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G20G-20 Summit’s Success has Catapulted India as a reliable leader of...

G-20 Summit’s Success has Catapulted India as a reliable leader of Global South


Narendra Modi has played his card aptly in emerging as US's trusted Ally against China

By Girish Linganna

Xi Jinping's absence from the recent Group of 20 summit may have been a deliberate move to prevent India from taking the spotlight. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with the United States and Europe, managed to find more effective ways to challenge China's influence on the global stage as the G-20 Summit concluded on September 10 in New Delhi.

Other G-20 nations praised India's achievement in reaching a consensus on a joint communique, which was uncertain until a few days before the major annual diplomatic event convened by leaders. In addition to resolving the challenging matter of Russia's conflict in Ukraine, they also granted full G-20 membership to the African Union and addressed crucial issues such as climate change and debt sustainability, which are of significant concern to emerging markets.

Ukraine expressed dissatisfaction with the ultimate result, as they perceived the compromise on language regarding the war as less robust than what leaders had achieved in Bali, Indonesia, just ten months prior. However, for the United States and its allies, facing criticism for a communique that, in substance, resembled the one from Bali and had limited real-world impact was a minor trade-off. They viewed it as a worthwhile concession to Prime Minister Modi, strengthening India's standing as an ascending power capable of countering China's global influence.

President Joe Biden took the lead, seeing in India his administration's best hope of isolating China and Russia while reinforcing the United States-led world order. This outcome underscores that Washington is progressively becoming more attuned to the concerns of the so-called Global South, with India serving as its primary guide.

Milan Vaishnav, who heads the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, mentioned that some analysts see the softened stance on Russia-Ukraine as a Western concession. However, there's an alternate perspective: Western nations were also determined to ensure India's success. Failing to reach an agreement would have been a significant letdown for India, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi who staked everything on the success of this summit before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

If we had to pick a moment that truly showcased the dynamics of the summit, it would be Biden's meeting on Saturday, where he discussed the White House-led initiatives aimed at providing additional funding to developing countries.

In a photo op, President Biden, alongside World Bank President Ajay Banga (the first Indian American in this role), was seen with Prime Minister Modi, Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa. These leaders are vital members of the BRICS group, excluding China and Russia. This bloc recently expanded, presenting a challenge to the advanced economies of the Group of Seven (G7).

Earlier in the day, US Deputy Security Advisor Jon Finer indirectly criticized China by describing these countries as “the three democratic members of the BRICS.” He emphasized that these nations, along with the US, were dedicated to the success of the G-20. Finer added that if China didn't share this commitment, it would be regrettable for all parties involved, but even more so for China.

The United States didn't stop at that point. They also revealed a separate agreement with India, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and additional Middle Eastern nations to establish an extensive rail and maritime network in the region. President Biden praised this as a “transformative regional investment” and sealed the deal with a three-way handshake involving Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the US president had previously portrayed as an outcast before the last election.

Such a declaration is undoubtedly more appealing to Middle East stakeholders compared to pressing concerns about human rights, even though the project's specifics, such as the timeline and funding, remain uncertain. While the US denied any intention to counter China's increasing influence in the Gulf, a French official admitted that it was crafted to offer an alternative to Xi's Belt and Road Initiative, a development they saw as a positive competition.

Xi's decision to skip the G-20 summit, which was the first time since he assumed the presidency in 2013, marked a noticeable change in his behaviour. Last November, he portrayed himself as a statesman striving for good relations with other countries. China's negotiators also risked coming across as overly critical by trying to hinder India's progress, even raising minor issues like Modi's use of a Sanskrit phrase and the US's bid to host the G-20 gathering in 2026. The Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, labelled the US as a mere imitator for its Middle East infrastructure plan.

Before the summit began, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accused China of obstructing the advancement of a joint statement. During private discussions, Beijing introduced the topic of semiconductor access in the context of climate action, according to sources familiar with the talks. This led National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, a proponent of US export controls on semiconductor-related to China, to criticize the notion of using climate-related matters as leverage for unrelated issues.

Premier Li Qiang, acting on behalf of China while Xi was absent, conveyed to leaders that the G-20 should prioritize unity over division and cooperation over confrontation, as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency. This statement came after a commentary from a Chinese think tank associated with the nation's top intelligence agency, which had criticized India for disrupting the cooperative atmosphere at the G-20 by pursuing its own agenda.

However, China eventually gave in on its resistance to the communique, and India received commendation from various quarters for facilitating a compromise. Sources familiar with the discussions revealed that the breakthrough happened when India, along with Indonesia, Brazil, and South Africa, collectively presented a proposal for the wording concerning the war.

“The fact that this consensus was reached highlights India's established position as a reliable mediator in a world marked by deep divisions over geopolitical matters such as the Ukraine conflict,” remarked Swasti Rao to a media , who is an associate fellow at the Europe and Eurasia Center at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses. “It's clear that middle-ranking powers aim to maintain a multipolar global economic order rather than getting caught up in China's efforts to dominate it.”

Although the ultimate wording on Ukraine may have made some US allies uneasy, endorsing the compromise represented a significant chance to strengthen alignment with major democracies in the Global South. These democracies play a crucial role as pivotal nations when it comes to addressing Russia's conflict and other global concerns. G-7 leaders openly commended the result, with Sunak emphasizing that the adopted language was “highly robust” and that “Russia finds itself entirely isolated.”

For the United States, any action that strengthens India and empowers other democracies in the Global South serves as a means to counter the influence of China and Russia, especially concerning the G-20's goal of achieving a “comprehensive, equitable, and enduring peace” in Ukraine. Going back to May during the G-7 summit in Japan, the US and its allies faced challenges in persuading leaders like Modi, Lula, and Indonesia's Joko Widodo to align with their stance on Ukraine, even with President Volodymyr Zelensky making an unexpected appearance. It's worth noting that Zelensky was not invited to address India's G-20 summit.

A high-ranking European Union representative stated that this agreement essentially rescued the G-20, as it remains the primary global platform for uniting major world powers. Furthermore, the official pointed out that it played a crucial role in narrowing the divide between the G-7 and emerging markets. This means that emerging markets are now partners in holding Russia accountable if it fails to uphold the pursuit of an equitable peace in line with UN principles.

According to other prominent European officials, China made a strategic mistake by abstaining from the summit. This decision ultimately enabled India to solidify its leadership role within the Global South and created a clear opportunity for the United States and Europe to enhance their relationships with emerging markets.

Even Russia, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attending in place of Vladimir Putin, regarded the agreement as a victory. Moscow expressed satisfaction with the role of BRICS democracies as intermediaries with the G-7, as reported by someone familiar with the situation. This emphasized China's position as an external observer rather than an active participant.

The United States, of course, still faces the possibility of encountering challenges in its efforts to strengthen its appeal to the Global South. Before the G-20 summit, President Biden did not attend a summit hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia, which seemed like a snub to President Widodo. However, President Biden attempted to mitigate any negative impact during his visit to Delhi, where he briefly met with the Indonesian leader and committed to a future meeting at the White House in November, coinciding with the APEC summit when world leaders gather in the United States.

More importantly, India seized the opportunity to assert its global leadership position. Prime Minister Modi stated that a historic moment had been achieved, and his chief negotiator, Amitabh Kant, referred to India as the representative of the entire Global South.

Above all, the summit's outcome has amplified the influence of the Global South,” Kant remarked. “It has also showcased India's substantial capability to unite the world and take a leadership role in both developmental and geopolitical matters.” (IPA Service)


(The author is a Defence, Aerospace & Political analyst based in Bengaluru)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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