In a few days time a major diplomatic event will be hosted by India and when it is all over the focus will be less on who showed up and did not but hopefully more on the substantial achievements of a summit that brings together the developed, the developing, the under-developed and the unevenly developed in one tent
For India, the hosting of this major international event is more than just of a rotation; it speaks more of a country that is diplomatically confident and with increased heft in global politics with much of it having to do with a realistic assessment of the present scheme of things.

On the eve of the G 20 to say that the world is faced with uncertainty would be stating the obvious as well as an understatement. Nearly every region has its share of problems: closer home in South Asia there is a nuclear power tottering on the brink of collapse, unable to fend for basic needs of its people, yet willing to spend zillions in nurturing terrorism and terrorists; a South East Asia seeing renewed belligerence of a major player in the South China Seas; an East Asia witnessed nuclear and missile Sabre rattling by a tyrant unable to feed his people; a Europe that is increasingly seeing a hopeless conflict in the Ukraine and an Africa having its share of anti-democratic coups on top of its economic mess.

It is not as if New Delhi could swing its magic wand and things fall in place. Yet there is a hope in many quarters that India would be able to use its leverage with major actors to at least prevent events from spinning out of control.

The West, for instance, wants India to use its friendship with Russia over the Ukraine issue even as it believes that it could swing New Delhi to its “side.” The developing world, or the so-called alternative bloc, is hopeful of a country like India to emerge as one of the leading new frontiers in world politics. But even a new beginning in global politics is fraught with hurdles, many of which are deliberately put in the way.

If geo-politics brings India to the centre stage, economic factors too cannot be brushed aside. In the post Covid phase—if one may confidently say so—India is one of the few global economies that is showing signs of registering strong economic growth as developed nations of North America and Europe are only slowly limping back to normality.

The quibbling over the actual numbers of GDP growth aside, the fact that India is able to keep its head above water and lend a helping hand to nations like Sri Lanka has undoubtedly won a measure of praise in the international community. But global economic growth is something that institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are worried about and rightfully so.

The ravaging of the global community by the Coronavirus has been for all to see as some seven million people are said to have lost their lives globally with a developed country like the United States accounting for a loss of more than one million.

That the pandemic may not be completely behind the world is one thing, but there is definite appreciation globally in the role India played by supplying millions of vials of urgently needed vaccines to the neighborhood and much beyond. The vaccine diplomacy showed a side of India that cut across different barriers and, in the process only adding additional weight in global affairs.

The nations of the G20 expect India to play an instrumental role not only in conflict resolutions but also in such areas like health, development, ecology, environment, climate change, to mention just a few. The inherent strengths as a knowledge powerhouse and an emergent strong player in information technology has undoubtedly added to the width and depth of India’s maneuvering on the global stage.

It is common knowledge that the inability to get a seat at the Table of the P 5 at the United Nations has less to do with inadequacy of qualifications but more of nations miffed at the growing democratic stature, not to forget an unwillingness to look beyond blinders.

The absence of President Vladimir Putin at the G20 was in some ways only expected, not because of any warrant against him (which cannot be enforced in India). The official explanation is that the Russian leader is preoccupied with his “special military operation,” but realistically the anti-Moscow stance of the West and the presence of President Joe Biden of the United States could have been factors as well.

It is not as if India would have worked overtime to put together a Biden-Putin sideshow, but speculations would have nevertheless remained and perhaps even whipped up by the hundreds of journalists present for the occasion.

As the countdown to the G20 summit begins, media reports have it that Chinese President Xi Jinping is also likely to give a miss to the event, for reasons unknown and never be known. It is not just an opportunity for the leaders of India and China to get another opportunity but also for President Xi to have had the chance to meet President Biden as the two powers are trying for ways to put bilateral relations back on track.

 Summits like the G20 are not only opportunities to be made use of but for political pundits and historians to write on the missed chances!

Rightfully there will be more than ordinary interest on how India tackles the Ukrainian issue, not just for the reasons of finding mention in any joint statement. It has to do with finding urgent ways to a war that appears to be spiraling out of control and on a mechanism to lift the grain blockade so that the less advantaged nations are not made to suffer than they already are.

Overall, summits like the G20 are a rare opportunity for participants to show political will with a view to resolving world problems. India can lead and show the way but the onus is on all to prove that collective benefits far outweigh narrow individual concerns and perceived rights.

***The writer is a senior journalist who was in Washington DC covering North America and the United Nations; views expressed here are his own