G20 Summit: Heyday for Indian diplomacy
The two-day G20 summit concluded with success touching all aspects of its organisation, while member countries enjoyed every moment of their participation during the meet in New Delhi, giving India a much-needed opportunity to boost its stature in the world
In reality, it was a heyday for Indian diplomacy as in the face of several odds, it pulled off a consensus for a joint declaration and that also a day before the summit’s conclusion on September 10. In the annals of G20, it was an unprecedented move as never a joint declaration was adopted a day before the conclusion of a summit.
This surprised many observers who were expecting a last-minute tussle to put commas and dots here and there. There was huge interest in media and strategic circles, whether China would put barriers in the way of the joint declaration where appeal was made for cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, though, without naming Russia as an aggressor.
“In line with the UN Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible,” the joint declaration said.
The joint declaration, spread over 64 paragraphs, included an extensive account of issues relating to cooperation in food, energy security, digital infrastructure, and climate change, making it a game changer document. It also took into account member countries’ concern over global economic slowdown, rise in greenhouse gases emissions and rising commodity prices including food and energy and their impact on cost of living.
Earlier, China hesitated to announce whether President Xi Jinping will himself represent his country in the G20 summit but finally instructed Prime Minister Li Qiang to lead the Chinese delegation, who preferred to remain mum during the summit.
India had prepared hard over the year to take the message of G20 to ordinary masses by organising seminars and meetings in line with the identified subjects of G20 to over 100 topics in more than 50 cities across the country.
The extensive people’s participation won applause from the diplomatic community and visiting delegates as they were taken to 2nd and 3rd tier Indian cities, including Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. In particular, G20 meetings in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh were seen as a smart move by India to assert its sovereignty over these territories in the face of protests from China and Pakistan.
The preamble of the G20 summit was crafted along the ancient Indian theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ i.e., one earth, one family, one future. The leaders met at a defining moment of history when decisions taken will determine the future of people and the planet.
Initially, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to skip the meet and announcement from China’s foreign ministry that China will be represented by its premier Li Qiang at the summit and not President Xi Jinping, created a sort of sensation in the media.
But it died down soon as their absence did not impact deliberations of the meet. Rather, organisers heaved a sigh of relief that if they were present during the summit, they would have spoiled any positive outcome.
The biggest achievement of the Indian presidency of the G20 was the invitation issued to the 55 member African Union to join the group as the 21st member. This landmark feat was achieved because of a special initiative undertaken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wrote letters to all G20 nations to accept the African Union as a member.
When the 27-member European Union could become a G20 member then why not the 55 member African Union. Africa is today a happening world and any hand holding to the Africans would go a long way in improving the lives of millions of deprived people, who, in fact, can be converted into a consumer of industrial goods and farm produce, thus adding to the continent’s GDP, which in reality today has risen to the level of more than $1trillion.With a population of one billion comprising mostly young people, the continent can prove to be an economically active region.
India’s move to include the African Union in the G20 won huge applause and goodwill from the entire African continent. This act has been labelled as a very smart and strategic move, which will deepen India’s relations with the continent. Africans' experience with India is very positive as they very well understand that India’s engagement with the continent is not transactional, unlike the Chinese.
Reacting over India’s initiative to include the African Union in the G20, an elated Chairperson of African Union and President of Comoros Azali Assoumani expressed his gratitude to the G20 leaders for the invitation to the AU to join the group.
He posted on X: “The G20 has just ratified through the voice of Prime Minister of India @ narendramodi, the admission of the @AfricanUnion into its fold. On behalf of the African continent, I sincerely thank all the member countries of the @g20org for this historic admission.”
This move by India has big geo-political ramifications. Africa is the future and the big corporate houses are rushing to the continent. Organisations like G20 have to see that the continent is not exploited by any country in the name of development or aid programmes.
Hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi over this move, US President Joe Biden said, “The African Union is a critical partner. You (Modi) are bringing us together, keeping us together, reminding us that we have the capacity to tackle challenges together.”
During his concluding address Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a hard pitch for UN reforms, which drew support not only from the US, but also from unexpected quarters like Turkiye, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly backed India’s inclusion in the UNSC as a permanent member.
Erdogan said, “We would be proud if a country like India became a permanent member of the UN Security Council. As you know the world is bigger and larger than five." He further clarified, “What we mean is that it’s not only about the US, UK, France, China, Russia. We don’t want to have just these five countries on the security council.”
What, however, must have irked China was the announcement by India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, European Union, and USA, on the sidelines of the G20 summit, for the India-Middle East- Europe Economic Corridor.
Interestingly, China was found pushing for inclusion of its Belt and Road Initiative in the joint declaration, but failed. The IMEC is a multimodal connectivity project to link India with Europe via ports and rail corridors proposed to be built in the Middle East.
It will be an alternative to Suez Canal connectivity presently in operation, which is very congested and takes longer time. This project is being dubbed as Indian BRI. PM Modi has described this as a historic initiative.
Another solid step taken on the sidelines of the summit was by the UK which committed $2 billion for the Green Climate Fund, which raised expectations that developed countries collectively could meet the GCF target this year itself. On the other hand, PM Narendra Modi and President Biden announced a joint investment fund of $ 1 billion to support India’s efforts for faster transition through development and deployment of emerging green technologies.
With several credible outcomes to his credit, world leaders hailed PM Modi for his “decisive leadership.” Yet while India’s G20 theme ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ irked China, it earned praise from the international leaders as they took note of India’s “one earth, one family, one future,” message--a timely and important note to the world as it is faced with numerous geopolitical challenges.
***The writer is a senior journalist and strategic affairs analyst; views expressed here are his own