This weekend, at a futuristic convention center, Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi that looks like a flying saucer, India has successfully achieved a massive milestone. The Group of Twenty (G20) approved an eighty-three-paragraph leaders’ declaration, covering issues ranging from plastic pollution to terrorism.
While consensus among the world’s wealthiest countries is always difficult—and the absence of Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping lowered expectations further—Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi guided home the declaration, which welcomed the African Union as a new member to the group, among other important points.
With India’s G20 presidency ensuring numerous important and valuable outcomes, world leaders hailed PM Modi for his “decisive leadership” and for championing the voice of the Global South. The world leaders also hailed India’s hospitality and praised PM Modi for presiding over a successful summit, while noting that the country’s message of ‘one earth, one family, one future‘ resonated strongly with all the delegates.
Indian government effectively and efficiently scheduled more than two hundred meetings in over sixty cities in all of Indian states and Union Territories. Indian officials were intent to make their presidency about representing marginalized voices and the Global South.
While India was disappointed not to have Putin and Xi present, this G20 Summit was not about how diplomacy has been done, but rather how diplomacy can be done. In the end, India’s diplomacy demonstrated its ability to take on current geopolitical disagreements and represent those countries who have felt marginalized for decades.
This is a time for India to engage America, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring Japan into play, draw neighbours in, extend the neighbourhood, and expand traditional constituencies of support.” On each of these fronts, India succeeded in meeting its objective.
It was PM Modi’s leadership and MEA’s ability to work with different world powers, which ensured that India’s objectives were not derailed. We also saw how three key themes emerged: Consensus, Inclusiveness, and Solutions.
Consensus: Russia’s war in Ukraine loomed throughout India’s presidency and had divided G20 countries. It was unclear if and how the conflict would be addressed and whether it would prevent the agreement of a final G20 communiqué. However, after three hundred bilateral meetings, two hundred hours of negotiations, and fifteen drafts, Modi and his team were able to bring consensus on the Russia-Ukraine paragraphs in the final G20 communiqué.
Inclusiveness: As part of India’s positioning to be the voice of the Global South, India shepherded the African Union’s inclusion as a permanent member of the G20. India also pushed for, and countries agreed to, major reforms at global institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Solutions: India successfully promoted its Digital Public Infrastructure plan as an exportable tech solution for financial inclusion. While it’s unclear whether other countries are capable of replicating India’s digital plan, it has found a niche that goes above and beyond simple capital financing.
PM Modi ensured India is well-placed to bridge gaps in the Group of 20 top economies and resolve global problems, but many were skeptical ahead of the weekend’s summit given grave divisions within the bloc over the Russia’s war in Ukraine.
He was able to dispel those doubts, announcing a unanimous final agreement a day before the G20 summit ended Sunday that included language on the European war which both Russia and China signed off on.
Ukrainian Presidency Zelenskyy has also not been invited to the summit, illustrating New Delhi’s insistence that the G20 return to its roots on economic issues.
The statement had softer wording than last year’s G20 communique and failed to directly denounce Moscow. Instead, it cited a United Nations charter, saying “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.”
This year’s G20 can also be seen as a ‘green summit’ as India promotes several climate policy initiatives including an International Biofuels Alliance, ‘Mission Life’ (which advocates the concept of a circular economy) and green hydrogen standards. India is also calling for reforms to multilateral development banks to facilitate green financing.
India also leveraged its progress in the development of India’s digital welfare state (through such initiatives as the Aadhar card and United Payments Interface) to create a multilateral funding body at the G20 to facilitate digital public infrastructure (DPI). This comes within the context of broader efforts to create smart, sustainable and resilient urban infrastructure.
Domestically, the summit will undoubtedly brighten the Modi government’s standing with voters. India notably deferred its G20 presidency, bringing it closer to 2024’s general election.
In hosting over 200 G20 events across every Indian state and union territory (including the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir), New Delhi has sought to reaffirm its sovereignty and territorial integrity.