian capital of New Delhi from September 9-10, 2023, marking a high point in India's diplomacy throughout the year.
“India believes that assuming the G20 presidency and successfully hosting the summit will give it a special opportunity to influence the global agenda, showcase its role as a global leader, and promote its aspirations to become a great power amid escalating international tensions.
“However, India's selection of the G20's venue, agenda, and other aspects have revealed the "small-mindedness" 小心思 of its "grand scheme" 大布局. This, in turn, means that this year’s G20 is likely to be characterized by even more rifts, rivalries, and other discordant elements than in the past.
1. “Holding meetings in disputed territories as a covert declaration of ‘sovereignty’
“Since December 1, 2022, when India assumed the G20 presidency, it has organized over 220 G20-related meetings and activities in nearly 60 cities. Its goal was to show the international community India's progress in all aspects and to brandish its international image. The Modi government also hoped to turn this into a major diplomatic achievement at home and to use it to build momentum for the general election next year.
“However, in contravention of international practice, India has scheduled the relevant meetings in disputed territories with neighboring countries, effectively imposing territorial disputes on the G20 agenda.
”In March of this year, India's Ministry of Science and Technology hosted a G20 side event in the made-up 伪 state of Arunachal Pradesh (China's Southern Tibetan region), which China did not attend.
“In May, it hosted another G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, which has been a disputed area between India and Pakistan since the two countries' partition in 1947.
“India's intentions are as clear as day 昭然若揭. It wanted to garner attention from the international community and increase support for the ‘legitimacy’ of its territorial claims by holding the G20 summit in disputed areas.
“Nonetheless, its actions sparked outrage and condemnation in Pakistan for ‘abusing the G20 presidency,’ as well as boycotts by China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey, among others.
“Hr. Fernand de Varennes, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, also issued a statement in this regard, accusing India of attempting to ‘normalize military occupation’ by hosting an international conference in the region.
“In fact, in addition to causing a diplomatic fiasco and a public opinion storm, India's hosting of the G20 meeting in the disputed territories has ‘overshadowed’ and undermined the summit's cooperative atmosphere, preventing the meeting from yielding substantive results.
2. “Speaking for 代言 the Global South and claiming to be its ‘bellwether’ 领头羊
“India hosted the high-profile Voice of the Global South Summit online in January this year, inviting more than 120 countries to participate and discuss issues of concern to developing countries, such as climate change, debt, food, and energy security, and incorporating them into the G20 agenda.
“ ‘Your voice is India's voice, your priorities are India's priorities,’ Modi told the countries in attendance, emphasizing India's determination to use its G20 presidency to serve as the Global South's spokesperson 代言.
“India boasted that it was hosting the largest-ever gathering of developing countries, but it was "rather mindful" 颇见心思 in its selection of participants. To begin with, India did not invite China, Brazil, or other large developing countries to the virtual summit, instead informing them of its ‘deliberations and plans for organizing the conference.’ In order to control the meeting's agenda and prevent anyone from undermining its influence, India chose to host the meeting independently of the other major developing nations.
“According to Raja Mohan, a well-known Indian strategist, India wants to compete with China for influence in the developing world. Given the difficulty of matching China's resources, it intends to play the role of a ‘Western Global South country.’ This means representing the developing world and complementing the US and the West to fill the power vacuum left by the West in the Global South.
“Next, despite claiming to invite developing countries in addition to G20 members, India chose not to invite Pakistan due to the two countries' tense relations. This raises the question of whether the meeting lacked representativeness and influence, given that Pakistan, which has been severely impacted by both the debt crisis and the effects of climate change, was not invited.
3. “Just like the broken porcelain scam, it uses sensitive issues to insinuate the debt trap theory 敏感议题“碰瓷”，隐射债务陷阱
“The global debt crisis is getting worse by the day, especially in the majority of developing nations, and urgent international cooperation is required to address it.
“As part of its G20 presidency, India has made the debt issue one of its top priorities. To address the debt distress of developing countries, it has actively promoted the debt restructuring process within the summit's framework, putting an emphasis on the strengthening of multilateral coordination among creditors.
“Nonetheless, in the context of its policy competition with China, India would not miss an opportunity to exploit the debt restructuring issue to cause problems for China, as it frequently collaborates with the US and the West to hype up the ‘debt trap’ theory.
“On the eve of the G20 summit, Modi accepted an interview with the Indian media, saying it is critical to control the scale of debt in order to avoid "some forces have capitalized on the helplessness of other countries and led them into debt traps," which the Indian media interpreted as a veiled reference to China.
“The G20, which includes the largest developed and developing economies, contributes to improved intergovernmental coordination and communication. It also serves as a crucial platform for global economic governance.
“In the past, the G20 has done a remarkable job of encouraging genuine cooperation among its member states to address crises and challenges in the world economy.
“The international community is facing numerous risks and difficulties against the backdrop of the ever-accelerating great changes unseen in a century and is looking to the G20 for guidance and solutions to help the world pull itself out of its economic predicament.
“India's G20 presidency is even more demanding, as it must coordinate macroeconomic policies across countries in order to achieve economic recovery, address climate change, and promote sustainable development. It must also overcome the risks and challenges posed by the international community's divergence of views and political confrontation over the Ukraine crisis, which is far from encouraging.
“By deviating from the G20's original intention and priorities and insisting on smuggling geopolitical ‘private goods’ 私货 to the global economic governance stage, India has abdicated its responsibility as the rotating presidency.
“Moreover, instead of promoting the G20's focus on global economic stabilization and recovery, it has exacerbated divisions and fissures, preventing the international community from reaching consensus and substantive results.
“Ultimately India’s behavior harms its own international image and global development interests.” (CICIR)
Playing in the Background
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a researcher at the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah Fund’s Krauthammer Fellow. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia