A string of bilateral meetings with China, Australia, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and Argentina, each to be driven by specific agendas, have been scheduled during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day official visit to Hangzhou for the G20 Leaders Summit on September 4-5.
The Prime Minister is set to fly into the lake city of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, on Saturday night. Over the last two days, India’s pointman and Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya, along with his G20 counterparts, have been in a huddle to arrive at a draft communique acceptable to all. Late Friday night, they were still trying to resolve tricky issues to present a final draft to their leaders on Sunday.
Host China has organised a meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations on Sunday morning, before the G20 summit begins, in what is being seen as a subtle message to developed economies.
Modi is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on September 4 morning. The same day, bilateral meetings are likely with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Saudi Arabia Crown Prince. However, a similar meeting with US President Barack Obama is unlikely to materialise.
Sources said the meeting with Turnbull gains currency in the backdrop of the Scorpene data leak reported by The Australian newspaper last month. The data leak — of the six submarines designed by French company DCNS and being built in India — relates to information about the operating instructions of their underwater warfare systems. The same company has won the bid to build Australia’s $50 billion submarine fleet.
The two countries are also expected to follow up on the progress made under the security framework agreement signed in November 2014 during Modi’s visit to Australia.The framework commits the two countries to annual summits, meetings of the two PMs and those of the defence ministers, and regular bilateral maritime exercises.
With Xi Jinping, the Prime Minister may broach the issue of China’s support for India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group that was blocked by Beijing in June — India sees a window in November for a special plenary. New Delhi may also put across its concerns on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India is likely to pitch for higher investment by Chinese companies in infrastructure and areas such as urban development and smart cities.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is keen to meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, too. Doval was actively involved in organising the Prime Minister’s visit to Riyadh this April. Home to nearly 3 million Indians, Saudi Arabia is a significant source of not just oil and remittances, but also jobs and defence equipment.
Modi would also be meeting UK Prime Minister Theresa May for the first since she took charge. Apart from the impact of Brexit on India-UK trade and the freeze in India-EU trade talks, the two may discuss the possibility of fast-tracking a separate India-UK trade treaty.
The bilateral meeting with Argentina, another developing country, is about working together on areas of common interest. Argentina had aggressively supported India on climate change issues at the G20 meeting in Turkey — India was keen then that a call on related issues be taken at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris rather than at the G20 forum.