Two Expansions: Which G7 should India Choose?
Aayush Mohanty, Research Associate, VIF

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in June 2016 and Donald Trump becoming the President of the United States of America a few months later with the slogan “America First” has led to the offspring’s of globalisation, the multilateral institutions and alliances coming under tremendous pressure. Both countries, now have announced the intention to expand the Group of 7 (G-7) in response to China’s rise and aggressiveness through its “Wolf-Warrior” Diplomacy.

Another common denominator of the expansion is the inclusion of India in the group. The invitation to join the group comes at the time when India and China have engaged in one of the most violent border clashes since the 1962 war between the two Asian giants. The border clashes have undermined not only the border mechanism agreements between the two countries but also the headway made through the informal summits in the last few years.

India has been invited by US President Donald Trump to join the summit now postponed to September. The UK however, is planning to create a group of democratic nations (which includes the G7). What is the difference between the two? What should be discussed? Furthermore, which group should India consider? These are the questions that need to be answered.

One Grouping, Two Ideas

The first G-7 meeting (G-6 then) held in France in 1975 was to discuss the oil shock and the collapse of the Bretton Woods arrangement of a fixed exchange system. Since then, the group has met each year successively, starting as an economic interest group of western hemisphere’s industrialised nations (and, Japan). Foreign and security policy issues have become part of discussions in years since the first meeting.1 The proposed expansion of the group is the largest in the four decades of the grouping’s existence.

The US holds the presidency this year, and the summit has been rescheduled from June to September as President Trump wants to include India, South Korea, Australia and Russia to be a part of the grouping. Meanwhile, the British too, have the same plans but do not want to add Russia into the fold. The difference between the ideas of expansion of this grouping is not limited to Russia’s inclusion, but the purposes of the two groups are also different.2

The British plans are different for the expansion and more specific, which is to discuss the 5G network and the vulnerable supply chains that do not make it an “anti-China” alliance. The grouping is colloquially known as D10 (Democratic Alliance of 10 countries).3 The difference of ideas might pile on bilateral issues between UK-US “special” relationship which started with a conflict over a leaked diplomatic cable leading to a sharp reaction by the US President and relations reaching a “post-war low”. Although Prime Minister Johnson since then has made amends, but experts believe that the UK has become a supplicant showing how uneven the relationship has become. The asymmetric nature of the relationship has become more apparent since the 1956 Suez crisis.4

The divide between the US and the UK was being mended though, through continuous negotiations of an essential trade deal, especially for the UK in light of the fast-approaching exit from the EU. The trade deal negotiations have been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if a deal is negotiated, it should be prepared to go through a Democratic Party dominated US Congress, which will not accept anything which undermines the Good Friday Agreement.5

The British proposal to expand the G7 might be in response to the “integrated review” of the British security, foreign and development policy to make it a “problem-solving and burden-sharing nation”. The review of the foreign policy, according to the British Government is the largest since the Cold War. The intention of the review was to charter a future of UK’s role post-Brexit but now has to take into consideration the changing global order and to prepare for a post-COVID-19 world.6

The expansion plans of the US for the G7 is President Trump’s belief that the current format the grouping is outdated. Trump’s justification to the press to postpone to the summit from June to September in his words was, “I’m postponing it because I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world.”7 It is still unclear though, whether an in-person meeting would take place in September. Although, the agenda on the table, unlike the UK’s specific focus on supply chains and 5G is to discuss China. The US expansion’s intentions seem to be progressive and are more inclusive but mired with confusion on what should be discussed and whether it is a permanent arrangement.

The Points of Contention

The grouping’s expansion might lead to a few points of contention between the Trans-Atlantic traditional partners. Some of them might include the agenda for discussion, the inclusion of Russia and the future of the grouping. As mentioned earlier, the expansion plans differ, but the agenda might become a bone of contention. The US would want countries to counter China not just in trade terms but militarily and hold comprehensive talks on the same. The Trump administration has made plans to reduce troops from Europe8 and Afghanistan9 to bolster the military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.10

In multilateral forums, the US backing out of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has put rules-based international order on a back foot. The withholding of funding by the US gives China more sway in critical multilateral organisations and it has put top Communist Party officials to fill leadership roles.11 The grouping’s expansion, if it includes Russia would also include all the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) barring China creating a space for discussions on revamping multilateral forums, therefore, avoiding deferential treatment to China.

Meanwhile, the UK seems to have a schizophrenic policy toward China. Some members of the Conservative Party want the Government to take a hardened stance against China. The group includes pro US Members of Parliament who fear that the US-UK trade deal might be on the receiving end if the British Government does not harden its stance on China. Members also include liberal internationalists’ parliamentarians who are worried about the challenges posed by China against the rules-based international border along with parliamentarians who are uneasy about factories being shut down due to China’s anti-competitive practices. Contrary to these concerns are Prime Minister Johnson’s views on China which have been supportive. As the Mayor of London, he backed former Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to create a golden era of the Sino-British relationship. As Prime Minister designate he showed British interest in the Belt and Road Imitative and promised an open market for Chinese investments.12 Members of the Conservatives party are worried about the alarmist reaction to China and the increasing anti-China views. The view which pro-Chinese members of the British Government and the parliament hold are that China should not be a national scapegoat as EU was.13

The British intentions are not on the same page as the US. With the Brexit due at the end of this year, it is becoming increasingly crucial for the Conservative-led Government to strike a balance between being aggressive with China and constructive engagement. In a post-COVID-19 and Brexit world, Downing Street might actively engage with Beijing to attract investments as both situations would lead to significant economic fallout. The British Government would also protect its firms in strategic spaces from Chinese takeovers and might bow down to the internal pressures to limit Huawei’s involvement in 5G infrastructure.14 It will also look forward to diversifying supply chains, sources and markets, which explains as to why the British only want to focus on these two topics in their idea of expansion.

Inclusion of Russia into the grouping again might lead to a conflict of interest between the US and the UK. The British idea seems to focus on a group of democratic nations coming together and discussing 5G and viable supply chains in the D10. UK and Canada have rejected Russia’s participation in the summit due in September now. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau in a statement said that Russia should not be allowed to join back the group for the same reason that it was excluded as it continues to flout international rules and norms by maintaining their position in Crimea.15 President Trump meanwhile holds the view that it is “common sense” to invite Russia intro group like it, in his words, "Have him (Putin) in the room ... get things done."16

Russian support is critical to China’s rise. The inclusion of Russia would also help in explaining to the Indo-Pacific strategy which it has been vehemently against and sees it as a way of “containing China”.17 Russia, according to the Communist Party of China (CPC) international mouthpiece, Global Times will not join the grouping citing the group as outdated.18 Meanwhile, the Kremlin has shown interest in the invitation but is seeking more clarification from Washington.19

What should India do? Decoding the intention

The Trump administration’s expansion plans for G7 have had a mixed reaction, especially from Indian experts. One set of experts believe that India should not read too much into the invitation and see it as an attempt to divide the Group of 20 (G20) which is responsible for 90 per cent of financial governance and to isolate China on the international stage. The counter to this line of thinking is to see the invitation as a sign of US realising the outdated concept of the G7 and increasing involvement of countries like India, Russia, South Korea and Australia who can help contain China’s influence worldwide and even the odds stacked up against the rules-based international order.20

The argument for India to attend the summit in September is two-fold. One, India has already been a part of last year’s proceedings; Prime Minister Modi was invited by the French President Emmanuel Macron as a special guest. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too attended five successive summits from 2005 as a part of a group of five countries which included South Africa, China, Mexico and Brazil. The precedent has already been set for India to attend the summit in Washington this year. The second reason is that joining the meeting would help India get a stage which would help further make its case for a permanent seat in the UNSC, along with sitting at a table with countries who control the nuclear club and finally enhance strategic cooperation with all of them.

Under the circumstance, India now has not only two options to choose from, but also to decide on which grouping’s expansion is beneficial. A careful assessment would help counter China’s increasing, unwarranted aggressiveness not only on the land border but in the South China Sea and extension the Indian Ocean and trade, technology through the Belt and Road Initiative.

Conclusion

The countries invited by both the UK and the US have their own set of problems with China. India and China have engaged in one of the deadliest clashes recorded on the Line of Actual Control in the last four decades. The Senkaku/Diaoyu island conflict is intensifying between the Japanese and the Chinese. The Canadian Prime Minister has refused to release the top Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou who has been accused of circumventing international sanctions on Iran and many other issues which the members of the group have with China as recently Australia too faced a cyber-attack perpetrated by China.

Discussions on 5G technology and secure supply chains have become critical as China is the largest producer of rare-earth minerals. China has already threatened and blocked respectively export of rare earth minerals to the US and Japan in the last decade respectively. India and Russia’s inclusion in the grouping, along with Australia, would help ensure viable alternatives to China for the export of rare-earth minerals.

