How Beijing tried to derail a G20 youth meeting in Ladakh and failed

New Delhi: China engaged in an intense but ultimately abortive backroom attempt to derail a G20 youth conference held in Ladakh in late April, according to persons aware of the matter.

Youth20, or Y20, is an engagement group of youth organizations that comes under the umbrella of the G20, of which India holds the presidency this year.

According to the persons cited above, China flew participating organizations that were due to attend the Ladakh ‘pre-summit’ all the way to Beijing for what it called a youth conference in March.

However, Beijing’s goal was to convince these organizations to skip the Youth20 pre-summit meeting, which was to be held in Ladakh on 26 April.The summit is set to be held later this year.

“China firmly opposes holding any form of G20 meetings on disputed territory,“ the spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry, Wang Wenbin, was quoted as saying during a press briefing in Beijing. “We will not attend such meetings.”

This Chinese attempt represents a more direct effort to secure Beijing’s objectives at India’s expense.China’s embassy in New Delhi told Mint it was not aware of a meeting between Chinese authorities and youth organizations in Beijing.However, the people cited above said once New Delhi caught wind of Beijing’s efforts, India’s Youth20 organizers lobbied participating groups to attend the Ladakh meeting. In what turned out to be a diplomatic win for India, more than 100 delegates from over 30 countries participated in the summit.

Chinese organizations skipped the pre-summit. Representatives from at least four G20 member countries attended the Beijing meet, the people said, without giving more details. In addition to Ladakh, the Chinese have also opposed G20 meetings in Jammu and Kashmir on account of its all-weather ally Pakistan.

However, the ministry of external affairs has defended New Delhi’s decision to hold G20 meetings in Kashmir and Ladakh. “The meetings and events of G20 are being held across India. They are being organized in every region of India and it is very natural to have these meetings in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi at a press briefing.

“This has become part of a pattern. India has been relatively aggressive on the question of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. The issue of India hosting a G20 meeting in these parts of India were up in the air for a long time but I don’t think the Chinese expected India would go ahead with this.

“They may have thought that other countries would also be opposed to it. However, as the opposition to this has crumbled, there is pressure on them to demonstrate that they continue to hold the candle on this issue for Pakistan,” said Harsh Pant, professor of international relations at King’s College London. Pant said India’s ability to “mainstream” Ladakh and Kashmir by holding G20 meetings has been a point of “consternation” for Beijing, which sees these regions as “disputed”.

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