Indian prime minister Narendra Modi greets mediapersons at the International Media Centre in New Delhi following the conclusion of the G20 summit on September 10, 2023. (ANI Photo/Ishant)
INDIA recently hosted the G20 summit in New Delhi where top leaders from across the world gathered and discussed key issues, ranging from climate change to the Ukraine war. While experts felt unsure over the summit’s success in pulling off a consensus on divisive issues, particularly over the war in Ukraine and absence of the presidents of Russia and China at the event, the host nation succeeded in reaching an agreement, boosting its diplomatic clout in global affairs.
India Weekly spoke with Rajesh Mehta, an international affairs expert who focuses on areas such as market entry, innovation, geopolitics and public policy, over the G20 summit and how it mattered for New Delhi’s foreign policy and other related issues.
When asked whether the summit marked a diplomatic triumph for India, particularly in comparison to China, and whether Beijing erred in not sending president Xi Jinping to the summit, Mehta said it was a diplomatic win for India as it was able to reach a consensus in a fragmented world order.
‘Western nations not mentioning Russia in declaration unexpected’
“It was able to tackle the high expectations and the challenges of G20 and also provide a road map and clear template for the next presidency in Brazil. Almost every head of state praised India’s leadership. Even China & Russia endorsed the final decoration which itself was a big achievement. Western nations not mentioning Russia in the declaration was unexpected, and German chancellor Olaf Scholz called “it a success of Indian diplomacy”,” he told India Weekly.
On the absence of Xi at the G20 summit, he said it proved to be a boon for India as it could show itself as the voice of the Global South.
Mehta added that while the Chinese president has restricted his travel abroad in the post-pandemic period, he has also been travelling only when China is in a position to dictate events or summits.
He conceded that China committed an error by not sending its president as the G20 summit could have been a platform for an interaction between Xi and prime minister Narendra Modi and it could have seen an otherwise strained relationship between India and China making some headway.
“This reflects that China does not want to see the ascent of India on the global forum and will do all antics to curb its rising stature,” Mehta told this news outlet.
‘IMEC will have challenges’
On the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor (IMEC) that was launched at the summit and seen by many as a gamechanger in geopolitics in the days to come, Mehta called it as a major significant development that has the potential to become a game-changer as it links India to Europe and Middle East.
“It’s not only a shipping and transport corridor. It’ll also help economic prosperity and strengthen innovation between India, Europe and the Middle East.
“Though IMEC is designed so that one can counter the Silk Route of China, there are a lot of challenges along the IMEC route which need to be settled to make it a success. One of the big challenges is that Piraeus port (in Greece) is controlled by a Chinese state-owned company.”
The African Union (AU) was also admitted in the G20 formally in New Delhi.
When India Weekly asked whether the move enhanced India’s Africa policy and New Delhi’s position as a leader of the Global South, something reminiscing the first Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership at the Asian Relations Conference or the Non Aligned Movement in the past, Mehta said the inclusion of the AU in the G20 and India’s efforts behind it allowed New Delhi to become the de facto voice for the collective Global South. He also agreed that the development works in favour of India’s ties with the African nations.
“Both NAM & G20 have been great moments for India as India’s position in the world stage has become brighter and stronger and in both cases India became a voice of countries which do not want to be ponds in the great power rivalry,” he added.
‘The West is now more open to partnering with India’
On the effects that the New Delhi summit had on India’s relations with the West, in areas of geopolitics, economy and others, Mehta said the G20 forum brought the West closer to India in understanding the latter’s expectations and needs as a growing force.
“Geopolitically, the West is now more open to partnering with India to the extent of defence partnerships, such as the US did recently. Economically, there are growing investments in India as the West seeks a more reliable partner after Covid.
Mehta said the fact that the West was willing to concede to the sticking point about directly mentioning or condemning Russia directly in the Delhi declaration speaks volume about its healthy relations with India.
India-Canada relation hitting a low
Amid the feel-good outcome at the G20, the relationship between India and Canada remained a low point. It was reported that Modi rebuked his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the summit over growing anti-India activities on its soil and there has also been a pause in the talks between the two nations over their free-trade agreement (FTA).
When asked about the low in the India-Canada relations, Mehta said, “India-Canada relations witnessed a low at the summit and trust deficit between two democracies came out in the public. Indo-Canadian relations have grown over time. However, India will not tolerate challenges to its sovereignty & territorial integrity.
“At the same time, Canada is giving a lot to India. Indian students and techies are heading abroad to Canada by the dozen. The FTA between the two countries can be a game changer. And talks should resume following the elections. The diaspora, which is a factor used negatively, should be used in a more positive way. It should build trust between the countries.”
Mehta hoped that the relations between the two democracies would improve again after both of them hold their next elections.