Vagaries of Consciousness
- Xi Jinping has used these themes to promote peace within and outside the SCO framework
On the polar opposite sides of the planet, the world watched with disbelief how the powerful west, symbolised at a G-7 Summit meeting in Quebec, Canada on 7-8 June, quarreled about so many things from tariffs to readmission of Russia, in sharp contrast to the serene and amiable atmosphere witnessed in Qingdao, China, hosting the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit meeting on 8-9 June.
Not surprisingly, the star player was the indomitable president of the United States, Donald Trump, who left the meeting apparently happy but within few hours he ‘lobbed a grenade’ on the meeting’s communique by revealing that he has asked the US Trade Rep not to sign it and threatened his closest allies of slapping more tariffs. Surprisingly, during a presser on the second day, he had given 10 out of 10 to the success of the meeting, and boasted of his great relations with Canadian, French and German leaders. But after watching a press conference by Trudeau, on-board Air Force One, his fury was on full display: “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around,'” tweeted Trump. “Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270pc on dairy!” Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, went on CNN accusing Canadian PM of “betrayal” and “stabbing us in the back” [Kudlow suffered a heart attack soon thereafter].
As if this was not enough, two more snippers had opened fire. Peter Navarro, a trade adviser, thundered: “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.” Navarro told “Fox News Sunday.” “And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference. That’s what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes right from Air Force One.” Even before all this fury would be played out, John Bolton, the unilateralist National Security Advisor, soon after the meeting, had tweeted a contemptuous summary of the proceedings: “Just another G7 where other countries expect America will always be their bank. The president made it clear today. No more.”
The contrasting personalities of the chief leaders of the two groupings would not be lost on any observer. Donald Trump, a mercurial, unpredictable, divisive and keen to ‘go-it-alone’ type with Xi Jinping, a sober, consensus building and sophisticated to the core
Media people and experts were gasping. The unity of G7 was in tatters. Even a small multilateral forum is an anathema to President Trump, where he has to feel he is one of the seven and no one-on-one, as he would be doing in Singapore with North Korean leader, where he would singularly collect all the trophies, if any.
“In compelling contrast was the 18th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) held in Qingdao,” writes Sudheendra Kulkarni, an aide to former Indian Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, in an article for NDTV, “under the wise and visionary leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Many features made it a beacon of hope for the future of Asia, Eurasia and the world. The prospects of peace, development, common security and shared prosperity in our part of the world are becoming brighter with the growing spirit of regional cooperation. With India and Pakistan participating in the SCO summit as full members for the first time, the eight-nation SCO has become the largest multilateral regional body in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population.”
The contrasting personalities of the chief leaders of the two groupings would not be lost on any observer. Donald Trump, a mercurial, unpredictable, divisive and keen to ‘go-it-alone’ type with Xi Jinping, a sober, consensus building and sophisticated to the core. Before setting out his vision for the world order, he drew a parlance from Confucius sayings: When Confucius looks down from the peak of the Dongshan Mountain, the local Kingdom of Lu comes into view; when he looks down from the peak of the Mount Tai, the whole land comes into view.
He then said “at a time when the world is undergoing major developments, transformation, and adjustment, it is necessary to aim high and look far.
While hegemony and power politics still persist in the world, the growing call for a more just and equitable international order must be heeded.” He then listed the themes that should form the basis of the new world order: (1) Democracy in international relations is an unstoppable trend of the times; (2) While various traditional and non-traditional security threats keep emerging, the force for peace will prevail, and security and stability are what people long for; (3) Unilateralism, trade protectionism and backlash against globalisation are taking new forms, the pursuit of cooperation for mutual benefit represents a surging trend in this global village where countries’ interests and future are interconnected; (4) We should reject the Cold War mentality and confrontation between blocks and oppose the practices of seeking absolute security of oneself at the expense of the security of other countries, so as to achieve security of all; (5) We should reject self-centered, short-sighted and closed-door policies. We should uphold WTO rules and support the multilateral trading system so as to build an open world economy; and (6) Equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness between cultures should be championed, so that we overcome cultural misunderstanding, clash and supremacy through exchanges, mutual learning and coexistence.
Kulkarni argues that these are not high sounding rhetoric but deliberate and practicing advice for emergence of durable peace. He notes that Xi Jinping has used these themes to promote peace within and outside the SCO framework. The examples of Korea and Afghanistan are cited as the biggest hotspots in Asia. Xi has played a leading role in bringing about a thaw in the US-North Korea relations and making it possible for the leaders of the two nations to sit across the table. On Afghanistan – and other conflicts such as in Syria – the SCO has noted that there is no alternative to political settlement and called for an Afghan-people led peace process under the central coordinating role of the United Nations. An unmistakable signal is that the SCO respects the multilateralism under the aegis of the United Nations, something the US doesn’t firmly believe.
With the exception of India, all members of SCO reaffirmed their support for the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), whose flag-ship phase is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This emphatic support for China’s regional development role is a testimony to the increasing willingness of nations to rely and partner with China and not impute to her any hegemonic motives. Kulkarni believes that India would soon join BRI as would Iran (which has an Observer’s status in SCO at present) to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities in the region.
SCO would also be an important vehicle in improving Pak-India ties as India understands that the road to central Asia passes through China or Pakistan. A recent report in Hindu hinted that India has opened a back-channel to explore the possibility of India-Pakistan-Afghanistan road link to central Asia under the framework of SCO. The 18th Summit, one should hope, may not have simply admitted India and Pakistan as full members, but also laid the basis for an alternative channel to find solutions to their festering disputes.