The momentous culmination of the highly anticipated G20 summit in New Delhi has now come to pass, leaving an indelible mark of triumphant diplomacy that has captured the hearts and minds of global statesmen.
With resounding applause and enthusiasm, diplomats from every corner of the world extol India’s magnificent leadership, a presidency that not only masterfully spanned the divisions within this diverse group but also skillfully laid the foundation for a profoundly enriched future of collaborative endeavours.
This year’s presidency and summit was held in New Delhi from September 9-10, marking a new era in the fostering of cooperation among G20 economies. In light of India’s commitment to ensure that schemes reach the last mile and leave no one behind, the presummit meetings between India and ASEAN or other countries of the Global South assumed even more importance.
No such exercise to ensure that concerns of the Global South reached the table of the G20 economies has been undertaken in the past. India’s vision for the G20 summit revolves around inclusivity and sustainable development, encapsulated by the motto ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ which means ‘the world is one family.’ Indeed, the summit’s theme, ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future,’ aptly reflects the essence of the various sessions, all geared towards discussions and deliberations on the earth, our global family, and the future of our interconnected global community.
As an integral part of this initiative, the G20 has faced an increasingly pressing need to confront the challenges affecting the Global South, where issues such as healthcare, education, and climate change have taken centre stage. India’s presidency has proven highly effective in narrowing the development divide between the Global North and South.
During the first day of the G20 Summit at Bharat Mandapam, India extended a warm welcome to the African Union, representing the largest coalition of least developed nations, as a permanent member of the G20. This historic move marks a significant departure towards more inclusive governance and decision-making, granting a vital voice to 55 African nations.
By prioritizing such crucial concerns, and fostering earnest deliberations and consensus-building, India has not only paid due respect but also underscored the paramount importance of the Global South within the G20 framework.
While presiding over the summit, the Prime Minister of India proudly proclaimed a momentous achievement, the unanimous consensus among all member states regarding the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, a historic milestone that was formally embraced during the inaugural day of the G20 Summit.
In a remarkable diplomatic feat, India accomplished the unanimous adoption of the “New Delhi Leaders’ Summit Declaration” addressing all critical developmental and geopolitical concerns, despite existing divisions related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. India’s skilled negotiators toiled relentlessly, adeptly bridging the gap between the Western Bloc and the Chinese-Russian alliance.
Prime Minister Modi’s bilateral engagements with influential leaders such as Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, Olaf Scholz, and Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the G20 Summit significantly contributed to this historic consensus. Crafting a cohesive joint statement, as was evident even in the preceding year, proved to be an arduous undertaking. Furthermore, India’s presidency unfolded amidst persisting bilateral tensions with China, primarily revolving around territorial disputes. This perpetual friction added an additional layer of intricacy for India’s G20 Sherpa team, with China often assuming a disruptive role in multiple deliberations.
Moreover, the Indian government deviated from the convention by scheduling the G20 summit two months earlier than the customary November timeframe. This compressed timeline left officials with two months less to navigate the intricate process of formulating a Joint Communique that effectively addressed pressing issues including climate finance, healthcare investment, and poverty alleviation. New Delhi’s resolve in overcoming this formidable challenge to forge a consensus on these vital matters underscores its unwavering commitment to global cooperation and development.
One of the notable outcomes of India’s G20 presidency was the launch of the ‘Global South Initiative’ which has been able to foster better collaboration among G20 members and Global South nations to address common challenges.
It seeks to promote economic growth, enhance access to healthcare, and education, and facilitate technology transfers Page 3 of 6 without too many hurdles. By championing such initiatives, India has taken concrete steps to address the specific needs and concerns of the Global South as well.
In addition, promoting dialogue on climate change – an issue that has been a bone of contention – and ensuring some accountability from the Global North has been a major diplomatic win for the community. Acting as a bridge between the Global North and South, India has been able to emphasise to the world that the issue of climate change is at the doorstep and adversely impacting the Global South much more quickly and significantly than any other part of the world.
In the midst of contentious deliberations, India took a resolute stand on pivotal issues. These included the imperative commitment to curtail fossil fuel consumption, elevate renewable energy objectives, and substantially decrease greenhouse gas emissions. It is noteworthy that these measures encountered resistance, notably from China and Saudi Arabia. During the intricate negotiations leading up to the declaration, India and fellow developing nations emphasized the vital importance of industrialized nations fulfilling their existing commitments.
Conversely, the developed nations championed a global emphasis on climate-related targets. The New Delhi declaration issued a clarion call for the gradual phase-out and rationalization of fossil fuel subsidies while concurrently pledging to reduce the utilization of “unabated coal power” and accentuate the promotion of clean energy generation.
