By: Dipak Kurmi
The G-20 Summit is about to take place in India, and the preparations are nothing short of spectacular. The Pragati Maidan and its surroundings, especially the entrance facing the Bhairon temple, have undergone a stunning transformation. Delhi now boasts a vibrant display of hundreds of fountains in various colors, adorned with depictions of lions, elephants, musicians, and the city’s metro pillars and walls beautifully painted to showcase India’s rich cultural heritage. The External Affairs Minister aptly described the G-20 Summit as not merely an event but a joyous celebration of cultures and diversity.
Over the past 10 months, India has been a hive of activity, hosting over 200 meetings in 29 states involving 35+ working groups and numerous cabinet ministers from member countries. These discussions have spanned a wide array of topics, from Finance and Trade to Health, Agriculture, and Culture. Despite notable absentees like Putin and Xi and potential divisions over Ukraine, the G-20 Summit is poised to generate a comprehensive report encompassing green energy, climate financing, SDGs, trade, multilateral bank reforms, debt issues, women-led development, cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism, among others. Dhruv Jaishankar of ORF in the USA has labeled it as the most impactful Summit in independent India’s history, although some may draw parallels with the NAM Summit of March 1983, albeit in a vastly different global context and addressing distinct issues, all hosted in Delhi.
The Delhi G-20 Summit stands out with numerous unique aspects. Distinguished from previous Summits, India has orchestrated a multitude of Ministerial meetings across different state capitals, offering delegates from member nations a firsthand experience of India’s rich diversity and captivating cultural heritage. This endeavor not only highlights India’s progress since independence but also fosters a sense of inclusion among various state governments, irrespective of their political affiliations. Over the course of India’s G-20 Presidency, approximately 100,000 official and unofficial delegates will have graced the country, significantly boosting India’s tourism sector.
Even if Putin and Xi had attended the Summit, reaching a consensus on Ukraine in the presence of the US President, given previous strained relations and ongoing sanctions, would have been challenging. However, India’s diplomacy, rooted in dialogue and hard work, has fostered substantial progress in various areas. These include trade, multilateral bank reforms, addressing the debt issues of more than 60 nations, India’s impressive achievement of 40% renewable energy production, leadership in digital payments with the UPI platform, healthcare collaboration in pandemic response, climate financing, cyber security, and, most importantly, the promotion of inclusive and innovative economic growth for all.
Many analysts believe that India’s G-20 Presidency will be remembered for its focus on highlighting issues of utmost significance to the Global South. India has taken a pioneering role in advocating for the inclusion of the African Union as a new member of the G-20, emphasizing the continent’s importance. Currently, South Africa is the sole African member, while Europe has five members and Spain as a permanent invitee. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar noted that India’s efforts have effectively raised the awareness of the Global North about the concerns of the Global South, leaving a lasting impact on G-20 discussions.
India’s strategic outlook is evident in its diverse guest list for the G-20 Summit. In addition to inviting Bangladesh and Mauritius, India extended invitations to Egypt, Nigeria, Oman, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the UAE. This inclusive approach demonstrates India’s thoughtful approach to global engagement. Furthermore, the G-20 Summit boasts one of the highest numbers of international organizations ever invited, underlining the event’s significance on the global stage.
Modi emphasizes the shift from a GDP-centric to a people-centric order to address global challenges effectively. He believes that every voice, regardless of GDP size, is crucial. India is actively catalyzing this transition and, as per PM Modi, its G-20 Presidency has instilled confidence in countries of the so-called Third World. Successfully hosting the G-20 Summit on a grand scale while highlighting issues facing the Global South strengthens India’s position as a leading advocate for the region on the world stage.
With the exception of Xi and Putin, the G-20 Summit will be graced by the presence of all leaders, and PM Modi enjoys warm personal relationships with many of them. Notably, US President Biden holds PM Modi in high regard, a sentiment echoed by French President Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British PM Sunak, Australian PM Anthony Albanese, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, and Brazilian President Lula. This widespread admiration signifies India’s positive global standing. An illustrative moment came during the BRICS summit in Johannesburg when South African President Ramaphosa celebrated India’s Chandrayaan 3 moon landing as a collective success for BRICS, underscoring the favorable international sentiment India enjoys today.
It’s evident that China is less than pleased with the positive attention surrounding India, despite India’s GDP being just a quarter of China’s. Speculation abounds regarding Xi’s absence from the Delhi summit. Possible reasons range from China’s internal issues, particularly in the property sector, to a desire to avoid potentially awkward moments given the current state of relations with the US and India. Some even speculate about health concerns affecting Xi, as suggested by Professor Srikanth Kondapali of JNU.
While Chinese PM Li Qiang will be present at the Summit, expectations for him to actively promote consensus and a joint communique are low. Instead, it’s anticipated that he may aim to obstruct progress. However, India appears to have prepared for potential Chinese obstacles and remains undeterred by such prospects, indicating a readiness to navigate any challenges that may arise.
Now is the moment to acknowledge India’s accomplishments, its global leadership, and its promising future. Let all of India celebrate this moment with joy.