G-20 Summit In New Delhi: Emergence Of A Powerful Global South – OpEd

India hosted the G-20 summit on September 9 and 10, 2023, with all the fanfare and bravura culminating in a grand success that proved India’s prowess and capacity to become the ‘Voice of the Global South.’ After Chandrayan 3 landed on the moon, the summit elevated India’s global leadership to new heights. The summit was attended by G-20 heads of state and government, including the presidents of the USA, France, Brazil, South Africa, Turkiye, and the prime ministers of India, the UK, Italy, Germany, and Japan; and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the Sheikh of UAE. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and Xi Jinping, President of China, remained conspicuous by their absence. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy was not invited to the summit, whereas he addressed the summit in November 2022 through video conferencing.

The adoption of G-20 declaration had been a herculean task which portrayed Indian art of statecraft. The finalization of the declaration has remained a marathon task, with 200 hours of continuous negotiations and 300 meetings. G-20 Sherpa managed to produce a text in which all leaders agreed. 83 paragraphs of the G-20 declarations were accepted without any obstruction. Unanimous adoption of the declaration was one of the most significant outcomes of the summit, which was looking difficult keeping in view the chain of events during the last G-20 Summit in Indonesia. It was the testimony of the emerging ‘New India’, which has 140 million people and an economy worth $3.5 trillion with a 7.8 percent impressive current economic growth rate.

The most important outcome of the summit was the inclusion of the African Union as the 21st member of G-20, thus making it G-21. AU has had the privilege of becoming the first new member of the group since its inception in 1999. With the inclusion of 55 members of the African Union into the group, the G-20 has also expanded its feather to the African continent, which is likely to boost the economic development of the region, which has been marred by political instability and slow economic growth.

The members urged the countries to uphold the principle of international law, which is based on equality, rule of law, sovereignty, and respecting territorial integrity of the member countries. The group favoured multilateralism among the institutions of global governance, which in turn contribute to international peace and stability. The summit calls for peaceful resolution of internal conflicts and urges countries to work with the spirit of ‘One Earth, One Family and One Future.’

The member countries agreed to launch an India-Middle East-Europe silk route that is construed to be an alternative to China’s BRI.  The project aims to integrate Asia and Europe for economic growth. India, the EU, France, Italy, Germany, Mauritius, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel have agreed to become part of this. The World Bank was also present at the initial meeting of the project. The project is a multimodal project connecting the two continents with a rail and shipping network. More importantly, the project will also have digital and financial connectivity. The project will have an east-north corridor. The eastern corridor will connect India with the Middle East through the Arabian Sea, while the northern corridor will connect the Arabian Gulf to Europe.

The MOU signed for the project by the member countries committed to “working collectively and expeditiously to arrange and implement these new transit routes, and to establish a coordinating agency to prepare design, legal, and regulatory standards.” The European Commission President, Ursula Von Der Leyen, said that once completed, the corridor will make India-Europe trade faster by 40 percent. The project intends to extend to north-east India and south-east Asia as well.

The members also agreed to construct a trans-Africa corridor that will connect the Southern Democratic Republic of Congo, North-Western Zambia, and regional and global markets via the port of Lobito in Angola. The EU and US are teaming up to get the project completed. This will connect a landlocked region to the sea and the local value chain, providing clean energy and skills for the local force.

One of the achievements of the summit is the Global Biofuels Alliance, which was created by member countries in order to ensure enhanced use of biofuels and lessen dependency on fossil fuels. India, Brazil, and the USA took the initiative to launch the initiative, and other countries such as Singapore, Bangladesh, Italy, Argentina, and Mauritius also became partners to facilitate global collaboration in the development of biofuels among member countries. The biofuels alliance partner countries agreed to facilitate technology advancement, utilizing sustainable biofuels, and shaping robust standards for sale and certification through the participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders. The partner countries also agreed to establish a central repository of knowledge and an export hub for biofuels.

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, described this as a watershed moment in the quest for sustainable and clean energy. Biofuels, derived from renewable sources like biomass and agricultural waste, offer a green alternative to conventional fossil fuels with lower carbon emissions. Biofuel energy is also important to meet the goals of climate change and to reduce dependency on costly fuels. It would augment energy security and contribute to economic growth. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Economic Forum, International Energy Agency, International Energy Forum, Renewable Energy Agency, and International Civil Aviation Organisation have also agreed to take part in the project.

Taking cognizance of the Russia-Ukraine war, the declaration said the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons is not admissible in any condition. The declaration made it clear once again that economic issues and financial matters are more important to the functioning of the G-20. Hence, geopolitical and security issues do  not hold prominence in the G-20.

The summit also adopted Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, to triple renewable energy capacity and to pursue low-carbon emission,  climate-resilient, and environment-friendly sustainable development pathways. The summit also reiterated the goals of the Paris climate change treaty agreement. Women-led development will close gender gaps in all developmental activities. At the end of the summit, the Prime Minister of India passed the gavel to the Brazilian President, who will host the summit in Brazil next year.

The G-20 has specific agendas as it focuses on macro- economic policy, but it has expanded its ambit in recent years. During the 2016 G-20 conference at the Hangzhou in China, US President Obama and Chinese President Xi formally announced their countries accession to the Paris climate change agreement,  Global health and future work are also now included in the agenda.

The G-20 was formed in 1999 which brings together industrialised and developed economies as well as developing economies around the world with the aim of discussing and establishing international economic and financial stability. The forum has become an important stage to discuss global and economic issues. The group was formed amid the Asian financial crisis and consisted of finance ministers and central bank members. Later on, after the world financial crisis in 2008, the group was elevated to include heads of state and government.

The member countries of the G-20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, South Africa, South Korea, Türkiye, the United States, the UK, Mexico, Japan, Germany, Italy, and others. The G-20 accounts for 80 percent of global economic output, 75 percent of global exports, and 60 percent of the world population. The organisation does not have permanent staff, and its leadership rotates on an annual basis among the members. The decisions are taken based on consensus, and implementation depends on the political will of the member countries. Thus, the G-20 is an inimitable combination of developed and developing worlds and a platform where the voice of the global south is heard by the powerful north.

The recent summit infused a new hope for the organisation to expand its horizons and to work in a manner to reap benefits for all. With the inclusion of AU as the 21st member of the G-20, attempts have been made to make the organisation more representative, thus strengthening the voice of the ‘Global South’. The IMEC is another milestone that will enhance economic cooperation among the member countries by building a network of rail and shipping routes. The Biofuel Alliance that was launched during the summit is a step in direction of sustainable development, which would ensure the energy security of the partner countries. The summit declaration did not delve much into the Ukraine-Russia war owing to underlying India-Russia diplomatic ties. Thus, the G-20 endeavoured to confine itself to an economic and development agenda. Lastly, the summit exhibited emerging India’s power as a voice of the ‘Global South’ and its prospects for becoming a ‘new player’ on the global board.