New Delhi, Mar 3: In the last two weeks, Delhi and surrounding cities are booming, with several top global leaders visiting India to attend scattered strategic meetings with some countries entering into Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and signing trade and business agreements.
The pinnacle of the rush of the high-profile foreign ministers was seen post February 25 when foreign ministers of around 40 countries and other senior ministers, and heads of state were in town to attend the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting, QUAD, and Raisina Dialogue.
Most of the hotels are full, jostling with activities and embassies and High Commissions of most countries busy ferrying their official guests from one meeting to another.
G20 meeting in Delhi
The G20 meeting early this week was attended by foreign ministers of around 40 countries', which saw the Ukraine crisis overshadow the meeting. The Russian Foreign Minister and US Secretary, who were meeting for the first time in a year, clashed on the Ukraine crisis even though they had a separate one-on-one meeting and blocked the joint statement.
A chair summary and outcome document issued after the end of the two-day meetings read, "G20 Foreign Ministers agreed to paragraphs 1, 2, and 5 to 24. Paragraphs 3 and 4 were objected to by Russian and China ministers; hence the joint document was not issued."
Part of Paragraph 3 read, "Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks.”
There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that the G20 was not the forum to resolve security issues, Paragraphs 3 and 4 of this document, as taken from the G20 Bali Leaders' Declaration (15-16 November 2022), were agreed to by all member countries except Russia and China.
Paragraph 4 read, "It is essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability. It includes defending all the Purposes and Principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and adhering to international humanitarian law, including protecting civilians and infrastructure in armed conflicts."
The footnote of the release said, "Paragraphs 3 and 4 of this document, as taken from the G20 Bali Leaders' Declaration (15-16 November 2022), were agreed to by all member countries except Russia and China.
G20 Finance Ministers meeting
Earlier, on February 25, the meeting of the finance ministers for the G20 countries was held at Bengaluru and ended without a joint statement. Most G20 member nations condemned the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, but China and Russia declined to sign the joint statement.
India, China foreign ministers meet
Foreign minister S Jaishankar met Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Thursday's sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in New Delhi.
In a tweet, Jaishankar said, "Our discussions were focussed on addressing current challenges to the bilateral relationship, especially peace and tranquillity in the border areas."
Nearly three years after the standoff, India, and China, on February 22 (10 days before the G 20 Foreign Ministers meeting in New Delhi), held a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on Border Affairs (WMCC) in Beijing, breaking the stalemate.
Political observers say that talks between India and China were being held somewhere on the backburner.
India wants to retain its neutral position and not necessarily ally with the US lobby or Russia-China axis.
India wants a third axis with the support of the Global South that may support either the bipolar world or stay neutral.
Observers believe India and China want to heal the damaged wounds of bilateral strategic mutual trust, more so as both countries suffered economic growth post COVID-19.
QUAD leaders meet
The QUAD leaders meet asks for the UNSC reform agenda, including expansion in permanent and non-permanent seats of the Security Council.
The four Foreign Ministers of Australia, India, and Japan and the Secretary of State of the United States of America met in New Delhi in their QUAD foreign ministers meeting on March 3, 2023.
They agreed that "the rules-based international order is anchored in international law, including the UN Charter, and the principles of sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of all states."
The four countries reiterate support and commitment to the UN Charter to strengthen the UN and international system. However, they asked for "a comprehensive reform agenda expansion in permanent and non-permanent seats of the UN Security Council.
India has been lobbying for years to be on the high table, and several world leaders support it.
QUAD, without naming China, also discussed the maritime security in the Indo-Pacific areas, including the South and East China sea and said that they "recognise that peace and security in the maritime domain underpin the development and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, and reiterate the importance of respect for sovereignty, consistent with international law".
The QUAD leaders strongly oppose unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo or increase tensions in the area.
"We express serious concern at the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries' offshore resource exploitation activities," the press statement said.
The QUAD established a Working Group on Counterterrorism and asked for accountability for the perpetrators of such terrorist attacks, including through the UN Security Council sanction committee.
The four foreign ministers of QUAD condemned terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations, explicitly naming the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and Pathankot terrorist attacks in India.
"We denounce the use of terrorist proxies and emphasise the importance of denying any logistical, financial, or military support to terrorist organisations which could be used to launch or plan terrorist attacks, including transnational and cross-border attacks,” the statement issued after the meeting said.
"We reiterate our condemnation of terrorist attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai, which claimed lives of citizens from all Quad countries, and Pathankot attacks. We are committed to working together with our regional and international partners to promote accountability for the perpetrators of such terrorist attacks, including through designations by the UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee," the statement said.
India and EU
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, agreed to launch the India-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC). On February 6, 2023, the EU and India agreed to establish their TTC and its three Working Groups.
It led to two high-profile EU countries, Germany and Italy, visiting India of the Chancellor of Germany on February 25 and 26 and the President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) of the Italian Republic, Giorgia Meloni on March 2 and 3.
It is the first official visit to Italian Prime Minister Meloni, who met the President of India, Draupadi Murmu and the Prime Minister and was the chief guest at the Raisina Dialogue.
The two leaders decided to upgrade the relations between Italy and India to the level of 'Strategic Partnership, discussing the importance of a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific, based on respect for international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity, freedom of navigation, and free from coercion and conflicts.
It is a testing time for the Indian leadership. Like the "Bali declaration", the world expects India to be able to play a neutral role and do maximum in building a bridge to erase the gap between the West and Russia. Can India reach a consensus-driven outcome ahead of the central G20 summit in September 2023?
It will be a great success and recognition for India if they achieve even 10 percent of the success in ironing out differences over the Ukraine conflict that are so visibly divided.
Will India be able to mediate and bring all parties to an agreement? Some media reports suggest that India, under the leadership of the Indian Prime Minister, is already using its offices with the top leadership to bring some solution to the crisis.