G20 Summit | Brand India showcased at its best

The Global Biofuel Alliance, along with the International Solar Alliance, solidifies India’s reputation as a warrior for clean energy.
Last Updated 11 September 2023, 05:13 IST

As the curtains fall on India’s big coming out party, i.e., the G20 summit, it is time to look at some key takeaways from the successful summit.

The first takeaway was India’s ability to forge a consensus on the joint declaration. Before the summit, there were concerns that the Delhi Summit would be the first G20 Summit to not produce a joint declaration, because of the hardening of positions of the West and Russia over the war in Ukraine. As India’s G20 Sherpa tweeted, reaching a consensus on the geopolitical paragraphs, i.e., Russia-Ukraine, was “The most complex part of the entire #G20 and…it was done over 200 hours of non-stop negotiations, 300 bilateral meetings, and 15 drafts”.

It is to the credit of the Indian officials that they convinced everyone to come on board. The West may have dropped its insistence on naming and condemning Russia because, without a joint statement the G20 would get overshadowed by blocs such as the G7 and BRICS. However, this does not take away from India’s adroit diplomacy, which in addition to the joint declaration, produced the largest number of outcome documents. It is also to India's credit that it successfully withstood pressure from the United States to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the conference as he did virtually at the last G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Consensus on reforms to the Multilateral Development Banks, promoting digital public infrastructure, and financial inclusion, financing cities of tomorrow, and restructuring of loans of stressed countries such as Sri Lanka were some other highlights of the Delhi Declaration.

Second, the decision to include the 55-nation African Union (AU), the second regional bloc to join the G20 — the first being the European Union. This enhances India’s reputation for speaking for the ‘Global South’, and will remain its permanent legacy to the G20 India Summit. India had been lobbying for the AU’s inclusion for quite some time, and it is in the fitness of things that the AU became a member during India’s G20 presidency. The inclusion of the bloc makes the G20 much more representative and diverse. India’s role in the AU’s membership will buy it a lot of goodwill in Africa, where it is competing at many levels with China.

The third takeaway was the announcement of the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA). The alliance will promote demand for biofuels and technology transfer for producing biofuels. Along with the International Solar Alliance, the GBA solidifies India’s reputation as a warrior for clean energy.

Fourth, the announcement of an MoU between India, Saudi Arabia, the EU, the US, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, Italy, and Germany to establish the multimodal India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) reflects the importance countries attach to enhancing connectivity with India. The IMEC is meant to stimulate economic development through better connectivity and economic integration between Asia, West Asia, and Europe.

Though it will be seen as a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), one must not forget that Saudi Arabia and the UAE continue to be BRI partners. Also, India must make sure that the 7,200-km International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is not abandoned in favour of the IMEC. Finally, the IMEC must not meet the fate of the Built Back Better initiative and the EU Gateway, both of which were announced with great fanfare but achieved little.

Five, in holding over 200 G20 events across 60 cities, India showed the path to democratising foreign policy. Foreign policy has long been the preserve of the rarefied elite Delhi circles, but the G20 events brought foreign policy closer home to the Indian people. At a time when India is breaking into the elite circle of great powers, this is certainly something to be appreciated as public support is essential for foreign policy to succeed. The showcasing of Indian culture and the photo-op of the leaders at Rajghat paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi will also be remembered favourably for a long time.

Much of the controversy around the G20 Summit involved the refusal of Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the meeting, choosing instead to send Premier Li Qiang. In this, Beijing seems to have missed the opportunity to lead the ‘Global South’, handing it over to India.

Overall, the Delhi Summit was a good exercise in showcasing Brand India and India’s soft power and leadership credentials will be augmented after the summit. This will stand it in good stead in the tumultuous arena of global power politics.

(Uma Purushothaman is Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Central University of Kerala.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

(Published 11 September 2023, 05:13 IST)

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