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Upswing in India’s role in world affairs

The success of the G20 summits under the Indian presidency is a feather in the Modi government’s cap. India will now seek to step up its international role, and perhaps push its agenda for UN reform with greater vigour.
Last Updated : 10 September 2023, 22:36 IST
Last Updated : 10 September 2023, 22:36 IST

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The G20’s New Delhi Declaration, an outcome of India’s eight-month presidency of the grouping, has boosted the country’s stature on the global stage, not just as a voice of the developing and underdeveloped world, but also as one possessing both the clout and convening power to mediate between the ‘South’ and the ‘North’. Against all odds and predictions, the Delhi summit managed to pull off a consensus declaration. The joint communique became possible with agreement on Russia’s war in Ukraine – it left out any mention of Russia’s aggression and simply called it the “war in Ukraine”. This is a shift from last year’s Bali Declaration where Russia’s role was mentioned with the “strongest condemnation” of “most members” and a reference was made to “other views and different assessments”. 

India’s G20 negotiators worked to ensure that the Indian presidency would not be the only one since 2008 without a joint declaration. But the formula would not have been possible, as noted by Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar, without the assistance of last year’s chair Indonesia, the incoming chair Brazil, as well as the 2025 chair South Africa. The minister’s observation of these as developing countries with a “strong history” of working together -- the latter two are also partners of India, Russia and China in BRICS -- was a rare acknowledgement of India’s storied foreign policy. As a result, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the chair of the summit, was able to announce the adoption of the 83-paragraph consensus document on the very first day of the summit. In the end, the two notable absentees, the Russian and Chinese presidents, did not matter that much. Indeed, their staying away may have even helped in forging a consensus.

India can also take satisfaction in getting the African Union, representing 55 countries with a combined economy of nearly $3 trillion, a permanent place in the grouping. The G21, as it will be known henceforth, is more accurately weighted to represent the less wealthy global South, and is no longer a group directed by the hitherto influential, powerful and wealthy. This should enable the grouping, at least in theory, to work more effectively to achieve its goals of international financial stability, sustainable development, and climate change mitigation in a more equitable way.

The success of the G20 summits under the Indian presidency is a feather in the Modi government’s cap. India will now seek to step up its international role, and perhaps push its agenda for UN reform with greater vigour. With it will come greater scrutiny of the government, and how it addresses the challenges mentioned in the New Delhi declaration -- of inclusion, religious tolerance, diversity, gender justice and climate change -- within India. 

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Published 10 September 2023, 22:36 IST

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