The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gee! India almost in club

New Delhi, June 10: India may be poised on the verge of joining the world’s elite group of economic powers with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi saying yesterday that it should be invited, along with China, into the Group of Eight.

“It doesn’t make much sense for us to talk about the economy of the future without two countries that are protagonists on the world stage,” Berlusconi said on the sidelines of the annual G8 summit at Sea Island, US.

The G8 comprises the US, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia.

Although a formal invitation is yet to be made — and the G8 members are far from agreed on what form any engagement with India and China should take — the statement is a ringing endorsement of the two Asian countries’ economic clout.

“It shows we have come a long way and the world now recognises our economic strength,” finance secretary D.C. Gupta said.

Several options were before the G8 leaders. One of these — from Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin — is to hold a summit of the Group of 20 in addition to G8 summits. The G20 includes the G8 nations but adds countries like India and China.

By the size of their economies, both countries have earned the right to sit at the world’s economic high table. India is the fourth largest economy in the world and China second.

“We have not been intimated as yet... any decision on whether we should or should not join will, of course, be taken by the foreign ministry,” Gupta said.

India’s prowess in information technology and related services, its huge exchange reserves and booming consumer market have caught the world’s attention, diplomats in Delhi said.

“India is a rising economy and its growing clout both in the political and economic field is being recognised by the outside world,” a foreign ministry official said. He pointed out that last year India and China were among the select countries invited by France to interact with the G8 at Evian.

Berlusconi’s statement is a step forward from there. The Italian Prime Minister said: “The idea was put forward to call China and India to join the G8, making it the G9 or G10.”

A Canadian official said: “The G8 needs to acknowledge that global power and influence are not uniquely in the hands of the G8.”

The G8 is currently discussing rising global oil prices. With China and India being the biggest buyers of crude oil from the open market, they will benefit from being a part of the group that wields the greatest influence on world economic affairs.

Since the group also tries to bring member nations’ policies in line to the extent possible on key issues, India and China would also be expected to maintain that discipline if they are asked to join.

The issue of whether the G8 is inclusive enough comes up virtually every year, and a Canadian official said talks were only at a preliminary stage.

But Martin held out the possibility of a G20 summit next year.

“Canada’s idea is gaining a lot of support. Is it for today' No. Could it be done at the beginning of next year' I think so. The possibility is improving,” the Prime Minister said.

Italian diplomats in Delhi said Berlusconi’s remarks were in line with the fast-changing perception of India in Rome. “The image of India that we have now was not there even 10 years ago,” one of them said.

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