Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending the G7 summit on Monday at the invitation of host Germany. India has been a regular participant in this forum since the early 2000s, reflecting its growing importance in the global comity of nations.
But this was not always the case. G7 was a grouping of the richest and most advanced economies in the world. It was founded in the 1970s basically as a grouping by America for its projection of power beyond its shores. But the world has changed significantly since the 1970s. Countries like Canada and Italy are not among the biggest economies in the world right now. India and China are not formally a part of the G7, but are among the top seven economies in the world. Russia used to be part of the G7+1 but it stopped getting invited post the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
India’s regular participation at the G7 summits clearly reflects that the West needs its support to confront major challenges facing the globe, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said last week, ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Germany.
Besides India, Germany has also invited Argentina, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa as guests for this year’s summit. The attempt is to recognise the democracies of the global South as its partners. Germany is hosting the summit in its capacity as G7 chair for this year at the seaside resort of Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps.
This year’s summit comes in the background of the Russia-Ukraine war. Here again, India’s position is different and nuanced from the US and Europe. India’s position has always been very clear, asking for cessation of hostilities right from the beginning of the conflict. But India has also mostly abstained from votes in the UN Security Council and General Assembly. India did not want to be seen as voting against Russia.
One pain point has been the continuing purchase of Russian oil by India despite the war. Earlier, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had pointed out how Europe buys more oil in one afternoon than what India buys in an entire month. But subsequently, Indian purchase of Russian oil, which used to be around 2% before the war began, has now gone up to 6-7% in the latest month for which data is available. India has been at pains to explain that its sourcing of energy is totally driven by its own national interests.
“Whatever the trading arrangements that India puts in place with regard to the purchase of crude oil all over the world are determined purely from the consideration of energy security of India and there is no other consideration,” Foreign Secretary Kwatra said.
“I think that consideration is very well understood. I would even say appreciated across the countries. I do not see any point of assuming any pressure on that issue. India has continued its oil trade and purchases from wherever we need to do it,” he said.
But there is another very good reason why the G7 should be expanded. Last year, Britain — the host — invited India, South Korea and Australia. This was a clear indication that the West views the Indo-Pacific as the next possible theatre of conflict.
The West has been completely taken aback by the rise of China and its rather aggressive behaviour beyond its border, especially in the maritime domain. The Quad was formed recognising exactly this concern. But for the Quad or the G7 to be taken seriously by China — and now by Russia — it needs India.
India is the only big country which can match China’s economic and military prowess in the Indo-Pacific. Without India, the project of containing China or coercing China to play by the international rules will not have any weight. If the West does not want to be consumed by the Russia-Ukraine war and does not want to take its eyes off China, then India is the country that needs to be cultivated.
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