SOCHI (Russia): President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) 
address a joint press conference following talks over the possibility of restoring the original Black Sea 
grain deal, on Monday, where it was announced that Moscow is now only weeks away from supplying 
free grain to poor African nations—AFP
SOCHI (Russia): President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) address a joint press conference following talks over the possibility of restoring the original Black Sea grain deal, on Monday, where it was announced that Moscow is now only weeks away from supplying free grain to poor African nations—AFP

BEIJING: Since the first edition of G20 leaders’ summit in 2008, President Xi Jinping for the very first time will snub the gathering being hosted by India this weekend, in a move that ‘disappointed’ US President Joe Biden as Russian President Vladimir Putin has already decided to skip the New Delhi event.

However, Premier Li Qiang will lead China’s delegation to the G20 summit, while Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the meeting of the world’s biggest economies.

On the other hand, India on Monday launched 11-day military drills, including along contested border areas with China, which will continue during the summit. A defence official, however, claimed “Trishul”, or trident, were “an annual training exercise” in northern zones bordering Pakistan and China.

India is also seeking to develop closer ties with Western countries, including fellow Quad members the United States, Japan and Australia, which are also wooing New Delhi as an alternative to China.

India launches military drills along contested border areas with China

Speculation and media reports have swirled for the past week that Xi would snub the event, but China had remained silent on the issue.

Beijing’s foreign ministry confirmed on Monday that Li would be at the G20 Leaders’ Summit on Saturday and Sunday, which it described as an important forum for economic cooperation.

US President Joe Biden has said he would be “disappointed” to see Xi skip the gathering of world leaders in New Delhi.

Asked about Xi reportedly not planning to join the gathering in New Delhi, Biden told reporters, “I am disappointed, but I am going to get to see him,” without elaborating.

Bilateral ties between the US and China face a long list of problems, from trade disputes to Taiwan’s future to the expansive Chinese presence in the South China Sea.

The United States has also been working to repair relations with Beijing, sending a series of senior officials to China in recent months, despite continuing friction.

China’s spokeswoman Mao Ning at a regular news briefing said: “In attending this meeting, Premier Li Qiang will convey China’s thoughts and positions on G20 cooperation, pushing for the G20 to strengthen unity and cooperation, and working together to combat global economic and development challenges.”

Asked whether the announcement meant Xi would not travel to New Delhi, Mao said: “I made an announcement about this just now. Premier Li Qiang will lead a delegation to New Delhi, India, to take part in the G20 Leaders’ Summit.”

The Group of 20 major economies consists of 19 countries and the European Union, making up about 85 per cent of global GDP and two-thirds of the world’s population.

The summit has taken on additional importance this year as many countries wrestle with high inflation and economic turbulence amid a slowing recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, has set an annual growth target of around 5pc but has its own problems including weak consumer demand, soaring youth unemployment and a crisis in the crucial property sector.

This will be the first time that a Chinese president has missed a G20 leaders’ summit since the first edition was held in 2008, though in 2020 and 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Xi attended virtually.

Also, President Putin will not attend the gathering in India, weeks after Putin had decided not to join the BRICS summit in South Africa in-person. Putin’s absence in Africa was said to be due to an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for him over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The Kremlin, which strongly denies the ICC allegations, has not said why Putin will not attend the G20 gathering in India.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2023

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