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Editorial Articles


Issue no 26, 23-29 September 2023

G20 Summit: India's Triumph in Fostering Global Trust and Unity

Advitya Bahl

During his inaugural speech at the G20 Leaders' Summit in New Delhi, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi invited nations to collectively address "Global Trust Deficit" and transform it into "Global Trust and Confidence." Emphasising unity and cooperation, he urged all to walk together, echoing the mantra of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, and Sabka Prayas.' Through its presidency, India was unwavering in its dedication to fostering trust and global unity.

In the lead-up to the 2023 G20 Summit, concesus were expressed on the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Many believed that this would cast a shadow over the Summit outcomes. However, as the summit concluded, it became abundantly clear that India's objectives remained firmly on course, marked by three pivotal themes: consensus, inclusiveness, and solutions.

Consensus: All 83 paragraphs of the 2023 G20 New Delhi Leaders' Declaration were unanimously approved, achieving a remarkable 100 percent consensus, even with China and Russia in agreement. Notably, this declaration stood out by containing no footnotes or Chair's Summary, marking a historic moment.

However, it is pertinent to note that in the run-up to the Summit, the Russia - Ukraine conflict loomed large, creating divisions among G20 nations. The prospect of addressing this issue and reaching consensus on a final G20 communiqué seemed uncertain. Nonetheless, after an impressive effort that involved three hundred bilateral meetings, two hundred hours of negotiations, and fifteen revisions, Prime Minister Modi and his team successfully brokered a consensus on the paragraphs on Russia-Ukraine conflict within the final G20 communiqué.

A plethora of other decisions and initiatives were adopted with resounding consensus: The African Union was admitted as a permanent member of the G20, marking a significant step toward greater inclusivity within the forum. The G20 committed to continue efforts to address climate change, although there were no firm commitments regarding the phasing out of fossil fuels. The group expressed support for climate financing to assist developing countries, extending the pledges by developed countries to transfer $100 billion a year to developing nations until 2025. Reforms were initiated to include climate financing in the core missions of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), without immediate capital increases. The focus was on optimising the MDBs' balance sheets to enable an additional $200 billion in lending over the next decade. The G20 supported improvements to the Common Framework for Debt Treatment, aimed at facilitating the restructuring of debt for low-income countries. The G20 launched an initiative to map the global value chain, aiding countries in identifying risks associated with supply chains. An initiative was undertaken to digitalise trade documents to streamline and expedite trade transactions. The development of Digital Public Infrastructures (DPI) was promoted to enhance financial inclusion and productivity. In yet another significant move, the G20 signed a framework for establishing the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, connected by railways and ports, positioning it in competition with China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Inclusiveness: In line with India's aspiration to become the voice of the Global South, India played a pivotal role in securing the African Union's permanent membership in the G20. India's strategic agenda revolved around presenting an alternative perspective on North-South relations, one that prioritises amplifying the influence of developing nations in global governance, all the while advocating for cooperation rather than confrontation with the Western world. India's endorsement of G20 membership for the African Union reflected a judicious geopolitical move that further augmented the forum's inclusivity. Additionally, India championed and achieved critical reforms at global institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, fostering a more inclusive global landscape.

Solutions: India effectively advocated its Digital Public Infrastructure plan as a tech solution for financial inclusion with export potential. While the feasibility of other nations replicating India's digital plan remains uncertain, it has carved out a unique niche that transcends mere capital financing.

With a remarkable tally of over two hundred meetings across more than sixty cities, India was resolute in making its presidency synonymous with representing marginalised voices and the Global South. While the absence of President Putin and President Xi was a disappointment, this G20 Summit was not about adhering to conventional diplomatic norms; it was about reimagining how diplomacy can be conducted. Ultimately, India's diplomacy showcased its capacity to address contemporary geopolitical disputes while standing up for nations that have long felt excluded from the international stage.

Onboarding of the African Union in G20

After almost a decade of advocacy, the Africa Union (AU), with its 1.4 billion people and three-trillion-dollar gross domestic product, will share the same table as another regional organisation, the European Union, and the world's richest countries. This partnership holds the potential to foster economic growth, strengthen global cooperation, and drive sustainable development on a grand scale. As Africa's youthful population and vast resources come into sharper focus, the G20's engagement with the AU promises a brighter future for both Africa and the world.

The G20's decision to grant permanent membership to the AU aligns with its commitment to sustainable development and inclusive growth, principles reflected in the AU's Agenda 2063. The AU's Agenda 2063 is a visionary blueprint, authored by African leaders, aiming to transform Africa into a formidable global player. Therefore, as Africa assumes a prominent role in the G20, it can ring fresh perspectives and solutions to address challenges that the world currently faces in achieving the goals of inclusivity and sustainable development.

Moreover, as developed countries increasingly transition to greener and more sustainable economies, Africa becomes a key source of raw materials necessary for these green technologies. With 60% of the world's renewable resources produced in Africa and over 30% of minerals essential for carbon technologies and the emerging green economy found on the continent, Africa's industrial development and raw material processing are vital to global progress.

However, the central question at hand is whether the African Union's (AU) permanent membership in the G20 can translate into substantial benefits for its over one billion citizens? Six decades ago, the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the AU, symbolised a collective vision of African unity. However, to this day, the AU continues to face criticism for its inability to fully achieve that lofty objective. The pivotal question is whether the AU can truly represent the resurgent Africa with a unified voice as the union continues to exhibit a discordant front on some of the most pressing concerns.

