A Reality Check For Modi Govt’s G20 Ambitions

Two key milestones have been crossed on the road leading to the G20 summit scheduled to be held in New Delhi on September 9-10. Some vital conclusions can be drawn out of the two controversial meetings of the G20 finance and foreign ministers respectively.

Neither meeting could produce a joint communique and the reason for the failure is the inability of the host country to knock the heads together and persuade them to enter a consensual corridor. The western countries that are by far over-represented in the G20 overreached in their dogged determination to pillory and ostracise two major emerging powers — Russia and China — and the latter couldn’t take bullying anymore and, understandably, pushed back.

However, there is much sophistry in the Modi government’s estimation that the Ukraine crisis is all about a ‘war.’ But the tragedy is that the conflict was avoidable, if only the Biden Administration had signalled willingness to discuss Russia’s legitimate concerns regarding NATO’s expansion along its western border.

In a nutshell, the root problem is the “militarised American leadership,” on which the renowned American historian of US foreign and security policies Professor Andrew Bacevich has penned a brilliant essay in Foreign Affairs magazine last week titled The Reckoning That wasn’t.

Yet, the US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken would rather freeze the present moment and castigate Russia for its ‘aggression’ in Ukraine. Great powers have phenomenal memory but in this case, the Biden Administration suffers from amnesia — in reality, it is time past that has become time present in Ukraine.

Where the host country, India, faulted was that it did a cut-and-paste job in the draft communique, lifting the relevant passage out of the Bali Declaration. A train crash was bound to happen after such a bizarre mishandling. The point is, it is lost on our mandarins that the Ukraine crisis has radically transformed in the most recent months since the Bali summit.

Today, it is an incontrovertible fact that the US and NATO are directly involved in the conflict. More importantly, Russia has gained the upper hand militarily and Ukraine stares at defeat despite all the weaponry pumped into that country by the US and its allies.

The US is forcing Russia to reduce Ukraine to a rump state. To be sure, once that happens, the US will walk away, as it did in Afghanistan — and may be in all probability, the Biden team will be  heading for the Indo-Pacific for new adventures. The war has been highly profitable for the US military-industrial complex.

Second, the revelations by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, amongst others,  that the so-called Minsk Agreements were nothing more than an elaborate charade to hoodwink Moscow and buy time for NATO to militarise Ukraine and prepare that country to fight Russia in a conceivable future, has exposed the chicanery of the US. Washington never wanted Kiev to negotiate with Russia or have discussions with the separatist groups in Donbass regarding regional autonomy within a federated Ukraine. This is the honest historical truth.

Modi to G20
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a ‘virtual message’ to the G20 foreign ministers, New Delhi, March 2, 2023

Put differently, Russia was left with no option but to act pre-emptively to safeguard its interests just as Kiev, with backing from NATO and the US, was all set to launch a major offensive against the ethnic Russian population in Donbass for a ‘final solution.’

Third, the findings by the renowned American journalist Seymour Hersh that none other than President Biden had ordered the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines — the decision was taken even months before the Russian special military operations began in February 2022 — are a damning indictment of the US for orchestrating the complete rupture of German-Russian energy cooperation, which again throws light on Washington’s diabolical agenda to exploit the Ukraine situation to strengthen its transatlantic leadership and force the Europeans to perform in a subaltern role.

Thus, although there are grave misgivings in the European mind regarding the US’ proxy war, they are internalised as an independent pathway or strategic autonomy is ruled out. 

How is it possible for the Modi government to ignore all this? Worse still, how could the MEA have so flippantly got Modi to mouth a patently absurd quote — ‘Today’s-era-is-not-an-era-of-war’ — that betrays naïveté? Plainly put, India’s consensus-building inevitably narrowed down to Russia accepting exactly the same formulation as in the Bali declaration.

Indeed, Moscow understands that the Modi government is indulging in doublespeak. A commentary featured in the Kremlin-funded RT last week spotlighted that a promotional video prepared by the Observer Research Foundation, event manager for the ongoing Raisina Dialogue, has resurrected the infamous Modi quote all over again, which “exposes a duplicitous foreign policy.”

The commentary adds: “Modi’s words seek to hit home the point that though India will persist with buying Russian crude oil at a discounted rate despite US pressure, New Delhi will stand by its democratic beliefs. India seeks to err on the side of caution by being seen with Western democracies and its officials are hosting several American influencers ahead of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting… Does the Modi quote reinforce the argument that New Delhi is speaking with a forked tongue?”

Unsurprisingly, Russian position has hardened lately and it is entirely conceivable that Moscow concluded that Delhi cannot be trusted as an honest broker, leave alone ‘time-tested friend’, in the upcoming G20 deliberations.

CNN has reported that the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting “was seen as a grand test for Indian diplomacy, which ultimately didn’t succeed in reaching a consensus because of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.”

A plausible explanation could be that after being threatened with a regime change orchestrated by the western intelligence — starting with the BBC documentary, followed by the Hindenburg report, and culminating in George Soros’s prognosis of a “democratic revival” in India — the ruling elite panicked.

There has even been a rushed decision to host a QUAD foreign ministers’ meeting in Delhi on Friday to honour the visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, acceding to the American itch to show the middle finger at Moscow and Beijing. Alas, where is Indian diplomacy heading to?

In the recent weeks, the social media was full of Foreign minister S. Jaishankar defiantly holding forth against the Euro-Atlantic world, brandishing the sword of India’s resoluteness and resilience, blah, blah, but all that must be for domestic consumption? It pays to hang tough during election time.

The Modi government has made a serious mistake in underestimating that the Ukraine situation is an epochal affair where it has no mediatory role. There is no Nobel Peace Prize on offer here. Russia is determined to realise its strategic objectives. And Moscow does not need Modi government’s help, given the stark reality that this is an existential crisis which it simply cannot afford to lose, no matter what it  takes.

And, at any rate, there is precious little Modi Govt can do to tilt the global strategic balance. Its much-vaunted global influence stands exposed after the abject failure of today’s G20 ministerial. Indeed, the G20 ministerial on Thursday is a reality check. Interestingly, a second commentary by RT last week was titled Can India supplant China as the voice of the Global South?

Against this sombre backdrop, Modi skipped today’s G20 ministerial, although it is an extraordinary happening that India was hosting twenty foreign ministers for a single event. But that was the right thing to do — simply deliver a ‘virtual message’ and move on to more important affairs. Who wants to associate with failure?

A course correction is in order. The government has been giving excessive hype to the G20 summit, as if it is carnival time ahead of the 2024 general election.

Source: The Indian Punchline

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