G20 meets in India as Chinese President Xi Jinping absent

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G20 leaders have convened in New Delhi, highlighting significant divisions among key members and raising questions about the bloc’s relevance due to the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The G20 was established during the 2008 financial crisis as a mechanism for global economic management. However, achieving consensus among member nations has become increasingly challenging in recent years.

Several leaders had already arrived in New Delhi, which had been spruced up and partially depopulated for the event. India, as the host, was striving to secure agreements on pressing issues such as the Ukraine conflict, climate change, and global governance.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has portrayed the summit as a milestone in his country’s diplomatic stature, demonstrating New Delhi’s influence and prestige on the world stage. However, rival leader Xi chose not to attend the meeting and instead sent Premier Li Qiang as his representative.

No official explanation was given for Xi’s absence, but he has criticized Modi over a deadly border dispute between China and India and has openly sought to make groups led by the United States, like the G20, more accommodating to Beijing’s interests.

As the summit unfolds, Xi will be hosting the leaders of Venezuela and Zambia in Beijing.

Modi, sensing an opportunity to enhance his credentials as a statesman ahead of a re-election bid early next year, has taken a central role in the proceedings. His image is featured on numerous G20 billboards and posters across Delhi.

The failure of G20 leaders to reach an agreement on a joint summit statement, a typically routine diplomatic matter, could be viewed as an embarrassment for India and a challenge to Modi’s assertion that he can unite developing and wealthier members.

Modi is expected to make progress in this direction, with several leaders expressing support for expanding the bloc to include the “G21” and making the African Union a permanent member.

However, issues like Ukraine and the financing of efforts to address global climate change remain contentious points of discussion.

“Please have a little patience,” said senior Indian diplomat Amitabh Kant, assuring that a text would be presented to leaders for their decision.

In addition to Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin is also absent from the summit due to diplomatic criticism and war crimes allegations, although Moscow continues to push its allies to soften international condemnation of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Once again, Vladimir Putin is failing to show his face at the G20,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “He is the architect of his own diplomatic isolation, isolating himself in his presidential palace and blocking out criticism and reality. Meanwhile, the rest of the G20 is demonstrating that we will come together and work to address the consequences of Putin’s actions.”