As India begins its year-long presidency of the G20 this week, says Mathias Peet in Handelsblatt, PM Narendra Modi has the opportunity to present his country “as a better alternative to China”. The image that the two powerful nations are projecting “could hardly be more different”. While the Chinese government arrests opponents of Xi Jinping’s insane zero-Covid policy, India boasts a “lively democratic discourse”. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi is currently on a five-month, 2,200-mile protest march across the country – an “unimaginable” act in Beijing. And while lockdowns continue to “strangle” China’s economy, disrupting vital Western supply chains, India offers an alternative base for international corporations like Apple to operate from. Its not-unrealistic aim is to establish itself as “the most important partner in Asia” for the EU and US.
Even in Ukraine, Indian and Western interests are more similar than they first appear. Modi remains close to Vladimir Putin: India has abstained from UN resolutions against Russia and become a major customer of the country’s oil. But he needs the war to end soon so that the supply of cereals, fertilisers and energy – all vital to India’s economy – can return to normal. And unlike in Beijing, in New Delhi “there is no interest in weakening the West”. Modi’s close contact with Putin and his role as G20 president make him the perfect figure to act as a mediator in the conflict. “The West would be well advised to support him.”