As the world’s top leaders are set to discuss the state of the global economy at this weekend’s G-20 summit here, geopolitics, bilateral issues and growing threat of terrorism have cast a shadow over the gathering while host China is keen on avoiding any references to the simmering South China Sea dispute.
The meeting is set to take place in this picturesque eastern city on September 4 and 5 at a time when a series of terror attacks in many European countries claimed by ISIS have threatened the international peace and security.
For China, the summit comes at a time when it is waging a grim battle to minimise the impact of an international tribunal’s ruling which quashed its expansive claims on the South China Sea (SCS), besides tensions in its ties with India, Japan, Britain and the US.
China’s irritation with the “S” word is palpable.
“The South China Sea issue has nothing to do with this summit,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had said in a media briefing recently when asked whether the issue would figure at the meeting.
“I am not sure why you asked this question. It is known to all that the G20 Summit is supposed to focus on how to inject vitality and impetus to world economic development serving as a platform prioritising and improving global economic governance,” she said.
While the summit is a challenge to China’s diplomacy with its top diplomats tiptoeing around the ‘S’ issue, to ensure that it does not figure in the joint statement, officials say the big focus will remain on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s bilateral meetings with the leaders of the cream of the G20 group including with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the summit.
Modi who is scheduled to arrive on September 3 will stay in the city for about 48 hours, an Indian diplomat said.
Details of his meeting with Xi on the sidelines is still being worked out.
Chinese officials say besides Modi, it will be a big line up of bilateral meets for Xi including with US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his British counterpart Theresa May, each riddled with tense issues.
Officials say most of the meetings are still being worked out.
Modi and Xi have met several times and they enjoy a friendly rapport but this time the meeting is taking place at a time when the “Pakistan factor” is felt on Sino-Indian ties.
From terrorism, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Balochistan, the bilateral ties took considerable beating.
Officials on both sides admit that a more free and frank exchanges between the two leaders could smoothen the rough edges.
Xi and Modi will also have an opportunity to meet again in Goa next year during the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit.
“So they may carry forward their talks to the next meeting,” an official said.