India and G7: Rising recognition and increasing importance
The G7 meeting that took place in Germany among the richest seven countries and special invitees from Asia, Africa, Latin America and European Union assumed great significance in view of the prevailing all pervasive global insecurities, including economy, politics, health and war and conflicts.
The Group of Seven that was formed in 1975 in the backdrop of the 1973 energy crisis has remained unaltered in terms of membership composition till date. It was in 1998 that Russia entered the grouping as an additional member but could stay only till 2014 when it was excluded from the membership due to its annexation of Crimea. Eight years later, the present G7 met in the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that occupied the top place in the agenda for discussion.
India’s representation in this meeting was crucial in view of the intense Cold War between the US-led Western countries and Russia since the latter’s invasion of Ukraine in February last. During the old Cold War between the US and the USSR, India followed a non-aligned strategy and sought cooperative ties with both sides of the Cold War divide. It was, however, not an equidistant policy and India occasionally took sides on key issues on the basis of principles as well as when core security interests of the country were affected.
In a way, what later came to be highlighted as strategic autonomy, India chose to remain outside bloc politics. Significantly, the United States was India’s principal trade and investment partner during the Cold War, while the USSR turned out to be a key source of defence and security requirements of the country.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War altered the strategic landscape of world politics and traditional non-alignment strategy was no longer relevant. India began to nurture an amplified strategic partnership with the United States and simultaneously maintained its defence and security ties with Russia for about more than two decades. The US and its NATO allies did not perceive Russia as a strategic threat and several European partners of the United States cultivated cooperative ties, especially closer energy trade with Moscow.
However, Russia-US relations consistently deteriorated in the last several years under the administration of Vladimir Putin. The determination of Putin to restore some of Russia’s earlier position in global affairs and make the country a robust player in global decision making often translated into certain assertive policies and strategic moves that did not go down well with the United States and its alliance partners. Starting with Russian military flexing in Georgia, moving on to Moscow’s full backing of the Assad regime in Syria, then annexation of Crimea and more recently Russian invasion of Ukraine have signalled grave hostility between Russia and the US-led Western alliance.
The G7 meeting in Germany took place amidst a new Cold War-type clash between Russia and the US and its NATO allies. Moreover, an economic Cold War between the US and China was already unfolding when the Russian invasion of Ukraine took place and further complicated the global geopolitical landscape. China refrained from directly supporting Russia on the Ukraine issue, but it consistently opposed Western sanctions against Russia. Days before the G7 summit, President Xi Jinping severely criticised Western sanctions policy during the virtual BRICS summit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to accept Germany’s invitation to attend the G7 meeting was vital in view of the prevalent geopolitical complexities and uncertainties where India needed to protect its national interests and preserve its valued partnership with the United States as well with Russia.
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