Indian Presidency: India assumed the G20 presidency from Indonesia during the last Bali summit in 2022. It is undoubtedly among the world’s topmost global organisations. Bringing in countries driving the global agenda together. G20 represented the highest gross value in power, economy, technology and aspirations. G20 was looked upon not only as a better representation of global order than G8 (or later G7 with the expulsion of Russia) but also its position as the only other organisation which arguably voices and shares concerns similar to the growth agenda of the UN. It is a perfect balance between traditional and major emerging growth centres of the world.
The year on efforts to harness the responsibilities of the G20 presidency saw India host more than 100 meetings. All these interactions were spread across the country keeping in with the desire of making the event a grand representation of Indian diversity. The momentum of hope that it generated was unmatched by any previous such example. The G20 was a reflection of movers and shakers of global order and indeed an exceptional opportunity for the country.
The summit was not only graced by heads of state of all members barring that of Russia and China. The attendance list has impressive marquee names such as President Joe Biden, the UN secretary general, the EU chief, the Chair of the African Union and the President of the World Bank. In all, more than 30 heads of state arrived in Delhi for the summit. India showcased how it wants to take every voice, every region and every challenge collectively together.
The highlights were numerous with many firsts, but to comprehend the real achievements of the Delhi Summit, it can be understood in three different dimensions – Global, Regional and National. Global achievements have a rather long list but eye-catching ones have been – the International Biofuels Alliance; Public Digital Infrastructure; India-Middle East-Europe Transport Corridor Pact; Inclusion of the African Union in G20; Denouncement of Terrorism and a Green Development Pact. India focused on outcomes addressing larger regional aspirations too, it invited its neighbours, leaders from the Global South and Latin American countries as well as from Africa.
Each of them represents a key region where India has harnessed very close relations and is focussing on augmenting them to the next level. India’s representation of the Global South through the forum of G20 was extremely well orchestrated. The geopolitics behind all this is also unmissable, India maintained a subtle counter to China’s push for hijacking the agenda of these developing regions of Africa, Latin America and the larger Global South.
The national-level achievements also appeared extremely valuable. Successfully hosting this mega event showcased India’s readiness for such global affairs. India was surprisingly successful in ironing out a joint declaration for the summit. This very complicated issue, which has haunted almost all multination forums due to the Ukraine conflict, was believed to be too thorny to be smoothened. This highlighted two very impressive aspects; first, the world is ‘listening’ to India; and second, everyone appeared accommodative to ensure India’s request for focussing on matters of Global Good gets realised. It’s a very big development, it directly points to the standing of a country among the comity of nations.
It was for India’s well-calculated approach, which allowed it to plan for tangible outcomes towards the end of its G20 Presidency. If the year on events unfolded in a clockwork precision and India could seamlessly address pointed security threats; it speaks volumes about many behind-the-scenes contributors while few faces represented them on screen.
The G20 summit caught unwarranted attention with the sudden announcement of the absence of Russian & Chinese heads of state. While India ‘understood’ President Putin’s reluctance, it ensured diplomatic gesture was duly extended. Indian PM made it a point to speak to the Russian President about ongoing preparations for the summit, still holding the thoughts that he may concur to visit Delhi after declining to travel to Johannesburg a few days back.
Analysts feel that President Putin’s decision not to attend in person had nothing to do with the issue of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrant against him. Since India has not ratified the Rome Statue, it is not under any legal obligation to respond to ICC warrants. It became evident that President Putin had other major domestic concerns, which held him back.
On the contrary, China’s decision to be represented by its second-rung leader was indicative of its global anxieties. Each step that China adopted was very carefully measured and made for an interesting assessment. The announcement of Xi’s absence just days before the summit was highly dramatic. China was closely observing the ‘level’ of interaction with Indian leadership during the just concluded BRICS summit in South Africa. It hoped for a breakthrough on its own terms but appeared upset to find the Indian side standing equally firm.
Given the scenario, Xi would have probably felt himself out of place surrounded by Indian pomp and show. It would also be very hard to absorb the successful conduct of the summit by India and extend customary compliments among heads of state to the host nation. The release of a disputed map by China days before the summit was all too messed up for Xi to find a comfortable footing in Delhi.
Some rough security scenarios during the summit were also put forth as red flags for Xi’s travel. The summit no doubt carried a high-security threat, just to run down on Delhi. However, the concerning issue is, whether the Chinese already knew something more to prevent Xi’s presence in person. Some of the theories do indicate such a possibility. The secretive travel by Chinese Premier Mr Li Qiang by a chartered flight instead of the usual ‘special aircraft’ and the last-minute announcement of his arrival, only adds fodder to such speculations.
India’s Push for Inclusiveness
India must be complemented as it pushed for inclusiveness, a worldview that India firmly believes in. It not only stood as a voice for Global South, it also carried its neighbours as it wanted the fruits of India’s standing to be reaped by the whole region. India on its part skilfully ensured that the language for the Delhi Declaration takes into account likely Russian sensitivity. Not surprising that even the Russian envoy expressed disbelief at the quick adoption of the joint declaration.
Craving for something and achieving the same are two very distinct realities; one can be plain daydreaming, while the other is a robust home truth. India has navigated multiple difficulties with great conviction, including some undesirable ones. It won’t be an overstatement, that everyone was looking to the Delhi summit with huge anticipation, whether well-wishers or not. The amalgamation of great fanfare, hospitality, and quantifiable achievements are all highly admirable, but the work ahead remains equally dynamic. The real success would be to firmly materialise the hope and expectations India has generated through the Delhi summit!
-The writer has varied experience in the security paradigm and is a keen follower of international geopolitics. His work has been routinely featured in national publications and newspapers. His articles can be viewed on the popular blog site newsanalytics.co.in on geo-strategic affairs. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda