India’s swing state moment

THE latest meeting of the world’s 20 most economically powerful nations at Buenos Aires was termed as the ‘avoidance summit’. Trump avoided meeting Putin, China tried to avoid the trade wars, Putin tried to avoid getting rapped for the fracas with Ukraine and everyone avoided a discussion to reform the WTO and pursue climate change. But India, usually an important but not a crucial determinant at G-20 summits, was ardently sought out by both the camps. A Russia-India-China summit took place after 12 years, indicating that New Delhi intends addressing the flux in the neighbourhood by a regional approach. If that was not symbolic enough, Japan and US expanded their bilateral summit at the last moment to include India, enabling India not to lose sight of its concerns for the Indo-Pacific.

There were no surprises in the Japan-India-US trilateral because it has been a work-in-progress. Moreover, the momentum is kept going because of the unanimity among their elites to pursue this relationship with the unstated intention to deny Chinese dominance over the Indo-Pacific. This suits India’s interests. Till there is a festering land border dispute with China, the US-led maritime partnership can serve India’s requirement for a counter pressure point. However, there is no matching enthusiasm among the Indian elites for creative diplomacy with Russia and China. The task of nurturing and advancing ties with them is left to the Indian state which is partly responsible for the absence of a RIC summit for a dozen years.

The most notable outcome of the RIC summit was the desire to work on terrorism. All three countries lie in what is called the crescent of Islamic terrorism that transcends national boundaries. The  resilience of terror groups in the region is because of the absence of a coherent multi-nation effort. A consensus among the three countries should hopefully diffuse to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and have a calming effect on Pakistan which is also a member. This is the season of unlikely rapprochements and India has managed to put itself in the centre.