India’s G20 Summit triumph How India executed a global diplomatic masterpiece and gave hope to the African Union First Post 14 Sep 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


India’s G20 Summit triumph: How India executed a global diplomatic masterpiece and gave hope to the African Union First Post 14 Sep 2023

          The world has acknowledged India’s leadership as the 18th G20 summit concluded in Delhi. To achieve a unanimous consensus on all 83 points of the final outcome document was astute diplomacy as also displayed India’s global standing and acceptance. The document covered subjects which had faced roadblocks in the last summit in Bali, Indonesia, including the Ukraine conflict. Both groups, G7 and Russia-China had to stand down from their lofty ideals and accept India’s neutrality on the conflict. Ukraine was displeased but that was not of major concern. The inclusion of India’s theme, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, in the document, overcoming Chinese objections is another milestone.  

          As per the Indian Sherpa, Amitabh Kant, the breakthrough in was achieved post 200 hours of non-stop negotiations, 300 bilateral meetings and 15 drafts. The document covered every subject, from Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE), climate change, trade, reforming multilateral development banks and an increased voice to the developing world.  

Equally important was consensus on terrorism and support to FATF. Support to FATF and condemnation of terrorism has been India’s demand in all forums. With China backing it, evidently it has left Pakistan in the dumps. India took assistance of Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia to push the document through. These countries, future and past presidents of the G20 coordinate the functioning of the organization.

The inclusion of the African Union (AU) into the G20 marks the end of G20 and the commencement of G21. A touching moment for all was the manner in which the AU President was escorted, received by the PM and given his seat on the high table. It gave the continent a feeling of hope as they would have a voice on a major global platform. It also enhanced India’s reputation and standing in the continent.

China, as usual, desperate for limelight, stated that it was the first country to support the entry of the AU into the G20. The Global Times, in a commentary mentioned, ‘Mao Ning, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated, ‘China is the first country that explicitly expressed its support for the African Union’s membership in the G20,’ adding, ‘China supports the AU in playing a bigger role in global governance.’

The summit also had Biden promising increased investment, in collaboration with the EU, in the Lobito corridor in Africa which connects the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia to the Lobito port in Angola. India is already investing in Africa in terms of development, education and other fields. Nigeria gained USD 14 billion in investment including 1 billion for defence procurements from India just prior to the commencement of the summit. The global intent is to challenge the Chinese BRI which remains a debt trap.   

          The announcement of the IMEE EC (India-Middle East- Europe Economic Corridor) on the sidelines of the G20 summit is a breakthrough with global ramifications. The corridor would link South Asia to Europe through Israel and Saudi Arabia. As Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu stated, ‘Israel will be a central junction in this economic corridor. Our railways and seaports will open a new gateway from India, through the Middle East to Europe, and also back.’ Israel’s Haifa port, procured by Adani in Feb this year, outbidding the Chinese, would be the gateway to Europe. Had the port gone to China, the project could have faced roadblocks.

The IMEE EC challenges the Chinese BRI (Belt Road Initiative), which would lose relevance as also bypasses Pakistan, which blocked the CPEC to India. With coordination and investments from Saudi Arabia, UAE, EU and India, the project is bound to change global alignments and enhance India’s role in the Middle East.

The PM rightly termed it as a ‘beacon of cooperation and innovation that charts a journey of ‘shared aspirations and dreams.’ The project will also include an electricity cable and a hydrogen pipeline to promote clean energy trade. The project, will have two distinct corridors, eastern linking India to the Arabian Gulf (including Israel) and a northern, linking Arabian Gulf to Europe. A meeting of all stakeholders within the next two months will lay down an action plan and time tables. Unless the project adheres to timelines, it would lose relevance.

The Indian conduct made the G20 once again relevant to the globe. A statement released post a meeting involving India, Brazil, South Africa and the US read, ‘As the G20’s current and the next three presidencies, we will build on the historic progress of India’s G20 presidency to address global challenges. In this spirit, together with the world bank president we welcome the G20’s commitment to build a better, bigger and more effective multilateral development banks.’ Incidentally, China has objected to the US conducting the 2026 G20 summit.

India through its untiring efforts, holding over 200 preliminary meetings, spread over 60 cities, involved the country as a whole in its conduct. Shashi Tharoor stated, ‘One of the things that was remarkable about the government’s conduct of the presidency was that they did something no previous G20 presidency had done. They actually made it a nationwide event.’

The Russian delegation stated, ‘the G20 has ended on a very positive note.’ All other world leaders had similar praise for the agenda and choreographed conduct. India raised the G20 to levels few nations would be able to meet.

In bilateral meetings, India scored and pushed through its agenda, whether it was Biden, Rishi Sunak or even Justin Trudeau who was given a slap on the wrist for providing space to the Khalistan movement. In a press conference Justin was left to defend his stance by mentioning freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest, which was fake as he acted with force against the truckers’ peaceful protests. His double talk impressed no one.

Jealousy of India’s success was evident in Pak. Abdul Basit, its former High Commissioner to India tweeted in frustration, ‘Last year it was Indonesia, this year India, next year will be Brazil and so on. What’s so special about India hosting G20 summit? More hype than substance. Even G20 would lose its relevance in years ahead. Proposed corridors linking India to Gulf and Europe will remain pipe dreams.’ The Dawn, Pakistan’s prominent newspaper, posted a photograph of global leaders’ walking barefoot on wet ground at the Rajpath under the heading, ‘Wet feet dampen G20 leaders’ Gandhi tribute in India.’ The fact that Bangladesh was present, while it was ignored impact the country’s psyche.

The weekend was India’s time to shine, out do it own ambitions and lay down a yardstick few would be able to achieve. And it did so in style. The Chairperson of the Arican Union, Azali Assoumani, summed the G20 when he said, ‘India is the 5th superpower in the world.’