21-Feb-2024
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India’s Global Leadership: G-20 and Development

The world watches closely as India navigates the delicate balance of diplomacy in an ever-evolving global landscape.

India’s global leadership in G-20 drives economic growth, innovation, and sustainable development worldwide. The annual G20 Leaders‘ Summit, scheduled for September 9-10 in New Delhi, presents a critical juncture for global diplomacy.

Leaders from major economies, including U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman, and Japan’s Fumio Kishida, will convene to discuss pressing global issues.

India’s role as the current G20 president carries immense significance, as it offers a unique opportunity to influence international coordination and address a wide spectrum of global challenges.

India’s Moment in the Spotlight

The G20, originally formed in 1999 as a platform for finance ministers to address macroeconomic issues and financial stability, has evolved significantly. Since 2008, it has convened heads of state, transforming the G20 Leaders’ Summit into a premier geopolitical event. India’s leadership of the group adds to the prestige of this year’s summit. It offers Prime Minister Narendra Modi a chance to bolster his country’s global standing and diplomatic credentials ahead of domestic elections.

India’s Strategic Approach

India’s Global Leadership of the G20 has been marked by strategic manoeuvring to maximize its advantages. Despite potential challenges and contentious issues, Modi’s government has astutely used the G20 presidency to India’s benefit. For example, India hosted a G20 tourism meeting in Kashmir, a region claimed by India and Pakistan. This move aimed to normalize India’s control over the disputed area.

Furthermore, India’s government, in dinner invitations to G20 delegates, referred to the country as “Bharat,” its official Sanskrit name—a term favoured by Modi’s Hindu nationalist party. These subtle actions demonstrate India’s diplomatic finesse in leveraging the G20 presidency to advance its interests.

China’s Surprising Absence

Chinese President Xi Jinping is a noteworthy absence from this year’s G20 summit, marking the first time he has skipped the event since taking office in 2012. Xi’s absence raises questions and holds implications on multiple fronts.

Xi’s decision may be influenced by domestic challenges, including rising youth unemployment, an ageing population necessitating increased social services, a crisis-ridden real estate sector, and leadership transitions within China’s government and military. Some observers speculate that Xi is transitioning into a more visionary role for China, akin to an “emperor.”

Diplomatic considerations also factor into Xi’s absence. It could signal China’s preference for forums with more dominance, such as BRICS or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Additionally, tensions have escalated in the India-China relationship due to India’s growing engagements with the U.S. and an unresolved territorial dispute in the western Himalayas. Recent actions, such as releasing a Chinese government map depicting Indian territory, have further strained relations.

Implications of Xi’s Absence

The absence of President Xi carries significant implications beyond diplomatic symbolism. It represents a missed opportunity for face-to-face dialogue between Xi and President Biden. Their meeting at last year’s G20 summit in Bali helped ease tensions between their countries, which are already divided on multiple issues, including trade disputes, Taiwan, and incidents involving spy balloons.

Putin’s Absence and Its Significance

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s absence from the summit adds another layer of complexity. Putin has consistently skipped multilateral gatherings since Russia invaded Ukraine. His decision appears aimed at evading international scrutiny over the Ukraine conflict, which casts a shadow over the G20.

As India’s current Global Leadership, India faces the challenge of brokering consensus on this contentious issue, particularly given its historical ties with Russia. India’s reliance on Russian weapons and oil complicates any abrupt departure from this relationship. Although India is gradually diversifying its defence technology sources, full independence from Russia will likely take years.

Sinderpal Singh, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, emphasizes that India recognizes that its future lies more with the West and the U.S. regarding technology, weapon systems, and the economy. However, India’s current circumstances necessitate a cautious approach to severing ties with Russia.

G20’s Evolving Role

The G20, representing a significant portion of global economic output, population, and trade, has faced criticism for not adequately addressing issues disproportionately affecting developing countries, such as debt, food security, and climate change. Prime Minister Modi aims to reshape the G20’s narrative during India’s presidency, prioritizing solutions to the climate crisis, gender empowerment, inclusive economic growth, and the development of digital public infrastructure.

