The G20 scenario in Delhitext_fields
The absence of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping from the G20 Summit opens the field for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to play the sole voice of the “Global South”. Given his talent for choreography, he will rise to the occasion. Indeed, Modi will make it an event more spectacular than Independence Day at the Red Fort when he walks down the blazing red carpet with athletic bounce.
His media advisers will anguish over a different matter: how to balance his solo performance with the state visit of President Joe Biden, the world’s most powerful man struggling not to be seen in decline. The G20 will be his event too.
The twin events, in days of yore, would be an editor’s nightmare. President Kennedy shot dead in Dallas. This coincided with an Indian tragedy: five generals of the Indian Armed Forces died in a copter crash the same day. Editors anguished: which story should they lead with.
No such anguish in store for the editors today. They have been downgraded by the channels. The channels will receive instructions from the minions of the master choreographer. It will be fascinating to see how anchors conceal their obsequiousness.
Once the dust settle on the G20, both, Modi and Biden, will be staring at their 2024 election prospects. Biden’s deadline is fixed: elections in November, next year. It is of course a matter of interest whether Biden will be able to bag the Democratic nomination.
Modi by now is an expert handler of American Presidents. He has come a long way from the early “Barack, Barack” days when someone tried to drape him in a pinstripe suit with his name embroidered in between the stripes.
At the “Howdy-Modi” event in Houston, 2019, he was audacious enough to put his arms around the then President Donald Trump and proclaim “Abki baar, Trump Sarkar”. Which meant that his “hope” for the 2020 US election was that Trump would win.
Trump didn’t. Indeed, when Biden won, pundits, generally off the mark, thought the new President would be cold to “Modi”. The configuration of global power play since the US’s messy withdrawal from Afghanistan and rank miscalculation in Ukraine has placed India in a sweet spot: it is wooed by the US as well as Russia. Since Russia and China are sworn to a friendship with “no limit” Modi may be tempted to take temporary risks with China. Russia will be expected to bridge the New Delhi-Beijing distance should it increase, say, in the context of the Biden visit.
Washington’s wish-list from the Summit would include a mention of Ukraine in the final communique, a statement by Volodymyr Zelensky at least virtually, to give Modi’s dexterous navigation between BRICS and giving QUAD a nudge towards the grouping designed to encircle China.
New Delhi too will be reading the fine print of US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen’s talks in Beijing. On her heels, virtually, was Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimando, looking very chastened as she engaged her Chinese counterpart. Not to be left behind was James Cleverly, British Foreign Secretary. The Beijing-Washington traffic is soaring. Military intentions are not on show. Even containment should be made of sterner stuff.
What then, does one make of all the anxious punditry coming out of US think tanks that the US is making a bad bet on India if it imagines that the country will ever be part of military action against China. The grouse in these US circles is that the word “alliance” is anathema to New Delhi. Washington on the other hand does not feel secure enough with terms like “partnership”, within which even “interoperability is taboo. The fear is that New Delhi will tease but not go to bed. After the consistent Washington-Beijing exchange of high level visits, in the bargain in any case is not a commitment in perpetuity. This three way pirouette is as much a test of affections as of stamina.
The outcome of the summit as well as the crucial bilateral visit will be determined not by what happens but how the western media plays up the event. It must project Biden carrying away a bagful of goodies. What will these be?
Much greater urgency awaits what Modi is seen to be carrying away. For the first time in the recent past , will an Indian Prime Minister be projected by the media, which is already in his thrall, as one at ease and familiar with the world’s most powerful leaders? Will Modi come across with a sufficiently stellar performance enabling him to advance the date of the 2024 elections. He will thus be able to avoid head winds that possible defeats in the four state elections might generate.
It is another matter that for the first time since World War II, that halo which marks the most powerful will be absent. Indeed the leaders will look as diminished as the collective West does and which has been in decline since the financial crisis of 2008.
Pick them out one by one, beginning with France’s Emanuel Macron. Just consider the egg on his face in Francophone Africa. Burkina Faso, Mali now Niger, one coup after another. The US has a military base in Niger. What for?
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa invited 35 African countries to the recently concluded BRICS summit in Johannesburg. The leaders acquainted themselves with the rapid expansion of BRICS as their emancipators from the colonial, hegemonic world order which filled western coffers and left Africans in poverty.
As focus turns to Africa, a new colonial, imperial chapter is opening up. We are told that western troops in Africa were fighting Islamic terrorism. Really, or were they supervising western loot? The US had built a $110 million drone base in Agadez, Niger. It is the largest drone base in the world. Over 1,000 US soldiers are deployed in the country. All this exertions to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda?
Why do these coups resonate well with the people? In Niger, thousands turned up to register for army duty as demanded by the coup leaders.