Rewind 2023: A look at key summits that showed India's growing heft on global stage
Rewind 2023: A look at key summits that showed India's growing heft on global stage
In recent years, India has emerged as a formidable player on the international stage, participating in a series of high-profile summits that underscore its growing influence. These gatherings bring together leaders from diverse nations to discuss pressing global issues, fostering diplomatic ties and collaboration. Among these, the Global South Summit, G20, Virtual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), G7, and Quad summits in Japan have been particularly significant, showcasing India’s increasing heft in the geopolitical arena.
India’s G20 Summit success
In September, New Delhi played host to the 18th Group of 20 (G20) Summit, as India took on the presidency of this influential bloc since assuming office in December 2022. The National Capital witnessed the convergence of several world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as well as heads of international organizations, marking the summit as a high-profile gathering.
During the two-day summit, India achieved noteworthy milestones, notably the inclusion of the African Union as a member of the G20, aligning with its commitment to representing the interests of the Global South. This move makes the 55-member African Union the second regional bloc to secure permanent membership in the G20, following the European Union.
Despite substantial divergences among the member nations, particularly concerning the wording of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and matters related to climate change, the G20 Summit successfully embraced a consensus declaration. This outcome, resulting from rigorous negotiations, marked a significant triumph for India’s presidency. It prevented the unprecedented scenario of a G20 Leaders’ Declaration being absent, a situation that hadn’t occurred in two decades.
In addition to diplomatic achievements, the G20 Summit in Delhi saw the announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe mega economic corridor. This ambitious initiative, involving a multinational agreement on rail and ports connectivity, aims to establish a link between India, the Middle East, and eventually Europe. Regarded as a strategic move, it is seen as a response to China’s Belt and Road initiative.
Global South Summit
On 17 November, India hosted the second ‘Voice of the Global South Summit’ (VOGSS) in a virtual format, following the success of the first summit in January 2023. These back-to-back summits, along with plans for a future summit on Artificial Intelligence’s impact on the Global South, signal the establishment of a new institutional platform for solidarity in the developing world. This underscores India’s leadership in a significant global grouping as in the next two years New Delhi will be watched with widespread interest.
As a key player in both the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the G77, India has traditionally been a crucial pillar of the South. In contrast, China, although not a NAM or G77 member, partnered with the latter, forming the ‘G77 and China.’ Recognising the diminishing relevance of NAM and disillusionment with the underperforming G77, India has charted a new path suited for the 21st century. The opportunity to host the G20 summit prompted India to create this innovative platform, aimed at addressing current geopolitical and economic challenges more effectively.
The success of the first VOGSS was evident, with 125 countries participating to identify concerns and needs of developing nations, shaping the subsequent G20 agenda. The second VOGSS followed a similar structure, with leaders attending opening and closing sessions, and ministerial sessions covering foreign affairs, finance, education, environment, energy, health, and commerce. Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised that Global South priorities were fully reflected in the G20 summit outcomes, highlighting the newfound voice of the Global South.
At a media briefing, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra detailed the discussions, foreign participants’ reactions, and summit outcomes. PM Modi inaugurated the ‘DAKSHIN’ Global South Center of Excellence, serving as a think tank and knowledge repository for collaboration among developing nations. Ministerial sessions delved into various G20 priorities, expressing gratitude for PM Modi’s leadership. The admission of the African Union to the G20 was particularly praised.
Virtual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
India hosted the Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO) summit in virtual format on 4 July 2023. The leaders’ summit, which was hosted by India for the first time, was supposed to be held in person, but the government announced at the end of May that it would be a virtual meeting.
The summit, which lasted for two-and-a- half hours, did not see any fireworks — or global headline-making statements akin to the Prime Minister’s counsel to Russian President Vladimir Putin last year in Samarkand, asserting that “this is not the era for war.”
PM Modi, however, directed attention towards Pakistan and China, addressing concerns related to terrorism and territorial integrity.
Facing Xi and Shehbaz on the screen, Modi criticised countries employing “cross-border terrorism as an instrument” of policy, urging the SCO to denounce such actions without double standards.
The Prime Minister also confronted Beijing and Islamabad on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), emphasising the importance of “respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of SCO member nations in executing connectivity projects.
