Amid emerging reports of China possibly not backing the candidature of Indian-American business leader Ajay Banga for the position of World Bank’s President, the native Indian is visiting the country on a two-day tour.
During the visit he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as the Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman and the Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
The U.S. nominee for World Bank President, 63-year-old Banga, former MasterCard CEO, will be in New Delhi capping a three-week global listening tour that began in Africa before progressing to Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
China on Wednesday sounded doubtful about backing Banga to lead the World Bank, saying it is ‘open’ to supporting ”other potential candidates” based on merit.
Banga was in China yesterday and met officials from the People’s Bank of China and others to seek Beijing’s support for his candidature.
Relations between US-China have been frayed over the past few months following a Taipei visit last year by the then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. An infuriated China staged war games near Taiwan in August 2022 following the visit.
Asked whether China will back Banga, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told media in Beijing, ”We have noted the candidate nominated by the US side and are open to other potential candidates”.
He said the World Bank is the most influential multilateral development institution in the world and is of systemic importance to global poverty reduction and development.
”As a major shareholder of the World Bank, China stands ready to work with all parties for an open, transparent and merit-based presidential selection process,” he said.
Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a major bone of contention with Washington, which maintains only unofficial ties with Taipei, but is required by U.S. law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
A US Treasury Department statement said that during his visit to New Delhi, the discussions will focus on India’s development priorities, the World Bank, and global economic development challenges.
Additionally, Banga will visit the Learnet Institute of Skills, which is a network of vocational institutes established in collaboration with the National Skills Development Corporation, funded in part by the World Bank. Banga will learn about the Institute’s program and meet with program participants, staff, alumni, and private sector partners to discuss how it is improving the lives and economic opportunities of participants – particularly young people.
India’s endorsed Banga’s candidacy soon after his nomination was announced. Since then, a diverse coalition of governments have expressed their support for Banga, including Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom.
During his global listening tour, Banga has met with senior government officials, stakeholders, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and civil society. Along the way, he has built continuous momentum for his candidacy, gaining the support of advocates, academics, development experts, executives, Nobel Laureates, and former government officials, the statement said.
If elected to serve, Banga will draw from his experience living and working in emerging markets and his expertise in forging public-private partnerships to mobilize investments and action to confront longstanding challenges. That includes his efforts at Mastercard to successfully bring 500 million previously unbanked people into the digital economy, as well as its support for 50 million small businesses, it added.
The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist, who has reported and written on a wide range of subjects in an extensive career.