India has already taken proactive steps in this direction. It hosted a virtual Voice of Global South Summit, inviting primarily developing nations to voice their concerns. Additionally, India has advocated for expanding G20 membership, including the proposal to include the African Union as a permanent members. These efforts reflect India’s commitment to a more inclusive and responsive G20.

India’s Vision for a Holistic Approach

Under India’s presidency, the G20 summit takes a holistic approach, acknowledging the interplay between economic, social, and environmental factors in global challenges. India’s leadership commits to addressing these complexities through its outlined priorities:

Green Development: 

Environmental sustainability is at the forefront of India’s agenda. The aim is to promote sustainable practices within economic growth strategies, ensuring that development is harmonized with ecological preservation. This commitment aligns with global efforts to combat climate change and conserve natural resources.

Climate Finance & LiFE (Lifestyles for Environment):

Mobilizing financial resources to combat climate change is a pressing issue. India recognizes the need for substantial investments in climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. Promoting sustainable lifestyles through LiFE initiatives is crucial for mitigating environmental degradation.

Accelerated, Inclusive & Resilient Growth:

Economic growth is not an end in itself; it should benefit all segments of society. India focuses on pursuing inclusive growth that uplifts marginalized communities and enhances resilience in the face of global challenges. This approach acknowledges that economic stability is interconnected with social equity.

Technological Transformation & Digital Public Infrastructure: 

Harnessing technology for societal advancement is a cornerstone of India’s vision. Ensuring accessible digital infrastructure is vital for bridging the digital divide and enabling equitable access to the benefits of the digital economy. This priority aligns with India’s commitment to promoting digital literacy and innovation.

Multilateral Institutions for the 21st Century: 

Reforms of international institutions are essential to address contemporary global dynamics effectively. India advocates for changes that better reflect the needs and aspirations of today’s world. This includes reforms within the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and other multilateral bodies.

Women-led Development:

Empowering women and promoting their active participation in economic and social development is a central pillar of India’s agenda. Gender equality is recognized as a fundamental human right and a catalyst for economic growth and stability.

India’s Global Leadership by Example

India’s presidency of the G20 exemplifies its commitment to fostering inclusive and sustainable growth that benefits not only G20 members but the entire world. By addressing a comprehensive range of issues, from environmental sustainability to gender empowerment, India seeks to shape the G20’s role as a forum for meaningful international coordination.

In addition to its outlined priorities, India’s leadership has already set a precedent by hosting the Voice of Global South Summit, providing a platform for developing nations to voice their concerns. This reflects India’s dedication to amplifying the voices of emerging economies within the G20.

As the summit unfolds in New Delhi, India faces the complex task of balancing diplomatic relations, addressing contentious global issues, and advancing its vision for a more inclusive and responsive G20. The world watches anxiously, hoping for productive discussions and meaningful outcomes contributing to a more stable, prosperous, and equitable global future.

In the ever-evolving landscape of international diplomacy, India’s presidency of the G20 represents an opportunity and a responsibility to shape global cooperation and address the pressing challenges of our time. As leaders gather in New Delhi, the world looks to India for leadership by example and a commitment to forging a path toward a better future for all.

Conclusion: Shaping Global Diplomacy

As India takes the helm of the G20 summit, it confronts numerous challenges while striving to seize opportunities for meaningful diplomatic engagement. Key players like Xi and Putin need to be clarified for the proceedings. Nevertheless, India remains committed to its vision of a more inclusive and responsive G20, fostering cooperation among the world’s foremost economies and addressing the pressing concerns of the Global South. The world watches closely as India navigates the delicate balance of diplomacy in an ever-evolving global landscape.

Also Read: India’s Diplomatic Efforts To foster Peace & Stability: Insights From Ambassador Anil Trigunayat

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