NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AP) — China and India, after months of refusing to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine, did not block the release this week of a statement by the world’s major economies that sharply criticizes Moscow.
Could this finally signal yet another bold policy shift by Beijing and New Delhi to align with what the United States and its allies see as the best way to end a war that has sown death and misery in Ukraine and disrupting millions of lives as food and energy prices soar and economies crack?
There is certainly an eagerness on the part of a war-weary world to see it as the beginning of change by rising world powers.
Look closely enough, however, and there’s enough subtlety, not to mention fuzzy points, both in the official statement released at the end of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, and in the actions of the China and India themselves, to raise questions. know if real change is afoot.
Their positions will become clearer in the coming weeks, but for now the two nations, which have significant commercial ties with Russia and have so far refrained from outspoken criticism of the war, could simply look out for their own interests. and keep future options open.
It is important to understand what exactly happened in Bali, as there are growing fears that without political and diplomatic pressure from China and India, Russia will be much less likely to end its war. .
The conflict in Ukraine loomed large over the two-day summit in Bali, which was attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. News early Wednesday of an explosion rocking eastern Poland prompted US President Joe Biden to hastily arrange an emergency meeting with members of the Group of Seven and NATO at the summit.
The behind-the-scenes wrangling at the G-20 over how to deal with Russia’s invasion in its statement has been “very, very tough,” said Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the summit’s host.
“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy,” the statement said.
The less than universal language – “most members” – signals the presence of dissent, as does the acknowledgment that “there were other viewpoints and different assessments” and that the G-20 did not is “not the forum for resolving security issues”.
The end product, however, was seen by some as a strong rebuke of a war that has killed thousands, heightened global security tensions and disrupted the global economy.
The public statement used the language of a March UN resolution that deplored “in the strongest terms the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and demanded “its complete and unconditional withdrawal” from the territory Ukrainian.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the “astonishingly clear words” of the G-20 summit on Ukraine “would not have been possible if important countries had not helped us to come together in this way – this includes the India and that also includes, for example, South Africa.”
“It’s something that shows that there are many in the world who don’t think this war is just, who condemn it, even though they abstained in the votes at the United Nations for various reasons,” Scholz said. “And I’m sure that’s one of the results of this summit: the Russian president is almost alone in the world with his policy.”
John Kirton, director of the G-20 research group, called it a “great breakthrough” and “active shift” of China and India in which they joined the “democratic side of the great geopolitical divide. immediate”.
Privately, however, some diplomats were reluctant to say that China had changed its position vis-à-vis Russia.
Chinese President Xi Jinping may have just made the decision not to be seen as a spoiler or outlier in face-to-face meetings with other leaders in Bali. The statement also allows China to avoid going all-in with a Russia that seems increasingly isolated as it ramps up attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
What Beijing has not done is change – or even publicly question – its fundamental relationship with Russia.
China has closely aligned its foreign policy with that of Russia in recent years, with pipeline projects and natural gas sales bringing them closer economically.
He refused to publicly criticize Russia’s aggression or even call it an invasion, while criticizing the sanctions and accusing the United States and NATO of provoking Putin, although he warned against letting the conflict go nuclear.
Just weeks before the invasion of Moscow, Russian and Chinese leaders met in Beijing, where they signed a joint statement saying their bilateral relationship had “no” limits.
It was unclear whether China had pushed for the softening of language in the G-20 statement acknowledging “other views and differing assessments” and that the G-20 is “not the forum to address security issues,” but Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said she had pushed for such phrases on other occasions.
For India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also avoided criticizing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Modi, however, first publicly indicated India’s unease with the attack when he met Putin in September.
“I know that today’s era is not one of war,” Modi told Putin.
This message “resonated very deeply in all the delegations and helped bridge the gap between the different parties and contributed to the success of the document” in Bali, Indian Foreign Minister Vinay Kwatra told reporters.
Navdeep Suri, a retired Indian diplomat, said he sees a subtle shift in India’s position in its relations with Russia.
China, however, may be “in a much more delicate position than India because China is the one who promised unlimited support to Russia days before the invasion”, Suri said. “China has (now) accepted such harsh language, including the unconditional and complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine.”
Dilip Sinha, another retired Indian diplomat, noted that India continues to buy oil, trade with Russia and refrain from complying with UN resolutions critical of Russia.
“There is a sense of bravado in India that is taking hold. I see no change in India’s policy towards Russia regarding the war in Ukraine,” Sinha said.
Foster Klug, AP’s news director for the Koreas, Japan, Australia and the South Pacific, has covered Asia since 2005.
Associated Press writer Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this story.
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