By Dr. D. K. Giri
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)
The biggest take-away for India from the 13th G-20 Summit in Buenos Aires was what happened in a fringe meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Donald Trump, and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In fact, this was the first trilateral meeting between the three leaders who are bringing their countries as close as never before as strategic allies. They are three members of the ‘Quad’ that includes Australia too. All the three leaders sang the same tune on the future of this significant alliance mainly for Indo-Pacific region where China has aggressive military designs.
Prime Minister Modi, known for coining new names and slogans acronymed the triumvirate as JAI, comprising the first alphabet of their names – Japan, Australia and India – which in Hindi means victory. He affirmed that the alliance would be victorious in contributing to ‘world peace, stability and prosperity’. President Trump declared the US relations with India and Japan have never been closer before than they are now. He predicted lots of trade and military ties of US with India and Japan. Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister underlined the fundamental values and strategic interests shared between the three countries. All the three leaders reaffirmed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region and pledged to deepen the trilateral cooperation in maintaining a free Indo-Pacific region.
The second gain for India was to be able to insert a nine-point active programme on fugitive economic offenders; to devise a mechanism that denies entry and safe haven to all economic offenders. This was a successive diplomatic achievement for India after it managed, against stiff opposition from some countries to introduce an 11-point agenda on terrorism as a part of Hamburgh Declaration, in the previous G-20 Summit last year. This had activated the UN counter-terrorism network, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that disallows countries charged with supporting cross-border terrorism from accessing international finances. Following this Declaration, Pakistan was brought back to the grey-list of FATF, for financing global terror.
In the Summit, India sought to activise the UN regulatory bodies on economic offenders, like the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) 2000. India stressed on the process of identification, extradition, and judicial proceedings against fugitive economic offenders.
Interestingly, as I write this column a few hours ago Christian Michel, a fugitive offender accused of receiving and disbursing kickbacks in the Augusta Westland Helicopter deal has been extradited to New Delhi from United Arab Emirates. This is a shot in India’s diplomatic arm although New Delhi is accused of being selective and partisan in pursuing the economic offenders who have fled the country. This is of course tough for internal party political debate, but the success in bringing back the accused to the country cannot be undermined.
The third achievement is that of India securing the consent of the Italians to host the G-20 Summit in 2022, the year coinciding with 75th anniversary of India’s independence. Italy agreed to swap it for 2021 when it will hold the Summit followed by the 14th in Japan in 2019 and 15th in Saudi Arabia in 2020. NaMo has invited the world leaders to India to experience its growth and immense diversities which signify the intrinsic pluralism in Indian life and culture.
The G-20 group, created in 1999, is by far, the most powerful economic block accounting for 85 per cent of the world GDP, 2/3 rd of world population and about ½ of the area. It started in 1970s as G-7 comprising Canada, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, and USA. It became G-8 when Russia joined in 1996. In the late 1990s, when the financial crises affected a number of growing economies in Latin America and Asia and threatened to spill over to G-8 countries, it was decided to include other emerging economies. Now, it consists of 19 countries plus the European Union, which is represented by the President of the Council. Spain is a permanent invitee.
The tasks of G-20 include managing global trade, the
trade tensions, imbalances and disputes plus any other emerging issue that can upset global peace and prosperity. In this Summit too, global trade tensions, the labour market, the oil price stability and the reforms of WTO constituted the agenda. The latter was dealt with carefully without touching on the WTO ‘taboos’ such as protectionism, IPR, taxation, etc.
However, the Summit was overshadowed by the ongoing trade war between US and China. It is no secret that Beijing is being criticised by the US, Europe and Japan for dumping, industrial subsidies, abuse of IPR, technology transfers etc. Donald Trump has been accusing China of stealing US technology worth billions and taking away jobs from America etc. China has been wary of US tariffs on its exports. In a one-on-one meeting with Xi Jinping around the Summit, Trump agreed not to impose higher tariffs from first of January 2019, as apparently, the $250 billion tariff has hit China already.
Understandably, Donald Trump’s supporters at home and Allies abroad would be glad to see him standing up to China and seeking to stop the expansionist approach of the latter. But his critics in his country accuse him of lack of leadership and displaying exceptionalism. They would like Trump to lead the ‘pack’ not withdraw and stand away from it. They consider the temporary truce in trade war with China a pyrrhic victory, not a long term viable strategy.
Undoubtedly, any political or diplomatic action is subject to interpretation and criticism. Donald Trump, Shinzo Abe and NaMo, all are under scrutiny of the people as the three of them represent open societies and political democracies. Nonetheless, it is fair to contend that India’s diplomacy in the last two G-20 Summits came out in flying colours but the steps to watch are – NaMo had the second trilateral meeting with Putin and Xi Jinping.
Is New Delhi back to its old approach of balancing both the blocks? One just wished that it does not have the worst of both the worlds in its penchant for a balancing act, which was euphemistically called non-alignment. It was nebulous and non-workable. One has friends and enemies in international politics though axiomatically not permanent. To be sure none could be non-aligned. One again hopes our diplomats do not have a blast from the past in our foreign economic policy.— INFA