New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday held a series of meetings with world leaders, individually and in groups, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in a balancing act among major powers.

The PM held meetings with the presidents of China and Russia, and with US President Donald Trump and Japanese premier Shinzo Abe.

Modi also met the heads of state and governments of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries. Besides, he held a number of bilateral meetings with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Germany.

Sustaining a favourable environment for global trade, reforming and strengthening the multilateral institutions and maintaining peace and stability were some of the key issues discussed in the Russia-India-China (RIC) and BRICS meets.

The Japan-America-India summit also discussed connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region in terms of infrastructure and maintaining peace and security in the region.

Modi’s first meetings was with Abe and Trump. The Japan-America-India meet was the second of its kind, after the G20 summit last year in Argentina. According to Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, the meeting was “short" but “very productive".

“The main topic was on the Indo-Pacific region and how the three countries can work together in terms of connectivity, infrastructure, and ensuring that peace and security is maintained and working together to build upon this new concept so that it is in the benefit of the region as a whole and the three countries," Gokhale told reporters after the meet.

The trilateral meeting with the leaders of Russia, India and China called for strengthening the international system led by the UN and upholding the international order based on accepted international norms and law, Gokhale said.

The RIC supported a multipolar world with many centres of influence.

On safeguarding international peace and security, the RIC countries were of the view that multilateral solutions were required to address these challenges through established institutions, Gokhale said, “rather than in a unilateral manner or as a group of countries without international sanction".

The comments come amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region, after the US pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and reimposed stringent sanctions targeting the Iranian oil industry.

On global trade, the RIC leaders opposed unilateral actions such as the imposition of protectionist measures, Gokhale said.

The leaders agreed that there were challenges to the World Trade Organization (WTO) itself as an institution and on the need for reforms. “All three leaders agreed that in an era of change, it is important to maintain liberalization of trade, maintain a free and open trading system, and to oppose the tendency towards protectionism," he said.

The remarks are significant given that the US under president Trump has taken several steps that are considered as protectionist and against the free flow of global trade in a bid to ensure “free and fair trade" for the US.

The meeting of the BRICS countries also discussed the interface between trade and the digital economy, Gokhale said. India’s view, and the view of others within BRICS, was that the question of data transfer should be discussed within the context of the World Trade Organization and not outside, Gokhale said. These discussions “need to take into account the requirements of developing countries. It is a new form of wealth," he added.

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