Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) attend the signing ceremony of documents concerning the further development of the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China, at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, 21 March 2023. EFE-EPA/VLADIMIR ASTAPKOVICH / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN POOL MANDATORY CREDIT

Putin’s, Xi’s no-show casts shadow over G20 summit in India

By Indira Guerrero

New Delhi, Sep 5 (EFE).- The absence of Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin from the G20 summit this weekend in New Delhi could potentially hinder the global economic forum’s ability to reach consensus on critical issues while casting a shadow over India’s presidency.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang will represent his nation at the New Delhi meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Tuesday.

Mao dispelled speculations that the Chinese president had intentionally skipped the event amid growing bilateral tensions with India.

The spokesperson told reporters in Beijing that China “attached great importance” to the G20 and supported India in organizing this year’s summit.

Nevertheless, the clarification does not compensate for the unusual absence of Xi, the most senior leader at G20 summits in power for more than a decade.

The decision to skip the Delhi summit has become all the more conspicuous because Xi has never previously delegated his responsibilities to attend meetings of heads of government.

This year, Xi left China only twice: once for a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow in March and, more recently, to attend the BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

Xi’s decision comes on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing that his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, will represent Russia at the G20 summit in India.

This marks the second time that Putin, one of the most experienced G20 leaders, will be absent from the meeting of the world’s 20 most developed and rapidly developing economies.

Last year, the Russian president skipped the summit in Bali, Indonesia, amid Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

The notable absences imply the growing influence of the G7 group while simultaneously reducing the prospects of the G20 issuing a joint statement with Western allies condemning Russia and exerting pressure over the Ukraine conflict.

“With the G7 pushing to alter the G20 agenda, moving the focus from geo-economics to geopolitics, it is understandable that Russia and China may have less interest in the G20 as a global forum,” Indian analyst Sanjaya Baru told EFE.

Putin’s participation seemed possible months ago when India assumed the rotational presidency of the group.

New Delhi maintains close ties with Moscow and has significantly increased its purchases of Russian oil to historic levels.

India maintains a seemingly neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict and refrains from directly condemning Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country.

New Delhi has ruled out the participation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, even as Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova urged New Delhi during a visit to India in April to consider inviting Ukraine for the G20 meetings.

“India is trying to salvage the situation by keeping the focus on the developmental challenges faced by the Global South. The G20 must keep its focus on economic issues,” said the Indian analyst, referring to pressures within the group to put the focus on the war.

India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi told the local ANI news agency this week that the absence of the leaders would not affect the summit, ruling out that bilateral tensions led to Xi’s absence.

Baru noted that India still had “good relations with Russia,” suggesting that Xi’s absence might not be a slight to India. “It may also be because he may have wanted to avoid meeting Biden.”

However, US President Joe Biden said this week that Xi’s absence would be “disappointing” for him. EFE