India, not China, is best suited to lead the developing world, top diplomat tells UN

India has staked a claim as the leading voice of the developing world in an “emerging multipolar order”, casting itself at the United Nations General Assembly as a better fit for the role than China.
Addressing the general assembly in New York on Tuesday, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar cited Sri Lanka’s economic downturn, which India and many Western countries and their allies have blamed on Beijing’s “debt diplomacy”.

“When Sri Lanka experienced a severe economic crisis, it was India that first stepped forward,” India’s top diplomat said.

Jaishankar said “so many nations” identified with India because of its history, geography and culture. As an aspiring leading power, India had “never been seen as being in contradiction with global good”.

“This is not for self-aggrandisement, but to take on greater responsibility and make more contributions,” he added. “The goals we have set for ourselves will make us different from all those whose rise preceded ours.”

At a time when “East-West polarisation is so sharp and the North-South divide so deep”, the success of the Group of 20 summit held recently in New Delhi proved India targeted “the key concerns of the many, not just the narrow interests of a few”, he said.

With its expanding diplomatic and economic clout globally as tensions between the US and China remain undimmed, India sees the present moment as ideal for becoming a leader of the Global South – a role China also prizes.

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Last week at the UN, China portrayed itself as a champion of the developing world and offering an alternative to the current “hegemonic” system.

“China opposes hegemonism, power politics, unilateralism and Cold War mentality,” Vice-President Han Zheng said.

“A small number of countries have arbitrarily imposed illegal and unilateral sanctions, severely undermining the harmony and stability of international relations,” he added. “The international community should jointly resist such acts.”

The sentiment was echoed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the World Political Parties Summit in Beijing in March, during which he offered to share his country’s experiences in modernisation with other countries.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in 2018. Bilateral tensions have soared since Trudeau alleged India was involved in the killing of a Sikh Canadian in Canada. Photo: AP
China’s Communist Party is willing to exchange and share experience with political parties of all countries … so we can do more good for our people and people around the world,” Xi said.

To counter China’s more prominent regional and global stature, New Delhi has drawn closer to and cooperates often with the West, especially Washington.

“The power of markets should not be utilised to steer food and energy from the needy to the wealthy, nor must we countenance that political convenience determines responses to terrorism, extremism and violence,” Jaishankar said in a veiled swipe at the West and Ottawa.

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“Respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs cannot be exercises in cherry-picking,” he continued. “Without genuine solidarity, there can never be real trust. This is very much the sentiment of the Global South.”

Jaishankar, who is expected to visit Washington on Wednesday for a meeting with his American counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, warned that the norm of a few nations shaping the agenda “cannot go indefinitely, nor will it go unchallenged”.

“A fair, equitable and democratic order will surely emerge once we all put our minds to it … that means ensuring that rule makers do not subjugate rule takers”.

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