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G20 Summit 2023: India's Diplomatic Triumph

The recently concluded G20 Summit in New Delhi established India as a strong and decisive multilateral stakeholder.

September 12, 2023 By Ayushee Chaudhary Photo(s): By PIB
Prime Minister Narendra Modi making his opening remarks at G20 Summit on 'One Earth' at Bharat Mandapam, in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi on September 9, 2023.

Having witnessed the participation of G20's 20 member states, nine invitee nations, and 14 international organisations, the G20 Summit in New Delhi from September 8-10, 2023, concluded on a global high for India. The Prime Minister chaired Sessions on 'One Earth, One Family, One Future' in line with the message of India's presidency that we are one earth, one family, and we share one future, drawing on the age-old belief of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam". The leadership of the G20 has been a year-long opportunity to showcase India as an influential diplomatic and economic power and drive investment and trade flows into the world's most populous country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, "Today, as the President of the G20, India invites the entire world to come together and, first and foremost, transform this Global Trust Deficit into global trust and confidence. We must move towards concrete solutions for these challenges, not just for the present but also for future generations."

Established in response to the Asian financial crisis in 1999, the G20 initially focused on economic and financial matters. Over time, it broadened its purview to encompass climate change and sustainable energy. Each year, a different G20 member nation assumes the presidency, shaping the summit's agenda.

With some significant resolutions, and defining moments the G20 Summit proved to be a clear indication of India's growing position as the voice of the Global South, a decisive and key member of the G20, one that is shaping thoughts and conversations, and a strong multilateral stakeholder. As stated by the External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, "the G20 has contributed to making India world-ready and the world India-ready."

Bharat Mandapam in Pragati Maidan, venue for the G20 Summit in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, "Today, as the President of the G20, India invites the entire world to come together and, first and foremost, transform this Global Trust Deficit into global trust and confidence. Whether it is a turbulent global economy, the North-South divide, or the distance between East and West, the Management of Food, Fuel, and Fertilizer, dealing with Terrorism and Cybersecurity, or ensuring Health, Energy, and Water Security. We must move towards concrete solutions for these challenges, not just for the present but also for future generations."

With some significant resolutions, and defining moments the G20 Summit proved to be a clear indication of India's growing position as the voice of the Global South, and a key member of the G20.

S. Jaishankar also highlighted on his X platform, "The New Delhi Declaration shows that our Presidency was able to table ideas, shape global issues, bridge divides and forge consensus. We kept the focus on the Global South. We showcased our civilisational heritage even as we highlighted contemporary achievements. Landmark initiatives launched included the Global Biofuel Alliance and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

The Historic Delhi Declaration

The New Delhi Leaders' Declaration, unanimously adopted amidst geopolitical tensions, marks a historic moment as G20 leaders pledge collaborative efforts for a better future. The declaration focuses on promoting strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth, with an action plan to accelerate progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It envisions a green development pact, and endorses principles for sustainable lifestyles, hydrogen, a resilient blue economy, and food security. Technology's inclusive role, digital public infrastructure, and India's One Future Alliance proposal are highlighted. Gender equality and closing the digital gender gap by 2030 are reaffirmed. Leaders emphasised the need to revitalise multilateralism and reform international financial institutions, especially concerning global debt vulnerabilities. A joint declaration condemned human suffering and global consequences of the Ukraine conflict without direct criticism of Russia, reflecting India's consensus-building success at the G20 summit. The language of the declaration, however, was key in leading to the consensus and stood as a strong testament to skilled diplomacy.

A Landmark Inclusion: The African Union

The African Union (AU), with 55 member nations, has attained permanent G20 membership, alongside the European Union, to bolster representation. Before this, only South Africa represented Africa in the G20. This achievement under India's G20 Presidency marks a historic step towards rectifying global power imbalances.Furthermore, the G20 Summit, under India's leadership, addressed critical Global South concerns. It incorporated initiatives like the Black Sea Grain Initiative for food security and set financial targets for emissions reduction. The inclusion of the African Union and the presence of constituencies at the New Delhi G20 Summit was symbolic of making the global table larger, as Jaishankar had earlier said.However, the AU's influence within the G20 will depend on its ability to unite its member states, each with distinct economic sizes, priorities, and geopolitical agendas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a bilateral meeting with the Chairperson of the African Union, Azali Assoumani, in New Delhi on September 10, 2023.

