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Invitation To India For G-7: Shifting Global Geopolitics – OpEd

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The 46th G-7 submit was scheduled to be held during June 10-12, 2020 at Camp David in US. US President Donald Trump on May 30, 2020 postponed it to September 2020. However, once again Trump has postponed the Summit to be held somewhere after the November US Presidential elections. He also expressed that G-7 is now a “very outdated group of countries” in need of expansion with inclusion of Russia, South Korea, Australia, and India. Pending an official invitation, Narendra Modi accepted Trump’s invitation for the Summit scheduled in September 2020. 

Economic axis of the world is on the move from Atlantic to the Pacific. The shift is inevitable with the rise of two economic giants in the contemporary world: India and China. China has been working succinctly and silently for the last three decades and more, and is already a risen economic power. India worked for last two decades and is a rising economic power. Both are an economic force to be reckoned with in the contemporary world. 

G-7 is an informal inter-governmental organization, of world’s largest economies including Canada, France, the US, Italy, Japan, Germany, and the UK, without any Constitution and Headquarter. Originally formed in 1975, Canada joined it in 1976. European Union has been attending the Summit since 1977. G-7 accounted for 70% of world’s net wealth in 1975. Main objectives of the group were to discuss pressing geopolitical concerns, drug trafficking, terrorism, arms control, oil pricing and financial crisis among other issues. With the rise of India, China and Brazil the Group’s global share in GDP has reduced to 40% at present.

Russia was included as the eighth member in 1997. However, in 2014 after annexation of Crimea region from Ukraine, Russia was expelled. 2014 G-7 Summit was held at Brussels, Belgium which was scheduled to be held at Russia. Hence, US and Canada have opposed Russia’s inclusion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended the 45th G-7 Summit of August 24-26, 2019 at Biarritz in France as special guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the G-8 Summit in 2005 on special invitation of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

The geopolitical and economic environment of the world has been changing. It is the growing economic status of India that warranted its inclusion in the G-7, the informal bloc and not the growing Sino-Indian Border conflict. Except for FY2019, India’s GDP growth rate has hovered between 6 and 7 percent over the last decade. India’s GDP has grown by over 700 percent since 1975, owing to liberalization reforms, and move towards open market economy. India was ranked at 9th among top economies of the world in 2010. Presently, it is at fifth ahead of Germany, France, the UK, Canada and Italy. India by now is an economic powerhouse and cynosure of west eyes.  

Advantage India:

  • Its strategic alliance with world’s economically prominent democracies in G-7 will throw opportunity to trigger further growth.
  • Many companies have realised that they need to de-couple their supply chain from China to efface risks of natural and geopolitical disturbances, especially in the wake of COVID-19. India has emerged as strong contender as outsource destination for such companies.
  • Indian economy too has suffered setback amidst COVID-19. Hence government has taken a series of measures including transforming India as lucrative destination for foreign investors. It will solidify India’s commitment to fashioning itself as a key manufacturing destination of the immediate future.
  • Sino-US Row over trade, Coronavirus origin, and misusing of WHO has led to sagging down of China’s geopolitical advantages, thereby raising prospects of India. Chinese state controlled ‘Global Times’ in its editorials has been threatening India for joining G-7. China seems to be wary of India siding with US in Cold War 2.0 and has threatened India will have hell to pay. China views the expansion as ‘ganging-up’ against China by creation of a small-circle.  It’s in India’s strategic interests to re-enforce its ties with the global hegemony.
  • It is also response to India’s long-standing demand of reform of global institutions. It also reflects the changing geopolitical realties on global horizon. The proposal thus validates India’s positions. This shows the tightening of Indo-US security and strategic collaboration against expansionist and revisionist behaviour of a hostile neighbour.   

Imperatives for India:

  • Given China’s aggressive posture and endeavour at territorial intrusion, India must adopt a foreign policy stand premised on multilateralism over isolation, to counter-balance the military superiority of China over itself.
  • India has no other choice but to align with major powers; as there is clear power asymmetry and capability gap with China, both in economic and hard power spheres. Thus, India cannot have a credible deterrence against China to make it behave on the borders. China will always resort to create instability by pushing India’s areas of vulnerabilities.  
  • India’s closeness with major powers always give India leverage to manoeuvre and manage Chinese challenge. Any policy of isolation would boost China’s ambitions on the border and enhance India’s vulnerability.

Challenges before India:

  • India will have to leverage its diplomatic weight with each and every member of the G-7 to be a part of the Group. The announcement is only by Trump, and other members too will have to express their opinion.
  • Expansion may be a plan aimed at “US Indo-Pacific strategy” in view of proposed inclusion of Australia and South Korea two erstwhile allies of US. India’s Act East Policy too is gradually getting hooked to US ‘Pivot to Asia’ foreign policy. India has never been interested in any kind of ‘hot pursuit’ against China, reiterating often to resolve outstanding issues through diplomatic dialogue. Under such circumstances India will have to tread-in cautiously, not to end-up as a pawn in US Pacific Strategic pursuits. 
  • China’s exclusion, the world’s second largest economy, from the group smacks of US sinister design. US current offensive may be more on account of impending US Presidential elections in November. Trump is trying to educate his citizens that he is tough on China, and criticise his rival for being soft. Under such circumstances, how India is going to articulate the development for itself would depend upon its diplomatic maturity to read the international political undercurrent.
  • Trump’s proposal to mediate in Sino-Indian border row and branding it as ‘big conflict’ smacks of his domestic compulsions and selfish national interests. Role of third-party interventions were denied by India and subsequently also by China. Therefore, India need to be cautious of US long-term and short-term interests in the region, while discussing global and regional issues telephonically. 
  • China may misread into it the growing alliance of economically powerful democracies against a Communist regime, hence an ideological challenge too. Proposal to include Russia is to split the China-Russia axis. Inclusion of India may be a democratic counterbalance to hegemonic China.   

Conclusion:

Trump’s suggestion of expansion is interesting and at an opportune time. It is US’s tactical manoeuvre and geopolitical move. This certainly is the thickening of the second cold war between US and China. US is trying to balance rise of China by pitting Russia and India against it and wean away their loyalty to itself. 

Informal proposal to include India into G-7 may have indicative meaning for now to further accost China. However, strategic benefits would accrue to India in future but it is full of challenges. Hence, India need to take care of the moves that it needs to resort to.  

*Dr. Alok Kumar Gupta, Associate Professor, Department of Politics and International Relations, Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India

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