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Now, China turns big brother

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended a warm welcome to his dear friend, Chinese leader Xi Jinping to the Kremlin.

Now, China turns big brother
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NEW DELHI: China pulled off a double-whammy over the past few weeks. As a peace-broker, it helped initiate a truce between long-term rivals, Iran and Saudi Arabia, with both nations agreeing they will reestablish diplomatic ties.

It was a development that surprised many, considering Beijing does not have a reputation for prompting such displays of camaraderie among nations.

This is especially true in the Middle-East, a region embroiled in political and sectarian strife for many decades now.

China is stepping up to the role of big brother in these parts, something that was the domain of the US from time immemorial. That’s just one side of the story.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended a warm welcome to his dear friend, Chinese leader Xi Jinping to the Kremlin. The rendezvous was a reaffirmation of China’s alliance with Russia, and a strong signal to the leaders of the Western world who had allied with Ukraine.

The message was clear — their combined efforts to isolate Putin and his regime had fallen terribly short. Jinping’s first international trip since his re-election earlier in March is to Russia, whose leader was pinned with an arrest warrant by the ICC, for war crime charges pertaining to Ukraine.

Keeping with China’s inherent nature, it was clear that there are no free lunches in life, as the meeting of the two leaders transpired.

For starters, Beijing depends on Moscow as a source of oil and gas for its energy-craving economy.

Even when Beijing chose to diplomatically reunite Iran and Iraq, the question of energy loomed large as 40% of its energy needs are met by the Gulf. Russia and China are also bonded by their criticism of the US.

Jinping highlighted recently that Washington was attempting to isolate and weaken China by holding back its development, because Beijing hopes to play a bigger role in global affairs.

As many as 141 nations had condemned Moscow at a UN vote marking the first anniversary of the Ukraine invasion.

But several members of the G20, including China, India, and South Africa had chosen to abstain.

The deep divide between the Western allies and Beijing was widened when a Chinese spy balloon was found floating over the US last month, which sparked a fresh diplomatic crisis.

In the aftermath of Jinping’s Russian jamboree, Kyiv is expecting that Beijing will use its influence to urge Moscow to end the war in Ukraine.

This makes sense as it was Jinping who had put forth an idea of a 12-point peace plan to end the hostilities.

China, through its open support for Russia, harbours a different perspective on the Ukrainian war.

This is in stark contrast to the nuanced approach adopted by New Delhi, where Prime Minister Modi said ‘this was not an era of war’.

China, of course, has a game plan to rewrite the world order. It has ensnared Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda in its debt trap too. There are lessons for India from all these developments.

Having engaged with Beijing in a border standoff, India must up its game in the global strategic outreach space.

As a member of the Quad alliance, India already has its hands full, performing a tightrope act, keeping its own interests in mind, vis-a-vis ties with Beijing, while extending its support to the US, Japan and Australia, who have scores to settle with China.

New Delhi will need to make the most of the I2U2 summit in the Middle East while opening itself up to nations in Africa.

China steamrolling its influence in various geographies is a pointer to New Delhi to strengthen its diplomatic and military influence with the stakeholders that matter most.

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