India has firmly positioned itself at the centre of the new global order and decision-making with astute diplomacy and strategy, which culminated in the New Delhi Declaration during its G20 presidency. Despite a nine-month impasse with consensus seemingly elusive, 200 hours of tireless negotiations and four drafts finally led to a unanimous agreement among G20 members.
Throughout the negotiations, India emphasized unity over division. This G20 presidency marked a historic moment for India, elevating its role in the emerging global order. Today, the world views India as a trustworthy, robust power and an advocate for the underserved and marginalised nations. Earlier in the year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi showcased his vision by hosting the ‘Voice of the Global South’ virtual summit. This entailed consultations with 125 countries, often sidelined in such dialogues. Beyond the wealthier members, nations from the Global South predominated India’s G20 guest list. That is a position that distinguishes India from other emerging leaders.
India’s Democracy vs China’s Autocracy
The Covid pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict highlighted the global economies’ over-reliance on China’s supply chain. The need for not just affordable labour but also reliable, resilient partners became apparent. Repeated lockdowns in China disrupted global supply chains. Geopolitical tensions, coupled with China’s hegemonic goals and intrusive business practices, have eroded trust. The world now faces a dichotomy – India’s democratic approach versus China’s opaque autocracy.
Many were sceptical about this year’s summit due to the contrasting stance of the Russia-China alliance and the G7 on subjects like the Ukraine conflict and China’s regional expansionism. Critics doubted the possibility of any significant joint communique. However, India surpassed expectations and by some distance. Amidst the Ukraine conflict, India asserted its independence by importing Russian oil, defying the western bloc’s wishes. Against western scepticism, the G20 members passed a resolution on Ukraine in New Delhi. India further showcased its importance in the global supply chain with the announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor at the G20. This initiative, aimed at boosting trade, enhancing energy transport, and fostering digital connectivity, challenges China’s economic aspirations in the region. Other than green energy manufacturing value chain, ‘Electric Vehicle’ (EV) manufacturing represents one of the corridor’s key future growth sectors as India is expected to become the world’s third-largest automotive market by 2026,” according to a 2021 National University of Singapore paper. These are just of many opportunities waiting to be explored.
India’s prowess in Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) was also evident. India proposed the Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository (GDPIR). The ‘India Stack’, an ensemble of open-source digital solutions, resonated with G20 members. To bring out the goodness of millets and to introduce its benefits to the world, India pushed for the launch of an international research initiative on millets and other ancient grains. The Global Biofuel Alliance, a grouping of more than 30 countries and international institutions, is another much-awaited outcome of India’s presidency. It will facilitate sustainable biofuels in emerging economies. Another first for G20 is India’s proposal to hold a virtual meet later in November to review the progress of all the suggestions made in the leaders’ summit.
Introducing the African Union to the G20 marks a significant shift in global dynamics. This move amplifies India’s sway in Africa, a continent where major powers have been vying for some influence. India’s intention is to collaborate with Africa on climate change, trade, technology, and infrastructure. India’s soft power, including its art, heritage, and tourism, was prominently showcased during the year-long delegate meetings across various states. The meticulous planning and execution of the summit left global leaders in admiration. India has set a challenging benchmark, and countries like Brazil and South Africa will have to do a lot to match it.
In a world where democracies need to recalibrate their strategies, India is increasingly becoming indispensable. PM Modi’s leadership has been instrumental in this ascent. A pragmatist at heart, he prioritises national interests through realistic alliances. His international outreach, often criticised domestically, has proven to have strategic depth.
A New Global Order
Bloomberg in its article, ‘India’s G-20 win shows US learning how to counter China’s rise’, has written how the joint communique gave PM Modi a win that bolsters India’s status as a rising power and blunts China’s global influence.
However, a section of western media has shown bias when it comes to covering India and its growth story. They had written off India’s year-long presidency as just a routine rotational exercise.
While critics may point to numerous challenges ahead, this G20 presidency has infused fresh energy and purpose into the forum. The inclusion of the African Union indicates promising developments and pivotal decisions on the horizon. Amidst a faltering West and an assertive China, India is poised to navigate the new global order based on its formidable foreign policy.
The nation’s journey as a dominant global player for centuries to come has well and truly begun.
(Bharti Mishra Nath is a senior journalist)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.