Cooperation amid conflict is India’s burden for G20

Source– The post is based on the article “Cooperation amid conflict is India’s burden for G20” published in The Indian Express on 1st March 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance: India approach towards multilateralism in changing global order

News- The inability of the G20 finance ministers to agree on a joint statement last week points to an important reality about multilateralism.

What is the history of multilateralism?

When great powers are at peace with each other, multilateralism has reasonable chances of success. But when they are in conflict with each other, there is less scope for global cooperation.

Multilateral institutions like the G20 need at least a minimal understanding among the major powers on the global rules for being functional.

Such an understanding was not there during the Cold War except in a few areas like nuclear arms control.

The Soviet Union collapse in 1991 opened doors for an expansive phase of multilateralism for nearly a quarter of a century. There was great power cooperation at the UN or in the creation of the WTO.

During the financial crisis of 2008, the Bush administration rallied the top 20 economies of the world to stabilise the global economy.

That type of cooperation among nations no longer exists. There is no consensus on key issues in G20 today.

How multilateralism is facing troubles in recent times?

The political conflict between Russia and the West is growing with the Ukraine war. There are chances that Washington and Beijing might engage in arm conflict over Taiwan.

The rising geopolitical conflict has repercussions for the economic domain. In the last few years, There has been diminishing faith in globalisation and active weaponization of interdependence for particular national objectives.

The new economic conflict has also entered the realm of emerging technologies — especially the digital domain. It promises to reshape the global economy as well as restructure the nature of military power in the international system.

How can India successfully manage its G20 presidency?

There is little possibility that the current military, political and economic tensions between the major powers can be mitigated any time soon.

Reducing the negative impact of the renewed great power conflict on the G20 in itself will be a diplomatic achievement for India.

Delhi’s multilateral diplomacy cannot stand apart from the great power conflict. India is very much part of the renewed great power rivalry. There are deep differences between Delhi and Beijing on multilateral issues.

What is the current status of India relations with major powers?

China has blocked India’s efforts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Beijing does not support Delhi’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

There is also growing friction in a range of new areas. India rejected China’s Belt and Road Initiative when it was unveiled in 2017. It did not join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Beijing helped Pakistan to put the Kashmir question back on the active agenda of the UNSC in 2019. Yet, India continues to have a presence with China in various forums like the RIC, BRICS and SCO. It is also a member of the China-led AIIB.

India has deepened bilateral strategic ties with the US and Europe. Delhi has also revived the Quad forum with Australia, Japan and the US. The Quad is now one of India’s premier multilateral forums.

What has been the approach of the Indian foreign policy establishment towards multilateralism?

In the past, India seemed to focus on just one kind of multilateralism — the UN and the NAM. Delhi now participates in multiple kinds of multilateral institutions. The UN remains an important focus for India.

A less universal coalition like the G20 is important for multilateralism but is also quite vulnerable to geopolitics.

Delhi also participates in groupings of “like-minded countries” such as the Quad in the pursuit of national and regional interests. India is also a regular invitee to the G7 forum of advanced industrial democracies.

It is also actively trying to reactivate its past coalition with the Global South. Delhi approached the FATF to put some real pressure on Pakistan.

How are the foreign policy options for India in complex global order?

India can’t simply turn its back on China. Its growing economic and military weight makes it a powerful player in the international system. Nor can it ignore Russia, which has just reminded the world of its enormous capacity to disrupt the global order.

Delhi has no option but to try and cooperate with its adversaries to solve larger regional and global problems.

At the same time, national interests demand that India compete with its rivals and collaborate with like-minded countries in the multilateral domain.

The relative mix of cooperation and contestation depends on the context and the nature of the specific issue at hand.

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