Strategic Connectivity: The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) Prime Minister Modi lauded the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) as a symbol of cooperation, innovation, and shared progress. The governments of Saudi Arabia, the European Union, India, the UAE, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States have pledged to collaborate on establishing the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). This corridor comprises two segments: an eastern corridor connecting India to the Arabian Gulf and a northern corridor linking the Arabian Gulf to Europe. It includes a railway system, with plans for electricity and digital connectivity cables and clean hydrogen pipelines. The IMEC aims to enhance economic integration, secure regional supply chains, promote trade accessibility, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, details regarding financing and project timelines are yet to be disclosed. This initiative also serves as a countermeasure to China's Belt and Road Initiative.

The African Union's inclusion under India's G20 Presidency marks a historic step toward rectifying global power imbalances.

Climate Commitments

G20 leaders committed to tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030 while acknowledging the imperative to phase out coal power. Nevertheless, concrete details regarding policy adjustments and financial pathways to achieve these targets await further elucidation. At the sidelines of the G20 Summit, India launched the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA), an initiative dedicated to accelerating the worldwide adoption of sustainable biofuels through technological advancements and stringent standards. The GBA aims to promote global collaboration in advancing and disseminating biofuels.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the launch of 'Global Biofuels Alliance' with world leaders during G20 Summit at Bharat Mandapam, in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi on September 9, 2023.

Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII)

Prime Minister Modi and President Joe Biden co-chaired a pivotal event on PGII, with a focus on infrastructure development and connectivity spanning India, the Middle East, and Europe. An MoU pertaining to IMEC was signed by India, the USA, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the European Union, Italy, France, and Germany. PGII is a developmental initiative aimed at narrowing the infrastructure gap in developing countries as well as help towards accelerate progress on SDGs globally.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address at the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment & India-Middle East-Europe Economics Corridor event during G20 Summit on September 9, 2023.

Delhi-DC Synergy

Beyond immediate geopolitical concerns, the summit underscored the synergy between Delhi and Washington across various domains. Collaborations on multilateral development banks (MDBs) and the recognition of India's digital public infrastructure (DPI) as a global template attest to the shared vision of India and the United States in shaping the international landscape. The launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance further reaffirms their commitment to addressing pressing global challenges together.


The Complex Dynamics

India's relationship with Russia is characterised by nuanced interactions encompassing public and private dimensions, short-term and medium-term goals, and a consideration of historical ties alongside future prospects. India's relations with China remain fragile, given significant power imbalances. The absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping from the summit underscores the enduring geopolitical divisions in the world. However, China's endorsement of the consensus document signals its intention not to be a spoilsport. India has effectively managed its relationship with China, focusing on multilateral issues while acknowledging the structural challenges inherent in the relationship.

A People's G20: Nationwide Celebration

India's G20 presidency stands out not only for its emphasis on the priorities of developing nations, the elevation of the Global South's voice, and increased ambition in critical areas such as climate action but also for its extensive engagement with the people. Through 200 meetings across 60 cities and active participation from various states and union territories, India's G20 truly transformed into a "People's G20."

(Left) PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI HANDS OVER THE G20 PRESIDENCY TO THE PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL, LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA ON SEPTEMBER 10, 2023.; (Right) Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting with the President of European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in New Delhi on September 10, 2023.
(Left) PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI IN A GROUP PHOTOGRAPH WITH WORLD LEADERS DURING G20 SUMMIT AT PRAGATI MAIDAN, IN NEW DELHI ON SEPTEMBER 9, 2023; (Right) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and G20 leaders paying tribute at the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat, in New Delhi on September 10, 2023.

The G20 Summit 2023 in New Delhi not only represents a diplomatic milestone but also reflects India's foreign policy priorities and evolving relations with global powers. The summit's declaration holds significant implications for India's bilateral relationships, notably with the United States, Russia, and China. Amid these intricate diplomatic maneuvers, India has effectively engaged with the United States, navigated its relationship with Russia, managed China, fostered ties with Europe, and expanded its traditional support networks.

The Road Ahead

As India holds the G20 Presidency until November, there is an enduring commitment to implementing the suggestions and proposals arising from the summit. A virtual session proposed by PM Modi is scheduled for late November and will review the progress achieved on the summit's topics, ensuring the lasting impact of this historic event.

In conclusion, India's diplomatic victory at the G20 Summit 2023 not only affirms its place on the global stage but also underscores its dedication to addressing pressing global challenges and contributing to the creation of the world ahead. The G20 Summit 2023 served as a testament to the resurgence of the Global South. India's approach distinguishes itself from historical anti-Western rhetoric, emphasising its unique global position as a bridge between the Global North and South. India's presence at the high table signifies more than mere participation; it signifies India's active role in shaping global conversations, particularly concerning Global South concerns. India's G20 presidency marks the initiation of a transition from G7 dominance to a more representative G20.