India's global leadership: G-20 virtual summit and beyond

The G-20 Virtual Leaders' Summit on November 22, 2023, marked the culmination of India's dynamic G20 presidency. It was convened virtually under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi following the in-person New Delhi Leaders’ Summit
December 01, 2023 | 11:08
India's global leadership: G-20 virtual summit and beyond

Hosting two G20 summits within 2.5 months underscored India's growing global influence. Leaders worldwide deliberated on pivotal outcomes from September, scrutinizing advancements in geopolitical issues, climate financing, and other pressing challenges. The virtual summit emphasized global solidarity under India's unwavering commitment to addressing global concerns, particularly existential issues. The adoption of the Delhi Declaration underscored India's finesse in bridging divides. India unequivocally demonstrated prowess by advocating for Global South concerns and securing the African Union's inclusion. Notable achievements include the G20's dedication to renewable energy goals, emphasis on Women-Led Development, and progress in ethical AI frameworks. As the G20 presidency transitions to Brazil, India's collaborative efforts aim to sustain momentum for a sustainable future in the developing world agenda.

Following the New Delhi G20 Summit in September 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would reconvene virtually towards the end of India's G20 presidency period. The purpose is to take forward the guidance provided by the participating leaders in their interventions and also give an impetus to implementing the Summit's outcome, which concludes on November 30, 2023. As planned, this virtual summit took place on November 22, 2023, under the chairmanship of the Indian Prime Minister. Leaders from all G20 member countries, along with the Chair of the African Union, representatives from nine guest countries, and heads of 11 international organizations, were invited and participated.

It is noteworthy that the New Delhi G20 Summit resulted in the unanimous adoption of the G20 New Delhi Leaders' Declaration. The New Delhi Leaders' Declaration showcased the G20 leaders' unwavering commitment to tackling global challenges in an audacious, inclusive, resolute, and action-oriented manner. The declaration had 83 paragraphs, outlining 87 outcomes and was accompanied by 118 supporting documents. This translates to a staggering total of nearly 205 actionable items demanding immediate attention.

The virtual summit dwelt upon select key outcomes and action points from the New Delhi Summit while also assessing progress made since then. Additionally, the discussions were informed by the deliberations of the 2nd Voice of Global South Summit, held on November 17, 2023. The virtual G20 Summit also pushed for the effective implementation of various G20 decisions, utilizing relevant national and international platforms.

In a remarkable feat, India hosted two G20 summits within a short period of 2.5 months, one in-person and one virtual. This unprecedented move underscores India's growing influence on the global stage. Additionally, India organized two sessions of the Voice of Global South Summit, demonstrating its role as a convener of nations. In total, India hosted four major summits this year, bringing together over 150 world leaders. These achievements highlight the convening power of India and the Prime Minister's leadership on the global stage.

During this virtual meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully facilitated a seven-point "convergence" among leaders regarding the Hamas-Israel conflict, emphasizing the imperative for a two-state solution. Modi expressed concern about the insecurity and instability in the West Asia region and condemned terrorism, particularly the loss of innocent lives. Notably, Russian President Putin's conciliatory remarks on the Ukraine war marked a significant moment during the G20 meeting. Despite the absence of some of the key leaders like Biden and Xi, the virtual summit demonstrated global solidarity in addressing persistent geopolitical issues. The G20's common stance on various aspects, including zero tolerance for terrorism and a commitment to a two-state solution, showcased the effectiveness of diplomatic dialogue under India's leadership. Modi urged the G20 to implement decisions from the September summit, addressing climate financing, development bank reforms, and ethical AI frameworks.

The G20 summit in Delhi concluded triumphantly on September 10, bringing together a constellation of global leaders who also engaged in a series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Summit. The summit culminated in the establishment of a comprehensive framework aimed at fostering enhanced collaboration among G20 member nations, the European Union, and the newly incorporated African Union.

India's G20 Presidency which commenced the last December, was met with a multitude of challenges. The global economic scenario was fraught with turbulence, exacerbated by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ukraine conflict and the subsequent sanctions imposed on Russia further complicated the situation, effectively dividing the G20 into opposing camps. Even crafting a unified joint statement proved to be a Herculean task in the previous year. India's Presidency also unfolded against the backdrop of ongoing bilateral tensions with China, primarily concerning territorial disputes. This persistent friction added an extra layer of complexity for India's G20 Sherpa team, as China frequently acted as a disruptive force during numerous meetings. Moreover, the Indian government, in a departure from tradition, scheduled the G20 summit two months earlier than the customary November timeframe. This decision left officials with two fewer months to work towards the Joint Communique. Clearly, New Delhi faced a formidable obstacle in its efforts to reach a consensus on the preparation of a Joint Communique addressing critical issues such as climate finance, healthcare investment, and poverty alleviation.

Throughout the G20 presidency, India has championed the concerns of the Global South, ensuring their voices are heard and well considered. This commitment extended to the inclusion of the African Union as a permanent G20 member, marking a significant step towards greater global representation. Since the successful hosting of the G20 Leaders' Summit in September and the unanimous adoption of the New Delhi Leaders' Declaration, the world has faced a series of new challenges. While development remains the core agenda, the Virtual Summit provided a platform for leaders to discuss emerging issues, assess the implementation of the Leaders' Declaration, and strengthen cooperation on critical global challenges. This summit proved to be an opportunity to reaffirm the common commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and revitalize the multilateral system, enhancing its effectiveness in improving people's lives around the world.

The Delhi Declaration stands as a pivotal moment in G20 history, marking the first time all member nations have reached a consensus on a comprehensive communique encompassing development, climate, and geopolitical issues. This unprecedented achievement is a testament to India's exceptional ability to bridge the gap between emerging economies, developed nations, and global powers, bringing them all to the negotiating table. Moreover, the declaration's unequivocal endorsement of multilateralism underscores its enduring relevance to global diplomacy. In a world confronting numerous challenges, the Delhi Declaration stands as a beacon of hope, demonstrating that ambitious, inclusive, and decisive actions can indeed be taken successfully. This remarkable accomplishment is not only a triumph for India but also a significant milestone for all emerging markets. The Delhi Declaration serves as a powerful articulation of the Global South's collective voice, resonating from the heart of this diverse and dynamic region.

Speaking on the progress made since the G-20 summit in September, India’s G-20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant observed that substantive progress has been made on several fronts. The G20 consensus to triple global renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency improvement by 2030 are noteworthy outcomes, aligned with COP28 goals. Discussions on Sustainable Development Goals have been furthered at the UN and the SDG Summit, and the Green Development Pact will shape COP28 outcomes. The first Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre meeting will occur during COP28, Dubai (30 Nov, 2023 – 12 Dec, 2023). India's advocacy has secured US$44.5 million for the Global Initiative on Digital Health, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has begun developing a framework based on G20 AI principles, UNESCO's Ethical AI Guidelines, and India's Responsible AI for All principles. Notably, Artificial Intelligence was discussed at the G20 Leaders' level for the first time in New Delhi. Modi announced a $25 million social impact fund and invited G20 to a Global AI summit in New Delhi. India positioned itself as a global bridge, fostering collaboration for sustainable development.

Earlier on November 6, India’s Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, underscored the need to sustain the momentum of the policy guidelines outlined in the New Delhi Declaration through active engagement with G20 nations. During the summit, she highlighted that the U.S. administration had proposed an increase in World Bank financing by over $25 billion, and Germany committed $331 million in hybrid capital for the World Bank to enhance lending over the next decade. She also recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi's urging of the G20 to instigate a fundamental mindset shift for the betterment of humanity, asserting that this directive had served as the guiding principle for India's G20 presidency throughout the year.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang participated in the Virtual G20 Leaders' Summit as China aimed to promote consensus and convey a positive message. Prime Minister Kishida of Japan emphasized the imperative to address crises, and promote human dignity, and underscored Japan's commitment to reforming multilateral systems, achieving climate goals, advancing AI governance, and fostering gender equality. Additionally, it marked Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's first virtual interaction with Prime Minister Modi since their nations' ties strained in September over Trudeau's allegations of potential involvement by Indian agents in the June 18 killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Nijjar in British Columbia. India designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020. India has dismissed Trudeau's claims as "absurd" and "motivated." In his opening remarks, PM Modi emphasized, “Terrorism in any form is unacceptable to all of us; it can be eradicated with concerted efforts and zero tolerance for it.” India’s primary concern remains the latitude granted to extremism and radicalism in Canada.

The transition of the G20 presidency to Brazil on December 1 is anticipated to maintain the strong momentum of the developing world agenda. India collaborates closely with Brazil in shaping G20 priorities. Global leaders, including the UN Secretary-General, expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Modi for hosting the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit. Commending the Israel-Hamas agreement, they urged G20 action on financial justice, structural reform, and climate justice. In conclusion, this collaborative effort signifies a hopeful and concerted global commitment toward addressing pressing challenges and fostering a sustainable future. Let's unite as one Earth, one family, for our shared future.

Tarah Nguyen
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