Prime Minister Modi made an epochal announcement, heralding the birth of the Global Biofuels Alliance. This monumental initiative has garnered the support of nineteen nations and twelve international organizations, uniting a diverse assembly of G20 member states and non-members alike.
At its genesis, the alliance’s founding triumvirate comprises India, Brazil, and the United States—a powerful trinity committed to driving the biofuels agenda to new heights.
While the G20’s robust endorsement of this initiative is undeniable, key member nations including Argentina, Canada, Italy, and South Africa have lent their unwavering support to this visionary cause. Notably, the alliance’s inclusive spirit extends beyond G20, extending invitations to nations of distinction such as Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, and the UAE, further amplifying the alliance’s potential for profound global impact.
India’s steadfast commitment to these goals reflects an unwavering dedication to environmental sustainability and global progress. This diplomatic approach has not only enhanced India’s global standing but also ensured that diverse interests are adequately represented in G20 deliberations.
On the cusp of the 10th anniversary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a seminal development of utmost geopolitical significance transpired. In a display of unprecedented collaboration, a coalition comprising India, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union came together to formalize a ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) marking the birth of the India, Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEE-EC). This visionary corridor’s primary mission is to invigorate economic cohesion while seamlessly bridging the continents of Asia and Europe, presenting a formidable challenge to the existing global order.
US President Joe Biden, in tandem with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s request, unequivocally endorsed this pioneering project. Simultaneously, the UAE’s President, a trusted confidant of PM Modi and a staunch ally of India, passionately championed the initiative, envisioning the Arabian Peninsula as a pivotal economic conduit between India and Europe.
Further fortifying this transformative endeavour. French President Emmanuel Macron, along with the collective support of Germany, Italy, and the European Commission, has forged a resolute alliance, poised to shape a new era of global economic connectivity and strategic influence.
At this pivotal juncture Italy, a prominent member of the G7, under the leadership of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, deliberates a potential withdrawal from the China-sponsored BRI. The unfolding developments acquire an even deeper layer of strategic significance, as Italy stands as the sole G7 nation to have endorsed the BRI, a global trade and infrastructure initiative inspired by the ancient Silk Road that once connected imperial China with the Western world.
Italy is poised to hold the G7 presidency in the upcoming year, and recalibrating its relationship with Beijing holds the potential to mend ties with its Western allies, underlining the intricate diplomacy at play.
India’s presidency of the G20 has also brought attention to other issues of equity, like vaccine distribution, medical equipment, technology transfers as well as trade imbalances. Moreover, India’s emphasis on infrastructure development as a means to stimulate economic growth and reduce inequality has resonated with Global South countries.
The G20’s commitment to the ‘Global Infrastructure Initiative’ has given a shot in the arm to the development aspirations of many Global South nations. By facilitating infrastructure financing and technology transfer, India’s G20 presidency has the potential to be a catalyst and facilitator in the infrastructural development of these countries.
Meanwhile, India has embarked on several global initiatives as a leader among Global South countries, with the goal of promoting cooperation, development, and common interests. One notable initiative is the International Solar Alliance, a collaborative effort to advance solar energy adoption and reduce fossil fuel dependence in sun-rich nations. This initiative has garnered support from over 120 countries and fosters collaboration on solar projects, research, and technology development.
Additionally, India has been able to strongly advocate for better access to affordable medicines for developing nations. Providing cost-effective treatments for diseases like HIV/AIDS, the pharmaceutical industry in India has been able to encourage supply chain expansions in the world of generic medicine manufacturing as well. Lastly, the world is aware of India’s vocal & active participation in international efforts to combat terrorism. It has proposed initiatives to counter the financing of terrorism and regularly contributes towards strengthening of the global counter-terrorism mechanism. All of these are in addition to the major contribution India has made, over the last 70 years, to the UN Peacekeeping Missions providing troops and resources to promote peace and stability in conflict zones across the world.
In conclusion, the G20 summit in New Delhi signifies a historic milestone in global diplomacy, epitomizing resolute leadership and heralding a new era of cooperation among G20 economies. India’s unwavering commitment to inclusivity and sustainable development, embodied by the theme ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’ and the motto ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ set the stage for addressing pressing Global South concerns.
Despite geopolitical challenges, the summit produced a momentous “New Delhi Leaders’ Summit Declaration,” showcasing India’s adept diplomacy. The ‘Global South Initiative,’ climate change advocacy and equity-focused stances underline India’s role as a global leader.
This presidency amplifies equity concerns, emphasizing infrastructure development and global initiatives, solidifying India’s influential position in shaping a more just and sustainable world.
Dr Maheep is a leading analyst of India’s foreign policy. He has been teaching and researching International Relations and Global Politics for over a decade.
(with inputs from ANI)