By Ashok Bhan
The G20 presidency was not only a diplomatic turning point, but Bharat, that is also India, gained high global standing and prestige in shaping a new peaceful world order.
Under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Group of 20 leaders, against all odds, succeeded in adopting a consensus declaration on the very first day of the two-day summit – a major diplomatic breakthrough. Modi skillfully managed to overcome the deep rifts between the East and the West over the war in Ukraine.
In the run-up to the G20 summit, everyone wondered whether India, as G20 chair, would be able to produce a consensus paper, with Russia and the West divided over the ongoing war in Ukraine and China’s President Xi Jinping skipping the summit.
But in a major diplomatic breakthrough, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the leaders had agreed on a joint statement.
“Amazingly, the 2023 G20 Leaders’ Declaration could be finalised on the first day of the summit, allaying all doubts and fears,” said experts.
Moscow welcomed the statement, calling it “balanced”. However, the Ukrainian foreign ministry criticised the final declaration for not mentioning the Russian invasion, adding that the communiqué was “nothing to be proud of”.
New Delhi has been walking a diplomatic tightrope between the West and its traditional defence ally Russia over the Ukraine war and has resisted Western efforts to condemn Russia. Last September, Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin that “today is not a time for war.”
The reference to war was “far more neutral” than the G20 leaders’ Bali statement, as the New Delhi statement did not mention Russia in connection with the war.
Instead, the final declaration referred to the wording used in the UN bodies, which states that “all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to acquire territory against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state.”
There were other geopolitical successes. One major success was the admission of the African Union as a full member of the G20.
“India has done a really good job of making sure that this summit is much more inclusive compared to previous summits,” said Vincent Magwenya, South African presidential spokesperson.
The inclusion of the AU “is a very positive step towards the reforms that we have always advocated for in terms of reforming the United Nations Security Council and reforming various global multilateral financial institutions,” he said.
Climate was another focus of the G20 summit. While there were no new formulations on phasing out coal compared to the previous Bali summit, the New Delhi Declaration announced the establishment of a Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre, tripling renewable energy by 2030, establishing a global biofuels alliance and shifting funding from billions to trillions.
“The developments come at a time when many parts of the world are reeling from climate-related disasters, so the expansion of renewables must be supported by the gradual phase-out of fossil fuels.
“Both are essential for a just transition and a net-zero world. There is also far too much talk about expensive, unproven emission reduction technologies, which must not be used as an excuse to delay action. We need stronger and bolder action from leaders on all sides.
The joint statement highlights the “human suffering” in Ukraine but does not mention Russia. Bharat has made the G-20 Summit an event for the people and aptly represents the civilisational ethos of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.”
Bharat is the Boss
With around 220 meetings in 60 cities, nearly 30,000 delegates at the G20 meetings, over 100,000 participants at the side events and the involvement of citizens from all parts of the country, the G20 engaged people in many ways.
Various ministries eagerly pushed for active participation. The Ministry of Education organised Jan Bhagidari events in which various stakeholders such as students, teachers, parents and the society at large participated enthusiastically.
These events, held at the state, district, block, panchayat, and school levels, raised awareness about the G20, the National Policy on Education and the issues of Basic Learning and Numeracy – key priorities of the Indian Presidency. These events attracted a total of over 23.3 million participants, including 15.7 million students, 25.5 lakh teachers and 51.1 lakh community members.
However, the essence of Jan Bhagidari goes beyond attendance figures. A range of activities – from the insightful G20 University Connect lecture series to interactive model G20 meetings, special G20 sessions in educational institutions, G20 pavilions at prominent festivals, quiz competitions, selfie contests and the captivating #G20India stories – played a crucial role in fostering broad and enthusiastic engagement.
The working groups used innovative means to increase public engagement. In particular, the G20 Infrastructure Working Group initiated a G20 Cyclothon and a motorbike rally on National Youth Day.
In addition, the Indian G20 Presidency highlighted India’s distinctive model of cooperative federalism. States and Union Territories competed to welcome the G20 delegates, generate local and regional enthusiasm and showcase their respective traditions and achievements.
In many cases, this has provided an opportunity to undertake development initiatives that have contributed to such projection. Some examples are the restoration of Loktak Lake in Manipur, urban rehabilitation campaigns in Mumbai and infrastructure improvement in Lucknow.
This synergy has not only showcased indigenous cultural heritage and craft skills on a global platform but also increased employment opportunities for various communities. Many delegates saw for themselves the richness of the ‘One District One Product (ODOP) initiatives and had the opportunity to visit craft centres themselves.
In addition, the fascinating natural landscapes and architectural splendour of India were showcased, leading to a strong resurgence of tourism after Covid-19. The economic benefits of the way the G20 programme was implemented across the country are still unfolding.
By celebrating the G20 Summit across the country, we have tried to create a transnational experience that is beneficial to both India and the world. It is fair to say that the G20 Summit has made India more mature for the world and the world more mature for India as a whole.
The various working and engagement groups have also been a powerful platform to generate social interest and engagement on global issues. In cases like science, they have helped us think together about the key challenges we face.
Similarly, the working group provided an opportunity to share experiences for mutual benefit. Youth 20 was particularly impressive and a strong endorsement of the Jan Bhagidari approach. More than 125,000 delegates in 1563 sessions were able to bring an energy to the Presidency that is truly remarkable.
The Civil 20 event alone touched 45 lakh people worldwide. Social media proved to be a key tool in the G20 process, mobilising citizens and igniting public engagement, resulting in over 14 trillion social media impressions.
Two world records were set
Civil 20 has touched 45 lakh people worldwide alone. Social media proved to be a key tool in the G20 process, mobilising citizens and igniting public engagement, resulting in over 14 trillion social media impressions.
Two world records were set in the course of public participation. First, 1.25 lakh students from 800 schools participated in the G20 quiz in Varanasi. At the same time, 450 Lambani artisans showcased their skills and artistry by producing an amazing collection of around 1,800 unique patches.
The Indian Presidency witnessed wide-ranging debates and discussions on issues critical to our common future.
Of particular note are issues that require the participation of society – a goal that can only be achieved if messages reach the global community. A good example of this is LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), which encourages environmentally friendly changes in our daily habits. Similarly, highlighting digital delivery encourages us all to develop digital comfort in our regular transactions.
For its part, the emphasis on women-led development highlights the key role they play in societal progress. The emphasis on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will also accelerate as greater awareness of the centrality of these goals to global prosperity emerges.
Speaking on Mann ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described India’s G20 presidency as a ‘people’s presidency’. This was both a description and a motivation that illustrated how harnessing ideas and energies in our country has helped create a truly wonderful and memorable participatory G20. Bharat very well proved that it has achieved global leadership. Bharat is a global boss.
—Ashok Bhan is a Senior Advocate and a geopolitical analyst