Both have close contacts to Moscow – but with one big difference

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi

His country now has a chance to demonstrate the virtues of democracy.

(Photo: AP)

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will enjoy the attention – and he will use it to present himself as a better alternative to China: As part of the G20 presidency, which officially started on December 1, India will receive female representatives throughout the year and representatives of the largest economic powers and several developing countries.

In fact, the picture that the two most populous countries in the world are currently giving could hardly be more different: while China’s government does not even want to endure opponents of the zero-Covid policy throwing blank DIN A4 sheets of paper in the air, India shows a lively democratic discourse: opposition leader Rahul Gandhi is in the middle of a sensational 3,500-kilometer protest march across the subcontinent, with which he wants to stir up feelings against the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – an unimaginable action in China.

The two countries are also in sharp economic contrast to each other: while corona lockdowns are stalling China’s economy, everyday life in India has long since returned to the restless activity with which the country can consolidate its status as the fastest growing major economy. The rest of the world also benefits from this: Because the supply chains in China can no longer be relied on, the Indian alternative locations of international corporations such as the Apple supplier Foxconn are ready.

Gone are the days when China’s Communist Party could at least take credit for a booming economy given the country’s lack of political freedom. The neighbor to the south can now shine – the largest democracy in the world. China’s crisis offers India the opportunity to prove its advantages in system competition – and to finally establish itself with the EU and the USA as the most important partner in Asia.

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During the G20 presidency, Modi wants to discuss, among other things, solutions to the global food and fertilizer crisis and is planning events in more than 50 Indian cities.

Possible mediator in the Ukraine war

Delegates will see that India is far from a perfect country: while China is ruled by the surveillance state, India is often in chaos. In contrast to Beijing, New Delhi is making almost no progress in the fight against extreme air pollution.

Indian women in front of a polling station

While corona lockdowns in China are stalling the economy, everyday life in India has long since returned to restless activity.

(Photo: AP)

India wants to give itself half a century to achieve climate neutrality. And the country’s democratic system also has problems – the rights of the Muslim minority in the predominantly Hindu country are constantly being attacked.

Criticism of this is justified. The uneasiness that India has become a major customer of Russia’s oil companies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also understandable. But the West must not make the mistake of forgetting what it has in common with India in the face of differences of opinion. Especially with regard to the Ukraine war, the interests are more similar than it appears at first glance.

India, like China, maintains close contacts with Moscow and has always abstained from United Nations resolutions critical of Russia. In contrast to China, India actually wants the war to end as quickly as possible – unlike Beijing, New Delhi has no interest in weakening the West.

India’s concern is that supplies of grain, fertilizer and energy return to normal levels as quickly as possible. Modi is therefore likely to take the role of mediator that comes with the G20 presidency seriously. The West would be well advised to support him in this.

More: India is driving the world economy – and could soon overtake Germany

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