09/01/2023, 19.43
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G20 in New Delhi: territorial disputes behind Xi Jinping's no-show

The news, released yesterday, once again draws attention to the Sino-Indian rivalry to lead the global South. Despite words of détente at last week's BRICS meeting, ongoing border tensions in the eastern state of Ladakh remain high. Xi’s absence marks a failure of Indian diplomacy to bring together major world leaders around the same table.


New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Chinese President Xi Jinping is not likely to attend the G20 summit in India scheduled for 8-10 September; instead, he will be represented by Prime Minister Li Qiang, Reuters reported yesterday. This is not unexpected; The Wire claims that Indian officials have known this for a month.

Xi’s absence from the summit, the first time since 2013, combined with that of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in his place, constitute a failure for Indian diplomacy, which sought to bring together the leaders of Russia, China and the United States around the same table relying on India’s equivocal ties with Russia and its strategic cooperation with the United States.

Experts argue that Xi's choice not to participate in the G20 reflects his desire to distance his country from Western-dominated international institutions.

At the same time, some believe that Beijing wants to send a signal to its Asian rival, which had worked hard to promote the meeting, namely that it does not want to acknowledge India’s economic progress while China seems to be losing steam.

Any hope Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in his ambitious plan to see India act as a mediator and link between East and West is cracking at the seams due to incompatible territorial claims.

Over the past three years, the "line of actual control" (LAC) that runs for 3,500 kilometres in the eastern Ladakh between India and China has turned hot.

The border, which crosses the Himalayan range, was never fixed after the British pulled out of their former colony and the issue has remained unresolved for decades. Then, in June 2020, Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the Galwan Valley, leaving 20 dead on the Indian side and five on the Chinese.

While border tensions are nothing new (including a war in 1962), analysts consider the events of 2020 as a watershed in bilateral relations between Beijing and Delhi.

Talks so far (at least 19 rounds) have only led to further hardening of their respective positions about the border rather than military disengagement.

Despite an apparent détente at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg (South Africa) last week, where Beijing proposed adding six new members (against the West), the border issue resurfaced this week after China's Ministry of Natural Resources published its latest map showing the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir’s Aksai Chin plateau within Chinese territories.

Reacting to the publication, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar called China's claims "absurd”, while Chinese authorities urged India not to overreact. China’s claims, which include Taiwan and vast swathes of the South China Sea, have angered other countries as well.

Recently, China has refused to stamp the passports for Indian officials and sportsmen from Arunachal Pradesh claiming that they are Chinese nationals, not foreigners.

Despite words about working for détente, the issue remains unsolved, and will condition Sino-Indian relations for a long time.

Most preparatory meetings held ahead of next weekend’s summit failed to find any point of agreement on the war in Ukraine; last’s month meeting in the city of Gandhinagar between G20 finance ministers and central bank governors ended without a joint statement on the conflict.

China and Russia objected to paragraphs referring to the war that said it was causing “immense human suffering” and “exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.”

In an attempt to remain neutral, India has expressed concern over the war’s impact on developing countries, positioning itself as the leader of the global South, a role that once again runs up against Chinese ambitions.

When India held a preparatory meeting in Kashmir in May for foreign officials from G20 countries, China and its anti-Indian ally Pakistan refused to send a delegation.


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