G20: Did security trump development in Hindi press coverage?

The G20 summit has thrown up some big surprises. A look at the big headlines in prominent Hindi and English dailies.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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“Nuclear attack or threat unacceptable, this is not an era for war,” stated the main headline on the front page of Amar Ujala, with a report on the declaration. The report said the agreement has given space to Modi’s “popular remarks” for Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

“Today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this,” Modi had told Putin on the sidelines of a summit in Uzbekistan last year. But Putin had later underplayed the hype around the remarks, saying that they were part of a longstanding position and that the “West uses only those quotes that suit them while ignoring other parts”.

Another headline talked about the Middle East corridor, with a one-paragraph text.

“A mirror to expansionist agenda,” read another small headline on the front page, with the text below stating that “China’s diplomacy failed in front of India. China wanted to delay the joint agreement by raising objections on the Ukraine war, climate change, and other issues. However, by respecting other countries’ sovereignty and integrity by invoking the Ukraine war, India has responded to China’s expansionist agenda.”

The papers published on Saturday

A day after bilateral talks between PM Modi and US president Joe Biden, all Hindi papers had featured security and defence as the focus of their front page coverage, with the two leaders suggesting the significance of Quad for an inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

“Our country is prepared to host the world’s most influential group G20’s summit. This is a new India, which is leading the world in its most turbulent times. In times of disagreement, it is pushing for consensus and solution.”

It might sound like a tweet by a jubilated pro-government oped writer, but it was the subhead to the front page lead story of Hindi daily Hindustan, a day after bilateral talks between Modi and Biden.

The accompanying infographic listed out four issues: climate change, economic development, digital economy, and easy debt for developing countries. 

On Sunday morning, Hindustan was the only paper to have the trade corridor as the main headline. “Bharat se Europe tak corridor banega,” read the main headline. The news about the African Union’s inclusion was featured separately.

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Meanwhile, Dainik Jagran’s front page on Sunday carried a report which claimed that India will now be known as Bharat at international fora. This, despite a box within the report asserting that the government has not made any official announcement to this effect.

The lead report on the paper, headlined “historic”, pointed out that the final text of the agreement did not mention the Ukraine war but permanent peace in the country. 

It also carried a separate report on the Middle East corridor, with the headline as the “biggest response to China’s BRI is ready”.

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Several opinion pieces have slammed China over Xi Jinping’s absence. 

“The Chinese president’s avoidance of the G20 summit shows China’s deep ill will towards India. China does not want to accept India as an important country, let alone accept it as an Asian superpower. Jinping wants to show that if the G20 is being held in India then its importance to him is less than the BRICS conference. A proof of China’s ill-will is also the recent statement by the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal that India’s policy towards Nepal is not good. This statement named India, which would be considered hostile,” read an opinion piece in Dainik Jagran by Divya Kumar Soti, a right-wing commentator.

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“India shows the way to G20 family,” read the main headline on the front page of Navbharat Times, with two pictures of PM Modi with world leaders.

The corridor found prominence in a strap and headline on the front page.

The English press

Meanwhile, a few English papers featured the news about the new trade corridor even more prominently than the inclusion of the African Union. 

The Hindustan Times, for example, carried it as the main headline on its front page flap. “Stamp on new trade corridor to counter China’s BRI push”.

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Even the Indian Express front page had two separate pieces on the corridor, explaining its significance and how it challenges the Chinese ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative.

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The Times of India also featured the news on its front page. “New ‘spice route’ deal to counter China’s OBOR,” read the headline.

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The global press, between Ukraine and the corridor

Newslaundry had earlier reported how international media organisations had pointed to the lack of a consensus, the absence of the Russian and Chinese presidents, India’s “democratic backslide” and its “deepening divisions”, and the link between the global event and Modi’s domestic political messaging.

But with the first day of the summit throwing up big surprises, and the Ukraine war text not as harshly critical of Russia, sections of the Western press turned their gaze to the trade corridor.

British outlet Guardian and American outfit Washington Post carried in depth reports.

“The project, called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment, could speed up trade between India and Europe by 40% and help normalise relations between Israel and the Gulf states, which the Biden administration has been pushing for. The initiative would also provide a counterbalance to China’s vast infrastructure corridor, the Belt and Road project, which currently stretches across Asia, Africa and Latin America and has given China sizeable influence over countries that have struggling economies,” stated the Guardian’s report.

“The announcement solidified a preliminary agreement among a range of participants – including the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union — and came as leaders of the world’s largest economies tried to work through divisions on a range of thorny issues,” read the Washington Post.

Rhetoric vs action

Critics often point out that G20 decisions are not legally binding. However, the G20 does not perceive itself as a decision-making entity but just as a forum to foster dialogue to facilitate negotiations in global policy areas. It could help set the agenda for other formal resolutions.

There is often no mechanism in place to ensure compliance, rendering these agreements toothless in the face of international challenges. This limitation significantly reduces the G20's ability to address critical global issues effectively.

Further, the G20's diverse membership, which includes countries with vastly different interests and priorities, can hinder the creation of meaningful and actionable agreements. Negotiating consensus among such a varied group can lead to watered-down compromises that lack the substance necessary to address complex global challenges comprehensively. 

Additionally, political tensions between member states can obstruct progress and limit the scope of agreements.

At the Delhi summit, such tensions were visible in the geopolitics surrounding Ukraine, as well as China’s absence.

This was reflected in the Chinese press too.

For example, a piece in the Global Times, while pointing to weather conditions in China and Europe, had claimed there was a lack of consensus on climate change due to the developed countries refusing to shoulder responsibility. The outlet is run by the Chinese Communist Party.

“Members of a European delegation said China and oil-rich Saudi Arabia had ‘backed away from making commitments at the meetings,’ the Guardian reported, accusing China of obstructing discussions on tackling the crisis. The Chinese Foreign Ministry refuted the reports on Wednesday, saying that they run counter to the facts.”

“While Europe, battered by extreme heat waves this summer, genuinely wants progress in addressing climate change, the US is only giving ‘empty talk’ while politicising the issue to contain China,” it said.


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