Bilateral engagements dominate runup to G20

AS THE leaders of the G20 assembled in Seoul for their fifth summit that begins with a formal dinner Thursday night,they spent their time meeting one another,cementing old ties,forging new ones,consolidating relationships.The big bilateral meeting of the day is,of course,the one between US president Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.While its outcome is not known at the time of writing this,the Indian delegation is clear that there is as yet no commonly shared diagnosis of the worlds economic ills and how to establish balance between surplus and deficit countries.This,of course,does not bode well for any dramatic solutions being thrown up by the Seoul summit.
Not being a direct combatant in the ongoing wrestling match over currency valuations,Indias prime minister,Manmohan Singh,utilized the time to meet up with prime minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi,president of Mexico,Felipe Calderon and British premier David Cameron.
Indias relations with Ethiopia go back thousands of years,with evidence of trade from the sixth century onwards.However,the present warmth in relations between India and Ethiopia has to do less with the glory of the past and more with the present race for Africas riches and goodwill by resource hungry countries such as China and India.
India held an India-Africa summit in February 2009 and the next one is slated for 2011 in Africa.Setting its place and time figured in the meeting between Indias and Ethiopias leaders.Ethiopia is supportive of India on global issues,said foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash while briefing the media on the PMs bilaterals.
India is doing quite a few things by way of capacity building in Africa.A pan-Africa e-network started rolling out last year from Addis Abbaba,capital of Ethiopia.India has a scheme called ITEC,India Technical and Economic Cooperation,which offers scholarship,training and various other forms of capacity building.Ethiopia has a commercial memorandum of understanding with the Indian Institutes of Technology at Delhi and Kanpur.
With the Mexican leader,Dr Manmohan Singh discussed ways to raise bilateral trade to $5 billion from the current $3 billion.Another focus was the next Conference of Parties on Climate change kicking off late November in Cancun,Mexicos resort town on the Caribbean.Dr Singh stressed the importance of identifying doable things.Dr Singh had a good meeting with British prime minister David Cameron,picking up the threads from his high profile visit to India in July.
A common characteristic of all the three leaders whom Dr Singh met t on Thursday is that they had all supported Indias election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

PM Manmohan Singh with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul on Thursday