Why China Skips G-20 Summit in India

Sarah Saeed
Sarah Saeed

On September 9 and 10, this year, India hosted the G-20’s final meeting. The G20 summit was initially intended to discuss issues like food security, debt management, and climate change, but it has gradually changed into a forum for discussing the complexities of global geopolitics. The member countries have been unable to come to an agreement, even on the most fundamental matters, due to the growing tensions over the ongoing situation in Ukraine. Russia’s absence from the summit and China’s decision to send a representative rather than its top leader highlight their current approach to establishing a consensus. These decisions can be interpreted as some unwillingness on the part of both countries to fully engage in the summit’s processes of reaching agreements. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has opted out of the summit for the second year in a row, most likely as a result of the G20 members’ criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during the previous summit. India, the G20 summit’s host country, views Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to forgo the meeting as a slight against New Delhi and a new blow to already strained relations between the nuclear-armed Asian giants. The G20 conference in India without Xi Jinping highlights the complexities of international diplomacy and the wide-ranging effects it can have. His absence has wide-ranging effects, even though the reasons behind it are still a matter of conjecture.

This is the first time Xi has missed a G20 summit since he assumed power in late 2012, despite the fact that China plays a vital role in the G20 and global governance. Xi Jinping’s absence could affect the group’s dynamics and discussions on critical global issues. It also raises questions about China’s regional influence and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. There could be many reasons behind Xi Jinping’s absence such as it could be due to diplomatic, economic, geopolitical, and domestic implications.

As the G20 summit unfold, the world has closely watched the outcomes and assessed the significance of Xi Jinping’s absence. While many of the analysts are analyzing Chinese President’s absence from different lenses such as many assumed that it could be due to Chinese unstable economy, Xi’s health issues, China’s strain relations with India and many more. It can potentially reshape India-China relations, influence economic ties, and impact regional and global dynamics. This article will put emphasizes on China and India’s strain relationship which is based on historical factors, India’s aspiration to become a regional hegemon in competition with China and its economic initiative with US to counter China’s billion dollars Belt and Road Initiative project.

India and China have experienced recent tensions and border skirmishes. Xi Jinping’s absence raises questions about the prospects for bilateral talks and cooperation. It might either signify a cooling of relations or an opportunity for diplomatic engagement but it serves as a reminder of the delicate balance of power. Ties between Beijing and Delhi have become heavily strained in recent years. Small but deadly clashes along disputed parts of their shared border in 2020 and 2022 sent relations spiraling. India responded by blocking dozens of Chinese mobile apps, including TikTok, and both countries have booted each other’s journalists. Within days of G20, Beijing published its “standard map” that showed parts of Ladakh and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (which China sees as South Tibet) as part of China. Unsurprisingly, Delhi lodged an official protest, stating “Arunachal Pradesh was, is, and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India”. Then came news that Xi was cancelling his expected appearance at the G20.

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In his role as the summit’s host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to strengthen India’s position as a global economic powerhouse and a leader from the Global South. While promoting its own agenda, India is harming the Chinese interest. China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a Chinese based think tank accused India to bringing geopolitical “private goods” onto the global stage through the G20. “In addition to causing diplomatic turmoil and public opinion turmoil, India’s actions in hosting meetings in disputed territories have also ‘stole the spotlight’, sabotaging the cooperative atmosphere of the G20 meeting and hindering the achievement of substantive results.”

Furthermore, Biden administration in previous week released the text of a new Indo-Pacific supply chain agreement with a group of fourteen countries that does not include China. Biden plans to use the G20 to push for a lending program for developing countries, White House officials said — a move to counter China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, which has seen billions of dollars in infrastructure projects for developing countries over the past decade. India with a full support of US has promoted t5he agenda of “Debt Trap” for China’s BRI project which has forced developing states to at least think about their withdrawal from BRI. To some extent, India and US has been succeeded when Italy’s president announced their withdrawal from BRI which was Chinese’s biggest support and access to Europe.

Last but not least, where India is putting so much emphasis on different global conflicts such as its border dispute with China and Russia-Ukraine War, Modi administration left Kashmir-core issue between India and Pakistan left behind. Furthermore, India being the host country has tried to divert the world attention from Human Rights Violation (HRVs) commit by Indian government and its forces towards the Kashmiri population. Hence, it is clear that hosting a global level event by India was only serve its own agendas and promoting its national interests instead of focusing on global issues.

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