WITH BEIJING yet to confirm if Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to India for the G20 Summit, New Delhi is preparing to host Chinese Premier Li Qiang in case the former is unable to attend the meet on September 9-10.
If Li comes, it will be his first visit to India as the Chinese Premier.
Xi last came to India in October 2019, when he went to Mamallapuram for the informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The uncertainty in Xi’s schedule is being factored in for all the events in New Delhi, including the protocol extended to the visiting leaders of G20 countries. But his absence also puts a question mark on the joint communique, which needs consensus on all issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The conflict has polarised the G20 grouping, with G7 on one side and Russia-China on the other side, and consensus has been elusive at the ministerial meetings leading to the summit.
Sources said New Delhi will host the Chinese delegation, irrespective of who heads it.
Quoting unnamed officials in India and China, a Reuters report on Thursday said Xi was likely to skip the summit. But there was no confirmation of the report from the Indian government.
When asked in Beijing about whether Xi was likely to skip the summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: “Of the Chinese leaders attending the G20 Summit, I have nothing to offer at the moment.”
This comes days after the Modi-Xi meeting in Johannesburg, on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, which did not lead to any breakthrough in the India-China border standoff.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already conveyed his inability to attend the G20 meet, and is sending Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov instead. Mexico and Oman are also expected to send representatives from the government.
However, most of the G20 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have already confirmed their participation at the summit.
Ties between India and China have been under severe strain since the clashes in Galwan Valley in June 2020. The Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year-long confrontation at certain friction points in eastern Ladakh, even as the two sides completed disengagement from some areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.