MBC Screened-in blog by Vijayesh tiwari (June’20)

The 46th G7 summit of the leaders of the group of seven postponed when the German Chancellor Angela Merkel waived off President Trump’s plans to host the summit saying ‘Coronavirus concerns made it impossible for her to confirm her attendance’. POTUS then announced that the meeting that was originally scheduled to be held on June 10 through June 12, 2020, at Camp David, United States would be delayed until September. If this would have stopped here it wouldn’t have made much of news but it was just a beginning of a new kind of debate, discussion and possibilities.

When Trump told reporters “I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world, it’s a very outdated group of countries” he has a point. Gone are the days when the U.S , the U.K , France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada could credibly claim to represent the world’s advanced economies, much less to set an international agenda. The world and the world’s scenario has changed since the G7 formed in the mid 70s. The rise of China, in particular but also the emergence of countries like India, South Korea, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and others have made the list look like a country club board meeting.

“The Rise of China and the emergence of India, South Korea, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and others over the past few decades has reduced the G7 relevance whose share in the global GDP has now fallen to around 40% whereas the G20 countries make up around 80% of the world’s economy.”

China said “this plan doomed to fail”

Beyond the points made by the POTUS that this ‘outdated’ group needs to be expanded as it is not representing the world’s current inclination, many theories are running out. An invitation to Indo-Pacific democracies India, South Korea and Australia is an attempt to confront and isolate China. If the G-7 is an institution designed to promote democracy; freedoms of speech, assembly and religion; and free-market capitalism, then that idea makes good sense. China has emerged over the past 30 years as the world’s most powerful police state, and its international influence now extends into every region of the world. An alliance of democracies designed to promote and defend democratic values and individual freedoms might be a worthy goal.

There is speculation about the motives behind Trump’s suggestion to expand the G7 format. It could be explained either by his attempts to draw attention away from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rejecting an invitation to the meeting in Washington or the desire to curtail China’s global rise and orchestrate a global backlash against it.China is facing attacks on all the fronts, starting from being reprimanded over the Covid-19 pandemic and accusations of misdoings involving Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, the trade war, its tech programme “Made in China 2025” and so on.China, being the world’s second-biggest economy and important to trade and investment, is critical to a revival. Efforts to sideline its involvement in the global recovery make no sense.

India, presently involved in a border stand-off with China on the Tibetan plateau, is seen by the administration as a valuable security partner to counter Beijing’s influence in Asia.

Trump’s exclusion of China comes at a time when the US abrogated special status given to Hong Kong and the withdrawal of its contribution to the World Health Organization. Trump is also aggressively pushing for decoupling China from global supply chains which could hurt the world’s second-largest economy in the long run. Reacting to this China strongly condemned United States President Donald Trump’s invitation to India, Russia, Australia, and South Korea for the G7 summit. China said that any attempts to make a close-knitted circle against Beijing will be “doomed to fail and become unpopular,”China believes all international organizations and conferences should be conducive to mutual trust between countries to uphold multilateralism, promoting world peace and development.”

Russia seems to decline the proposal

Bilateral relations between Russia and China have improved over the years, and there is no reason for both countries to join any closed formats with strict selection processes in which some states are welcomed and others are not. As both countries strengthen trust-based relations, neither Russia nor China will be willing to shift diplomatic equilibrium in bilateral relations by taking part in any overtures which may be interpreted by either side as openly provocative. During the pandemic, Russia along with China have struck back against US attacks on the World Health Organisation. Russia also expressed its praise for China’s “effective” actions which contributed to the stabilisation of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Russia obviously does not accept a situation in which it would be a “trump card” in Trump’s attempts to counterbalance China. Russia welcomes all cooperation mechanisms but does not want to risk its relations with established partners for the sake of admission to some exclusive clubs where it is not even commonly wanted. Russia traditionally showcases its foreign policy as a diversified one without particular inclination towards a country or a group of states. It is a natural choice considering the geographic location of Russia as well as its strategic interests stretching across many regions along its vast border.

Russia is definitely and clearly aware that the international balance of power has been undergoing significant change. Western countries’ capability of dominating international politics has been waning. The G7 is not capable of governing global affairs. Against this background, Russia’s return to the group becomes meaningless. The West once firmly dominated global politics. Yet the rise of emerging powers has broken Western countries’ dominance, and the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the transfer of international political power. In this context, Russia believes the bloc can no longer meet the requirements of the times, nor can it lead the direction of international politics as it did in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War. Russia clearly recognizes that without the participation of China, the world’s second-largest economy, any multilateral organization lacks the capability of global governance.

Russia is a less obvious choice; once part of an enlarged G7, it was forced out in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and its poor relations with the West and forging of closer ties with China make it an unlikely ally. Unlike South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has not promptly accepted Trump’s offer. Even if he did, with a mindset that it might and it will surely help him remove all the sanctions over Russia his presence would not be welcomed, some G7 members having strained relations with his country and his efforts to scrap presidential term limits sitting uncomfortably with an organisation grounded in democratic principles.

India; something to gain with a bit of pain, probably

It will be recognition for India’s increasing international clout, importance and acceptability at the high table. Whether they will formally become the members remains to be seen but at this stage, it’s Trump’s brainchild and possibly the recognition of the limitations of G7.

However, if India hastily joins a small circle that perceives China as an imaginary enemy, China-India relations will deteriorate. This is not in India’s interests. The current bilateral relations have already been on a downward trend. The China-India relationship is now in a state that only top leaders can determine courses of progress. After all, the deteriorations of relations cannot simply be reversed through efforts at social levels.

Given the rising tensions between New Delhi and Beijing, stemming from what India believes is aggressive posturing and territorial intrusion at the LAC, it would be in India’s interests to adopt a foreign policy stance premised on multilateralism over isolation, to counter and balance the military power-divide between itself and China. Amid allegations that China has been less than forthright in its original disclosure of the extent of the outbreak, and US President’s Trump’s more recent assertion that China held too much influence over the World Health Organisation, India’s neighbour’s geopolitical stock appears to be plummeting.

The U.S is in the hand of a businessman with a policy of ‘America First’. India after becoming a G7 member could also bolster Trump’s often repeated grouse that India doesn’t deserve to be in the row of developing countries anymore. Recently, he has altered the Generalized System of Preferences i.e GSP that caused India a huge loss in American markets as tariffs were increased on Indian goods citing it’s G20 membership and a share of more than 0.5% of global trade. Adding India to the group will lead this country towards self confrontation that it belongs to the world’s advanced economies as G7 at it’s very basic has been a group of the advanced and the most industrialized nation with a per capita income ranging from a little over $34,000 (Italy) to almost $63,000 ( USA) whereas India’s per capita income is at little over $2,000 places it in the ranks of lower middle class income countries.

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