G20: A united front in a divided world

Wednesday 12th July 2017 07:49 EDT

An eye-roll and a painful facepalm quickly sums up this year's G20 summit held in Hamburg, Germany, for Chancellor Angela Merkel. As the most powerful leaders of the modern world order gathered together for the two-day meeting, amid street violence and protests in the city, Merkel found herself struggling to bring everything and every one together. “This year, the G20 summit will take place under particularly challenging conditions. I will only list the greatest challenges: terrorism, climate change, protectionism and all of these topics are on the agenda. The world is in a state of unrest; it has become less unified,” the Chancellor said.

US President Donald Trump's first G20 meet, the clear divide over climate change and the sharp contrast between him and West European leaders was as clear as day. The division between the country and the rest of the world on the Paris Agreement on climate change was further formalised as the G20 declaration took note of America's intent to withdraw. “Disagreement has to be made clear. Unfortunately, and I deplore this, the US left the climate agreement,” Merkel said. “Since the US announced that it would exit the Paris agreement, we cannot expect any easy talks in Hamburg. The disagreement is obvious, and it would be dishonest to cover it up. I certainly won't do that,” she said.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was also in attendance, had flown directly to Hamburg from Tel Aviv, Israel. He participated in an informal meeting with leaders of the BRICS nations, on the sidelines of the summit. For bilateral meetings, Modi met several world leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. In his meeting with May, Modi asked for UK's cooperation in the extradition of escaped Indian economic offenders.

The move is seen a push from the Indian leader towards extraditing defaulters like Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi. Mallya, who owes £900 million to Indian banks, is wanted back home for cases relating to foreign exchange violation, debt recovery and embezzlement. He fled the country last year and was officially declared an absconder by a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act court in November. Lalit Modi is accused of money laundering.

Modi and Xi meet

In the midst of the India-China standoff near the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction, and contrary to expectations, Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping didn't just exchange greetings but also managed a conversation on “a range of issues” on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

The discussion is significant as it came a day after a top Chinese official was quoted to have said that the “atmosphere” was “not right” for a bilateral meeting between Modi and Xi. China, in fact, has officially said no meaningful dialogue is possible until Indian forces withdraw from Doklam plateau in Bhutan which Beijing has claimed.

Indian government sources did not confirm whether the two leaders discussed the military impasse in the remote terrain but the conversation is being seen in the context of tensions resulting from the face-off.

While both sides had earlier ruled out a formal bilateral meeting, there was always a chance that the leaders could have a pull aside. Indian government sources didn't state if the confrontation over Chinese attempts to build a road in an area seen as Bhutanese territory figured in the talks. According to reports from Hamburg, the conversation lasted for about 5-7 minutes.

The MEA spokesperson also tweeted a photograph of Modi and Xi shaking hands. Though it is unclear how soon the situation will be resolved, the brief interaction may set the stage for enhanced diplomacy. The Indian military intervention is based on the firm conviction that China's attempts to realign the ground situation must be stalled to prevent the PLA from gaining an advantage over Indian defences at the trijunction.

Trump walks up to Modi for 'impromptu' chat

As G20 leaders continued their Summit discussions for the second day, US President Donald Trump walked up to Modi for "an impromptu interaction". Arvind Panagariya, sherpa for India at the Summit, tweeted about the "interaction", along with pictures of the two leaders and others just before start of the second day of working sessions of the G20 Summit ending.

"In an impromptu interaction at the G20 Summit, POTUS (President of the US) waves to the PM, walks to him, other leaders gather around. Gr8 moments," Panagariya tweeted.

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter