Summit that PM delivered The Statesman 12 Sept 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


Summit that PM delivered The Statesman 12 Sept 2023

          In a column published by multiple media outlets, just prior to the concluding 18th G20 summit, PM Modi wrote, ‘For India, the G20 Presidency is not merely a high-level diplomatic endeavour. As the mother of democracy and a model of diversity, we opened the doors of this experience to the world.’ On taking over the presidency of the organization in Dec last year, the PM had stated, ‘Our G20 priorities will be shaped in consultation with not just our G20 partners, but also our fellow travellers in the Global South, whose voice often goes unheard.’ And India delivered.

          The Indian theme for the presidency was ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is a family), which in English signifies, ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future.’ Initially, the inclusion of the original theme in the declaration was objected to by China on grounds that Sanskrit is not a UN recognized language. However, support from others ensured it happened.

In an interview to the ANI, S Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister mentioned, ‘I don’t think it is just a matter of India seeing something. Today, the expectations of the world are very high in terms of what the G20 is able to produce, and produce in terms of meeting challenges of the world.’  

In another interaction, Jaishankar had stated that India is the first host country of the G20 that held its 200 meetings in 60 cities across the country, adding, ‘We have done it so that the world could see the full diversity and richness of India.’ Over 30,000 delegates attended and over 150,000 Indians were directly or indirectly involved in its conduct.

          For the first time since terrorism commenced was a major event held in Kashmir. It opened doors to tourism and now the Miss World contest is expected to be conducted in Srinagar later this year. Protests by China and Pakistan and skipping of the event by a few nations made no difference. The world witnessed a peaceful and changed Kashmir, pushing all claims of the region facing human rights violations aside.

          India’s contribution to the G20 and its leadership of the Global South is now an accepted fact. The Danish envoy to India, Freddy Svane, stated in an interview last week, ‘I am very confident that India will be the leader of the Global South and will build a bridge between the West, US, Europe, Japan etc and the Global South, mainly in Africa but also in Latin America.’

By focussing attention on the global south and the induction of the African Union into the G20, India shifted emphasis of the organization from economic priorities towards assisting nations burdened by debt and inflation, a humane approach. India, exploiting its soft power, outshined China when it came to being the voice of the global south.

          The US NSA, Jake Sullivan, addressing the press from the White House mentioned that the focus of the summit would be delivering for developing economies, climate change, technology etc. He added, ‘thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and India’s presidency, we hope we’ll be able to do all of those things.’ Rishi Sunak, the UK Prime Minister mentioned just prior to the summit, ‘This country’s scale, diversity and extraordinary successes mean India is the right country at the right time to hold the G20 Presidency.’

          There were many firsts in India’s year of presidency. New working groups on ‘disaster risk reduction,’ ‘startup 20’ and ‘chief scientific advisors roundtable’ amongst others were created. Empowerment of women was emphasized as also was a Global Biofuels alliance launched, amongst other notables. The concluding session had over 40 nations/ global institutions participating, the largest gathering in any G20 summit. India has paid emphasis on climate change, debt relief to low-income economies and reducing global inflation.

          The Ukraine war had been a stumbling block throughout India’s presidency. Objections by Russia and China as against a demand on its inclusion, by members of the G7, had resulted in almost no joint statements at the end of major G20 preliminary meetings, only chair summaries. Historically, very few G20 leaders’ summits have concluded with a joint statement, mainly due to differences between camps. India did manage to break this deadlock. All 83 points of the summit document had unanimous acceptance. This displayed the power of Indian diplomacy and its global standing. The announcement by the PM on its unanimous acceptance displayed its relevance.

          The non-presence of some leaders, mainly Putin and Xi Jinping, did in no way diminish the credit coming India’s way. With 112 outcomes and presidency documents, India has more than tripled performances of previous presidencies. Another major gain were bilateral meetings between the Indian PM and multiple global heads of state on the sidelines of the summit.  

India was already a responsible and rising global power. Its support to nations in trouble by its food and vaccine diplomacy had established its credentials as a reliable partner. India displayed its growth, cultural diversity and high levels of digitization, throughout multiple preliminary meetings of the G20. India is a leader in multilateral engagements. Its economic power makes it a nation which cannot be ignored.

India has shown the world that organizations like the G20 can make a difference rather than be just a talking shop, if the host nation so decides. It has raised the bar on future expectations from the G20, which is food for thought for those who follow. The remarkable part of the Indian experience has been that the nation, as an entity, has been involved in the summit in some form or the other, as events transcended states and UTs. Internally, especially as the nation moves into an election year, the PM gained in publicity, an aspect which has caused burns in some quarters.

As Amitabh Kant, the Indian Sherpa tweeted, ‘India’s G20 Presidency has been inclusive, ambitious, decisive, action-oriented and unafraid to challenge the status quo. We have also given a strong call to action for the leaders to take G20 to the last mile.’ At the end of the day there is a need for India to celebrate the conclusion of a successful summit rather than bicker over inconsequential issues during its conduct.