On climate change too, while China is the biggest emitter but also, the largest investor in Green energy, the Indian and French collaboration of International Solar Alliance can be bolstered. A G7+4 (or 3 depending on Russia’s participation) joint statement should not be necessarily directed towards China, rather mention what steps to be taken to fight climate change and containing the present and future pandemics As part of the grouping, India can also contribute in putting up a joint front to question China’s methods and tactics as it ascends to challenge the current global order which is becoming increasingly hostile and use forums like G7, like in the case of G20 to advocate for multipolarity.

References
  1. "G7 Summit." G7. https://www.g7germany.de/Content/EN/StatischeSeiten/G7_elmau_en/texte_en/2014-11-05-geschichte-g8.html#:~:text=The history of the G7,and in 1998 by Russia.
  2. Erik Brattberg, Ben Judah. "Forget the G-7, Build the D-10." Foreign Policy. June 10, 2020. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/10/g7-d10-democracy-trump-europe/.
  3. Ibid
  4. Rachman, Gideon. "US-UK Relations: Strains in the 'greatest Alliance' ." July 12, 2019. https://www.ft.com/content/887e27f2-a486-11e9-974c-ad1c6ab5efd1.
  5. "U.S.-British Trade Pact Won't Pass Congress If Good Friday Deal Harmed - Pelosi." Reuters. August 14, 2019. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-pelosi/u-s-british-trade-pact-wont-pass-congress-if-good-friday-deal-harmed-pelosi-idUKKCN1V419I.
  6. "The FCO and the Integrated Review - Committees - UK Parliament." Committees. https://committees.parliament.uk/work/225/the-fco-and-the-integrated-review/.
  7. Holland, Steve. "Trump Postpones G7 Summit, Seeks to Add Countries to Invitation List." Reuters. May 31, 2020. https://in.reuters.com/article/g7-summit-usa/trump-postpones-g7-summit-seeks-to-add-countries-to-invitation-list-idINKBN23701D.
  8. Chazan, Guy. "US Diplomat Confirms Trump's Plan to Withdraw Troops from Germany." Financial Times. June 11, 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/0d06da43-e638-4c32-97dd-7ae0f8ba4e1e.
  9. Mohanty, Aayush. "The U.S Refocus on Indo-Pacific: A Quagmire for India?" The Economic Times. February 26, 2020. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/et-commentary/the-u-s-refocus-on-indo-pacific-a-quagmire-for-india/.
  10. IANS. "US Shifting Military to India, Southeast Asia to Counter Chinese Army: Pompeo." Livemint. June 25, 2020. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/us-shifting-military-to-india-southeast-asia-to-counter-chinese-army-pompeo-11593128749955.html.
  11. Mohanty, Aayush. "The Tiger Must Stop the Dragon." The Pioneer. May 19, 2020. https://www.dailypioneer.com/2020/columnists/the-tiger-must-stop-the-dragon.html.
  12. Lu, Zhenhua. "'Pro-China' Boris Johnson 'enthusiastic' about Belt and Road Plan." South China Morning Post. July 24, 2019. https://www.scmp.com/print/news/china/diplomacy/article/3019884/pro-china-boris-johnson-enthusiastic-about-belt-and-road-plan.
  13. "G7 Leaders Reject Russia's Return after Trump Summit Invite." BBC News. June 02, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52885178.
  14. Ibid
  15. Landale, James. "Political Battle Looming over UK China Relations." BBC News. May 23, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52762916.
  16. Reuters. "Donald Trump Says It's 'common Sense' to Include Russia in G7." The Economic Times. June 03, 2020.https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/donald-trump-says-its-common-sense-to-include-russia-in-g7/articleshow/76181120.cms?from=mdr.
  17. Roche, Elizabeth. “Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Slams Concept of Indo-Pacific Region.” Livemint, January 15, 2020. https://www.livemint.com/news/world/russia-foreign-minister-sergei-lavrov-slams-concept-of-indo-pacific-region-11579101938207.html.
  18. Heng, Cui. "Russia Likely to Decline Any G7 Invitation." Global Times. June 06, 2020. https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1190659.shtml.
  19. "Kremlin Says Putin 'supports Dialogue' after Trump's Proposed G7 Invite." Reuters. June 01, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-g7-summit-usa-russia/kremlin-says-putin-supports-dialogue-after-trumps-proposed-g7-invite-idUSKBN23820A.
  20. Siddiqui, Huma. "Trump Plans to Expand the G7: Experts Caution India Not to Read Too Much In this." The Financial Express. June 01, 2020. https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/trump-plans-to-expand-the-g7-experts-caution-india-not-to-read-too-much-in-this/1977810.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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