India, China hold G8 options
By Sreeram Chaulia
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's reassertion last week
that India should be admitted as a full member of the Group
of Eight (G8) group of leading industrialized countries is a
continuation of his predecessor Tony Blair's mission of
expanding this forum.
Brown's effusive praise for India as a worthy entrant to the
G8 is backed by French President Nikolas Sarkozy, who
advocates a "G13" that integrates India, China, Brazil,
South Africa and Mexico into the select club which plays a
leading role in shaping global governance.
Interestingly, Brown and Sarkozy always mention India's
entry into G8, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy,
Japan, Russia, the UK and the US, as complementary to a
permanent seat for New Delhi in
the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
speaking at a luncheon in London, called for a "global New
Deal" with India as a major partner in the G8, the United
Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the International
"A Security Council without India cannot be a Security
Council reflecting the reality of the day [and] a G8 that
discusses the world economy without involving India cannot
be a G8 that is discussing all the details of what needs to
be done in the world economy," he said, according to a Times
of India report.
The effect of synchronously taking the name of the G8 and
UNSC is to generate the impression that both are central to
the collegial management of world problems ranging from war
and peace, disarmament, trade, climate change, energy and
Notwithstanding its undemocratic character, the UNSC is
still the referent for most states, including India and
China, on the justification for the use of force. Whether or
not the vast majority of UN member states endorses military
expeditions by the US is still contingent upon their
legitimization by the UNSC. For all its representational
shortcomings, most countries and peoples in the world want a
more robust UNSC that can preserve international law from
being violated by big bullies. The sense of much of the
world is that this institution needs to be strengthened for
restraining illegal state and non-state actions.
The G8, on the other hand, is more controversial. In its
current avatar, it suffers huge legitimacy deficits as a
target of anti-globalization activists. The 27th G8 Summit
in Genoa, Italy, in 2001 set the trend for training the guns
of the left on the economic apartheid imposed on developing
countries by G8 members and their multinational
corporations. The G8's dictation of terms to developing
countries through neo-liberal privatization, fiscal
conservatism, debt traps, free trade, and unregulated
capital have drawn immense flak for their neo-colonial
So resounding has been the anti-G8 wave of demonstrations
and protests worldwide since Genoa that it forced Tony Blair
to seek expansion of the forum to boost its moral claim of
truly representing the "international community". The
British and French governments' "muscular multilateralism"
agenda, in contrast to the US tendency to take the
unilateral path after 2001, was a damage-control exercise to
stave off the rising anti-G8 chorus in international public
Apart from re-legitimizing a forum accused of carrying the
"white man's burden", the British and French turn to
multilateralism was also informed by the crisis brewing with
deadlock at the World Trade Organization, where the
130-member G77 group of developing states has stonewalled
the Doha Round unless it addresses the latter's concerns.
The emerging economies' self-confident defiance of G8
preferences on intellectual property rights, agricultural
subsidies and access to US and EU markets is a clear
intimation that South-South cooperation and unity have
entered a new dynamic phase.
British and French proposals for a G13 extend invitations to
the selfsame five leading developing countries that take an
actively anti-G8 stance at the WTO. The trade losses being
inflicted on the British and French economies as a result of
stalemate at the WTO are important material propellers for
seeking G8 expansion.
India and China have been wary about joining an
expanded G8 owing to fears of being coaxed and cajoled into
making unfair concessions on the Doha Development Round or
on carbon emission caps. Both countries attended the 2007 G8
Summit in Germany as "outreach countries" but forthrightly
rejected the deal announced at this meeting for the US to
abide by environmental targets conditional upon New Delhi
and Beijing following suit.
Arguably, the intransigence of India and China on trade and
environment has rattled the US, which is not seconding
Britain and France on the project of creating a G13. The US
silence on India's permanent membership of the UNSC is
likewise a product of anxiety about more independent-minded
states spoiling the US-dominated agenda of the UNSC's five
permanent members (the US, UK, Russia, China and France).
