In what has been revelations to many member states of the G 20 grouping, India’s Presidency saw a substantial fillip to the organisation which does not have any permanent secretariat and the head is rotatory. However at the end of the day the Joint Communique which is a standard release after each summit may become a challenge given geopolitical road blocks as the divide between the West and Russia/China is being reflected in reference to the War in Ukraine in the primary document.
For starters though well known, the G 20 comprises 19 countries -Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, United Kingdom and United States and the European Union. The G20 members represent around 85% of the global GDP, over 75% of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.
Recognising G 20’S primary role as a forum for international economic cooperation and role in shaping and strengthening global architecture and governance on all major international economic issues, India with a whole of government approach conducted large number of activities ranging from tourism to climate change apart from the core issues as economy, finance and trade. With over 200 events held across the country the message of equity to every part of India apart from diversity was well conveyed and much appreciated by hundreds of global participants many of whom were first time visitors. It was a hectic year indeed for the organisers, yet the outcome would be seen as globally laudatory. In short, India has set a very high benchmark for members who will assume the Presidency in the years ahead.
For the Summit on September 09 and 10 the stage is set in the spruced-up capital New Delhi with arrangements laid out to welcome top leaders of the World led by US President Joe Biden amongst others. Yet while the overall preparations for the G 20 Summit are on stream what is of concern is the nature of the debate at the Summit and difficulties of working out a Joint Communique. In the past two years after the outbreak of the War in Ukraine, there is an intense clash between politics and economic objectives of the G 20. While India as the President has insisted that geopolitics is not on the agenda of the forum, the same cannot be wished away. For instance Russia one of the primary members of the G 20 being also a permanent member of the UN Security Council will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. President Vladimir Putin has expressed regrets to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a telephone call.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin was not really expected to attend the G 20 Summit and put good friend and strategic partner in a difficult situation given the blowback that would have emerged from the West, China’s President Xi Jinping staying away from the G 20 has been seen in a different perspective ranging from poor relations with host India to downplaying the importance of the US-dominated G20 so that he can build up BRICS.
Some analysts feel that Xi’s no show is an effort to cut the G20 to size others to cut India which is making a global pitch for the high stage in its proper place. Some feel that Xi wants to build up BRICS, as a counter narrative to G20. It is believed that China’s agendas of expanding the membership of BRICS against opposition was achieved in South Africa last month. In the future BRICS could be dominated by Russia and China. The G20 by the West. India which believes in a policy of reformed multi alignment will be straddling both forums and may have difficulty in balancing.
Coming back to the Joint Communique Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with decades of diplomatic experience before him has indicated that Russia will block any summit Declaration that doesn’t reflect Moscow’s views on Ukraine and other crises. “There will be no general Declaration on behalf of all members if our position is not reflected," Lavrov was quoted as saying, ahead of G20 Sherpa meeting that will look to break the impasse over how to refer to the War in Ukraine. Western members are likely to insist on naming and shaming Russia which will not be acceptable to Moscow in any form and to fellow UNSC non permanent member China.
The India China contestation on multiple issues in the recent past particularly the standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which saw only a limited meeting between President Xi and Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in August is expected to singe the G 20 Summit as well. President Xi thus expectedly gave the summit a miss sending the Prime Minister Li Qiang instead. Li has taken over as the Prime Minister in March this year and is seen as relatively new to the international arena.
In addition, in the run up to the Summit in other forums, China is reportedly raising issues on Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), women-led development, MSMEs, and even to India’s slogan for the G20 presidency, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”. Is this a rebuff by Beijing for not accepting President Xi’s request of compartmentalising the border issue from the larger India China relations, one can only guestimate.
What is of concern is that India’s stellar achievements in mobilising G 20 members on a host of economic issues may be overshadowed by the temper of geo and regional politics on September 09 and 10 at the Summit in New Delhi.