Prime Minister’s summits with the Russian President in Sochi and the Chinese leader at Wuhan have created positive vibes.
The “Big Three” of China, Russia and India — President Xi Jinping, President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi — are expected to define the course of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), whose latest edition begins in Qingdao later on Saturday.
On Friday, Mr. Xi described Mr. Putin as his “best friend.” The Chinese President made the remark during a glittering ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, where the Russian President became the first foreign leader to be honoured with the Friendship Medal of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Putin most respected leader: Xi
“President Putin has come to China 19 times for visits and international events since 2000, outnumbering all other leaders of major countries,” Mr. Xi said. “He is the most well-known and most respected leader of a major country to the Chinese people. He is also my best friend and confidant.”
Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin also apparently enjoy a warm “personal chemistry” reinforced by the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Sochi last month.
“This summit [in Sochi with Mr. Putin] was characterised by a special personal chemistry between the two leaders,” said Pankaj Saran, India’s Ambassador to Russia, in an interview with Tass.
“The reason for this unscheduled meeting was that both sides wanted to exchange opinions on key global and regional issues, including development of situation in Afghanistan, Syria and Iran as well as to discuss matters of bilateral interest,” he said.
Special Modi-Xi ties
The special ties between Mr. Xi and Mr. Modi were on display during the late April informal summit of the two leaders in Wuhan.
Analysts in China say that Mr. Modi’s keynote speech at the Shangrila Dialogue in Singapore on June 1, has added another positive layer to the “breakthrough” Wuhan informal summit.
In an interview with the Chinese website crntt.com, Ding Hao, director of Indian Military Research Office of Foreign Military Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Military, pointed out that during his speech in Singapore, Mr. Modi made it plain that “he does not want the Indo-Pacific region to become a confrontational region. He hopes that this region can cooperate and develop.”
‘Inclusivity, non zero-sum approach’
Mr. Ding explained that Mr. Modi’s Indo-Pacific strategy marked by inclusivity and a non-zero sum approach, was diametrically opposite to Washington’s approach towards this region. “[Mr.] Modi clearly stated that Indo-Pacific should be an area that is inclusive, not targeting at a third country, achieving win-win through mutual cooperation. It’s completely different from the Indo-Pacific concept of the U.S.,” he observed.
The Chinese scholar stressed that India was committed to its “strategic autonomy,” and “will not be willing to serve as a pawn for the benefit of the United States.”
India’s Ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale told China’s state broadcaster CGTN that Mr. Xi and Mr. Modi were expected to take more steps for closer cooperation during the Qingdao summit. The two leaders are expected to meet for one-on-one talks later on Saturday, ahead of a grand banquet that Mr. Xi will host for the visiting leaders.
Will they discuss ‘America first’?
Observers say that the three heads are expected to focus on the “big picture” during the SCO summit, in view of the situation arising out of the America first doctrine of U.S. President Donald Trump.
John Ross, Senior Fellow at the Renmin University of China, told The Hinduthat SCO, as it meets in Qingdao, was vital for “international stability”. He added: “Economic growth in the West is now actually slower than after 1929. The situation is better characterised as ‘great stagnation’ rather that ‘great depression’. Geopolitical instability in the West will, therefore, continue.” Mr. Ross stressed that economic potential of the SCO region was far higher than that of the G-7 grouping, whose leaders began their meeting in Canada on Friday.
Ahead of the summit, Mr. Putin also hammered the global promise of the SCO zone. “The SCO member-states account for one-fourth of the world’s GDP, 43 per cent of the international population and 23 per cent of the global territory. These are very substantial resources. Plus we have seen Asia’s economic growth accelerated, especially China and India,” Mr. Putin told CGTN.
Putin for robust military role for SCO
Over the next two days, the grouping is expected to focus on security, debating a range of options, from collaboration in counter-terrorism to a more elaborate military partnership, among SCO members, which include four nuclear weapon powers.
Mr. Putin appeared to favour a more robust military role for the SCO, which some have characterised as an emerging counterweight to NATO. In his interview, Mr. Putin said that “the mighty [military]potential [of the member-states] can also be the mighty backbone for us”. He noted: “Uniting these strong powers will undoubtedly become an important factor for our development, and one that could influence the world, in a positive way, I believe.”