PM in Beijing to attend Asem

PM in Beijing to attend Asem

Beijing: Amid reports that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is getting ready to travel to the US on 15 November to attend a summit meeting on the global financial crisis called by outgoing US president George Bush, India will for the first time be attending the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) that will be discussing the exact same subject in Beijing.

A cold winter chill greeted the Prime Minister upon his arrival from Tokyo this evening, and it seemed as if the weather was only a precursor to the main event taking place in the Great Hall of the People. Although the ASEM agenda is to promote economic interaction and social development between Asia and Europe, the persistent global economic downturn has sparked fears that Asia cannot be saved from this trans-national epidemic.

As a result, even the bilateral interaction tomorrow between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani, a staple media headline in both countries, is likely to be overshadowed by the global insecurity.

On his arrival in Beijing, the Prime Minister articulated the concern, saying that he “sincerely hoped that this meeting of minds between Europe and Asia will produce a solution to many global problems, including the financial crisis."

Problem is, as an Indian official on board the PM’s delegation said on condition of anonymity, nobody still has any real clue how the developing and the developed worlds can find common cause to stave off falling growth.

The Indian official confirmed that the PM and his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso had discussed Bush’s invitation to the G-20, a forum which includes the rich and powerful G-8 countries, as well as poorer nations like China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. In the wake of French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s comments that the developing world must be made “part of the solution" to the crisis, the Indian official pointed out that a joint action plan had still not been formulated.

It is hoped that the Asem summit will not be as helpless. All the signs are that even China, which has so far showed signs of escaping a serious economic downturn, may not be able to escape totally unscathed.

Several economists quoted in the ‘International Herald Tribune’ believe that a “significant slowdown (will) pose a political challenge for the Communist party, which derives much of its legitimacy from delivering economic growth."

As for the G-20 meeting called by President Bush, at which the US President-elect will also be present, US National Security Adviser Steve Hadley called his counterpart, MK Narayanan in Delhi to invite the PM about a week ago. While the government seems inclined to go, officials said no final decision had been taken so far.