The New Delhi Declaration issued at the summit’s conclusion omitted India’s endorsement of the paragraph supporting Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), echoing a similar stance taken in the 2022 Samarkand Declaration. India consistently opposes the BRI due to its infringement on territorial integrity and sovereignty, especially through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
India also abstained from endorsing the SCO Economic Development Strategy, expressing reservations about Beijing’s influence.
Addressing terrorism, the New Delhi Declaration mirrored language from the Samarkand Declaration, with the term “ultranationalism” replaced by “chauvinism.” The declaration emphasised the need for “joint coordinated efforts by the international community” against terrorist groups, highlighting the prevention of religious intolerance, aggressive nationalism, ethnic and racial discrimination, xenophobia, fascism, and chauvinism.
Similar to Samarkand, the Ukraine war received no mention. Member states reiterated their “commitment to peaceful settlement of disagreements and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultations,” with the term “conflicts” replaced by “disagreements.”
India’s hosting of the SCO summit underscores its strategic autonomy, a stance closely guarded by New Delhi. The proximity of the summit to the Prime Minister’s recent visit to the US is viewed as a significant indicator of New Delhi’s diplomatic positioning amid the Ukraine war and the ongoing US-China polarisation.
Japan, as Chair of the Group of Seven (G7), hosted the Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima from 19 to 21 May 2023. The summit undertook concrete decisions on various issues such as in support of Ukraine, Indo-Pacific, climate change, economic resilience and economic security, energy and food security, China as a threat, and regional affairs such as Myanmar.
India was among the eight countries invited to participate in outreach sessions of the G7 Summit. Japan had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in the G7 Summit would build synergy between the G7 and G20 processes, especially to address the issues of the Global South.
Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Suzuki had said PM Modi can speak “with legitimacy” for developing countries after having heard concerns of more than 100 of these nations during the Voice of Global South Summit in January.
“We would be very grateful if Prime Minister Modi can share his vision of how (he is) going to set the G20 agenda based on the outcome of the G7 Summit, because that way we (can) have more synergy,” Suzuki had said.
Prime Minister Modi addressed the “Addressing Multiple Crises” session, urging an inclusive food system, strengthening fertilizer supply chains, and promoting digital technology for global farming. He emphasised millets for nutrition, climate change, and water conservation in light of the UN’s 2023 International Year of Millet.
Reflecting on COVID-19, PM Modi prioritised resilient healthcare, advocated “One Earth – One Health,” and stressed the mobility of medical professionals. He called for a holistic approach to development, linking G20 and G7 agendas to address Global South expectations.
In the “Resilient and Sustainable Planet” session, Modi broadened the climate change perspective, highlighting India’s initiatives like Mission Life, International Solar Alliance, and Net Zero goals. He emphasised sustainable agriculture practices and outlined renewable energy targets.
In the session on a “Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous World,” PM Modi urged a humanitarian approach to conflicts, questioning the effectiveness of global institutions like the UN and advocating for reforms to better represent the Global South. He emphasised respecting international law and the teachings of Lord Buddha for peaceful problem-solving.
Quad Leaders’ Summit, which was the third in-person summit of the five in total, was convened on the side-lines of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima on 20 May 2023.
The leaders had a productive dialogue about developments in the Indo-Pacific which affirmed their shared democratic values and strategic interests. Guided by their vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, they reiterated the importance of upholding the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and peaceful resolution of disputes.
In this context, they released the Quad Leaders’ Vision Statement – “Enduring Partners for the Indo-Pacific” which articulates their principled approach.
The leaders agreed on the need to preserve the integrity of the UN, its Charter and its agencies. They agreed on continuing their efforts to strengthen and reform the multilateral system, including through an expansion of the UNSC membership in both permanent and non-permanent categories.
PM Modi emphasised the importance of consolidating Quad’s constructive agenda and delivering tangible outcomes for the region. The leaders agreed to continue their regular dialogue and maintain the momentum of Quad engagement.
PM Modi invited Quad leaders to India for the next Quad Summit in 2024.
India’s active participation in these key summits demonstrates its evolving role and growing heft on the global stage. Whether engaging with developing nations in the Global South Summit, shaping economic policies in the G20, fostering regional cooperation in the SCO, contributing to global discussions in the G7, or participating in strategic partnerships within the Quad, India is increasingly recognized as a pivotal player in addressing global challenges. As the country continues to assert its influence, these summits serve as platforms for India to contribute to shaping a more inclusive, secure, and prosperous world.