Leaders from across the world have convened in India for the G20 summit, where significant divisions persist, with the conflict in Ukraine stemming from Russia’s invasion taking center stage.
US President Joe Biden met with his host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and they pledged cooperation across various fronts on Friday evening. However, notably absent from the summit are Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite these contentious issues, India has been pushing for a joint declaration among member nations. If this summit concludes without one, it would mark an unprecedented occurrence.
The G20 consists of the world’s 19 largest economies plus the European Union. The conflict in Ukraine cast a shadow over last year’s G20 summit in Indonesia, but the group managed to draft a hurried declaration acknowledging internal differences on the issue.
Since then, positions have solidified. Russia and China may not be willing to make concessions, while Western nations, led by the United States, demand a clear condemnation of the war.
The absence of Xi and Putin could complicate decision-making, as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and China’s Premier Li Qiang will represent their countries, potentially lacking the political authority to make last-minute concessions.
Earlier this year, both the G20 foreign and finance ministers’ meetings failed to produce a joint declaration.
India, however, hopes to ensure that the issue of Ukraine doesn’t overshadow the concerns of the Global South, representing developing countries, which it aims to address.
The G20 nations collectively account for 85% of global economic output, 75% of world trade, and two-thirds of the global population. India has positioned itself as the voice of the Global South, emphasizing the G20’s responsibility toward non-member countries.
The presence of the African Union at the G20 has further supported India’s stance on addressing the needs of developing nations.
One crucial issue is debt refinancing, particularly as many countries struggle to repay loans. India and other developing nations advocate for relief from rich countries and international institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, this issue is interconnected with China, as a significant portion of debt is owed to China.
Global regulation of cryptocurrencies and reforms of institutions like the World Bank and IMF are also on India’s agenda, with these topics expected to garner less contention.
Climate change remains a prominent issue for India, which stresses the vulnerability of the poorest countries to extreme weather events. India calls for industrialized nations to contribute resources to address this crisis.
Food and energy security are topics of discussion, but breakthroughs regarding Ukrainian grain reaching international markets through a deal with Russia are deemed unlikely within the G20 framework.
Agreements on agriculture, pandemic preparedness, healthcare, and the global supply chain are anticipated, although their inclusion in the joint declaration is uncertain.
Human rights concerns in India, particularly under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, may not be raised by Western leaders, given India’s strategic importance in containing China’s influence.
While the absence of a joint declaration may pose challenges, it won’t necessarily be a failure for India, as it can issue a chair’s summary showcasing consensus on most issues. However, a contentious G20 could raise questions about the forum’s relevance in a rapidly changing world.
India’s role in various multilateral forums, including the Quad, G7, G20, and others, is pivotal, and the successful outcome of this summit could enhance India’s global standing and Prime Minister Modi’s reputation as a significant world leader.