To cite the most recent example; the AU's response to the Ukraine crisis reveals challenges in African unity. In the UNGA vote of March 2022, only 28 of 54 African nations supported the resolution for Russian withdrawal, with Eritrea voting against it and the rest abstaining. A year later, divisions persisted, with 15 abstentions and Mali joining Eritrea in opposing the resolution in February 2023. In June 2023, African leaders, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, attempted to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine but faced uncertainties about the peace plan's effectiveness.

Moreover, the pace of advancement towards the goal of creating a unified market across the continent under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement has been sluggish, with certain quarters casting doubts about its feasibility.

Therefore, as it joins the G20, the AU needs to do some much-needed, in-depth soul-searching and devise a more effective mechanism to negotiate the interests of 55 different nations. Permanent membership at the G20 will surely bring Africa some much-needed political and economic clout. Undoubtedly, the move is a right step towards a just, fair, more inclusive and representative global architecture and governance. Now, the AU needs to evaluate its readiness to assume greater responsibilities at the global level and analyse how it can optimise its membership to benefit Africa.

IMEC: The Corridor That Promises to Transform Global Economic Connectivity

During the G20 Summit, a significant development occurred with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) among several key countries and entities, including India, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, and Italy. This MoU was signed to establish the India - Middle East - Europe Economic Corridor, referred to as IMEC. The IMEC initiative is designed to create a comprehensive network of transportation routes, encompassing railways and sea lanes, with its primary goal being to promote economic development by enhancing connectivity and integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf region, and Europe.

While specific details and plans for the IMEC project are yet to be fully outlined, it is important to note that this endeavor falls under the umbrella of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII). The PGII is an initiative led by Western nations with the aim of supporting critical infrastructure and connectivity projects on a global scale. These projects may include the development of roads, ports, bridges, and communication systems, all with the overarching objective of facilitating and improving global trade and cooperation.

What makes the IMEC initiative particularly noteworthy is its potential as a strategic alternative to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Over the past decade, China's BRI has established extensive global connectivity linkages through significant investments in shipping, rail, and road networks, primarily geared toward facilitating access to the Chinese market. The IMEC corridor can be seen as a Western-led response to the BRI, seeking to create an alternative and competitive infrastructure network that connects different regions of the world, ultimately offering countries more options for economic engagement and trade. This move reflects the evolving dynamics of global infrastructure development and the desire of various nations to shape the future of international trade and cooperation into a more inclusive, fair, and equitable arena.

How the World Reacted

The G20 Summit hosted by India and its subsequent outcomes have garnered significant attention and praise from global news outlets and experts alike. The world's reaction to this event has been a resounding acknowledgment of India's growing influence and leadership on the international stage.

According to an Associated Press article on ABC's website, the summit was seen as a "foreign policy triumph" for Prime Minister Modi, solidifying India's standing as a global player. Bloomberg noted that the G20 Summit had elevated Modi to "world leader status," underlining the significance of India's role in global affairs. John Reed of the Financial Times described the summit as an "unadulterated win" for India and PM Modi personally. Another Financial Times article quoted experts highlighting the unexpected nature of this victory for PM Modi and praised his strategy of using the G20 presidency to promote India's culture, foreign policy goals, and aspirations to lead the Global South.

Gulf News emphasised India's growing role in multilateral diplomacy and its emergence as a prominent voice, particularly in discussions related to sustainable development and the developing world. Politico recognised this moment as India's time to shine and a signal of a deeper geopolitical shift in the global order.

The Washington Post noted that India's statements at the Summit embodied the voice of the emerging Global South, positioning New Delhi as a leader within this bloc.

China Daily acknowledged India's achievement of hosting numerous meetings in various cities leading up to the summit, setting new benchmarks for G20 presidencies. The Guardian suggested that the softening of the declaration's language was a testament to the importance the U.S. administration places on India as a powerful rival to China.

Other articles from Bloomberg, Reuters, the Lowy Institute, and Newsweek lauded India's leadership and initiatives during the G20 Summit, such as reaching consensus on important issues and the historic India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.

Furthermore, experts quoted in Global Times highlighted India's significance on the international stage, as it is courted by both Western and Russian powers. These diverse reactions collectively reflect the global recognition of India's significant role and accomplishments as the host of the G20 Summit.

Conclusion: Amidst lingering international tensions, India skillfully orchestrated a monumental gathering, forging consensus among major world powers. Beyond the tangible accomplishments of the Summit, India's meticulous and diplomatic approach in the preceding months has rekindled its reputation as a global mediator. Through adept leadership, India has significantly influenced the G20, infusing it with renewed dynamism and bolstering its role as a crucial international platform. While acknowledging that the G20 cannot single-handedly resolve all global challenges, India has played a substantial role in alleviating the trust deficit that has plagued the global order. India's diplomatic acumen and strategic positioning within the G20 have been instrumental in achieving this milestone, paving the way for a lasting transformation in both the G20's effectiveness and India's foreign policy landscape.

The author is Correspondent of a leading Delhi-based news daily. You can send us your feedback on this article at feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com

Views expressed are personal.