The voting for the post of UN Secretary General in 2006
showed a similar ordering of choices, with the US going for
South Korea’s Ban Ki Moon over India’s Shashi Tharoor. The
calculation in all these instances is that India is not
sufficiently pliable and can be a fly in the ointment for
Washington’s unquestioned sway on global institutions.
US and Japanese resistance to the Franco-British plan of
co-opting China, India and others implies that G8 expansion
is, for the moment, frozen, just like the expansion of the
UNSC. Yet history shows that the G8 (originally G7) was
formed to tide over a crisis of the world capitalist system
after the oil shock of 1973. As the G8 nations confront
another recession today, it is clear to the farsighted among
them that the only solution to getting out of the rut lies
in roping in the emerging players led by India and China.
If a Barack Obama administration comes to the saddle in the
US in 2009, one might well see Washington embracing a
multilateral foreign policy. Japanese objections to G8
expansion could be overcome if the US drops its
unilateralist posture, although it remains to be seen if
Tokyo would be willing to share the same high table with
What are the options for the five "outreach countries" led
by China and India, as a gradual consensus among G8 members
appears likely to evolve on creating a G13? The classic
leftist argument is that joining the G8 would taint the
emerging economies and compromise their leadership of the
G77 and the Global South. However, ever since Britain,
France and Germany launched the outreach process, India and
China have shown that they can disagree with the G8 if asked
to sell out on the interests of developing countries.
Leftist apprehensions that entry of emerging economies into
the G8 will mean a collapse of momentum for South-South
cooperation are over-pessimistic. Socialists underestimate
the chutzpah of India, China and others to say "No" even
after they become insiders of a G10 or G13. Neither New
Delhi nor Beijing is keen on entering the precincts of a
rich man's club to be a mute "Yes Man".
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh openly bristled during
the 2007 G8 Summit in Heiligendamm when he was allowed into
the anteroom of the venue but could not set foot into the
sanctum sanctorum of the dining hall. He quickly denounced
any expansion process in which "we are not active
participants". While Brown and Sarkozy dream of taming
emerging economies and making them more amenable by offering
them prestigious seats at the G8, the invitees have the
self-confidence to undermine these designs.
A second reason why India, China and other growing nations
should keep their options open about entering an expanded G8
is the prevailing multi-polarity in the international
system. Unlike the bipolar era, lines and trenches are not
going to be sharply drawn between two inveterately opposed
camps in the future. Being bellwethers of G77 and new
members of a G10 or G13 will not be a contradiction in a
multi-polar environment. Russia is already showing the way
by simultaneously holding a G8 seat and acting as a
prominent driver of the anti-Western Shanghai Cooperation
Alliances rather than cleavage
As multiple centers of power thrive, we will
witness cross-cutting alliances and memberships of
international institutions rather than clear-cut cleavages.
There is good payback for a major developing country like
India or China to be acknowledged and taken seriously by the
richest nations. Their very presence at a G10 or G13 summit
can alter the nature of the world economy and polity, which
have thus far been unkind to the 88% of the planet’s
inhabitants living in the Global South.
Having said that, India, China and others need not lobby
actively for the divided G8 to reach consensus on expansion.
The G8 is not as justifiable a prize as a permanent seat at
the UNSC. There is no merit in over-legitimizing the G8 by
being seen as vying to be members of a gang of bloodsucking
capitalists which gets terrible press. By virtue of their
rapid economic growth and political unity at the WTO,
emerging economies are in an envious position of sitting
back and being wooed to join an expanded G8 as equals.
The crisis of G8’s credibility is not India’s or China’s
headache but that of its current member states. If the
advanced industrial countries of the G8, especially the US,
fail to collectively realize the folly of leaving out
emerging economies, the loss is theirs, not of India or
Sreeram Chaulia is a researcher on
international affairs at the Maxwell School of Citizenship
in Syracuse, New York.
(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.
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