The participation of India at the Indonesian G 20 was indeed special as both countries are neighbours and represent the Global South within the G 20. In reality, they play a much bigger role. India is certainly looking forward to doing so during its presidency.
While Indonesia had a problem like the Ukraine crisis hitting the world during its presidency and cleaving the G 20, India may be more fortunate. It contributed to a communique that had wider acceptance. The G20 Statement echoed PM's phrase: Today’s era must not be of war. It also recognised that G20 is not the forum for security issues though they have a bearing on the G20 agenda.
PM Modi is among the senior leaders of the G 20, other than the Chinese and Russian presidents. Most other leaders are more recent participants. Further, India has maintained a very positive attitude towards the major problems of the world including dealing with the pandemic, post-pandemic economic recovery, and climate change, keeping an important open stance on the Ukraine crisis and contributing to its possible resolution.
India is a ray of hope for the world in the 21st century. India is moving ahead at an unprecedented speed and scale. India's talent, technology, innovation, and industry have made their mark in the world today. This perception though stated to the Indian community, was felt throughout the proceedings. ‘Today the world has greater expectations from the G-20, its relevance has become more significant.’
There are signs of a thaw with back-channel discussions taking place between the US and Russia which may lead to a solution during the period of the Indian chairmanship of the G 20. India itself is playing a quiet role since it has the confidence of all sides. If peace is restored in Europe, thanks to the various efforts underway, India would be able to focus the G 20 on more positive aspects as it is expected to do.
At COP 27, India focused on the global South standing together and benefiting more from the world. The fight is no more for a just order, but also the fulfillment of obligations. India will set this out in its own agenda. There is much expectation of India under PM Modi because Indonesia, India, Brazil, and South Africa have the rare opportunity of four countries of the global South chairing the G 20 in succession and therefore having the benefit of possible continuity. Even for the G20 statement, India raised a cohort of countries from the South to salvage the Statement from big power rivalry.
The themes that Indonesia built, food and energy security, public health, and the digital economy are all part of India's ambit as well. India will contribute to Indonesia's theme ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’ by emphasizing its own ‘One World, One Family, One Future’ more emphatically.
PM Modi's interventions focused on the major issues and were indeed welcome. Since India does not have an axe to grind, with the big power rivalry, its interventions were thematic and constructive. This is also what Indonesia wanted to get from its G 20 Summit. PM Modi used the occasion to again call for a return to diplomacy and an end to the war in Ukraine if the economic and functional G20 objectives are to be achieved.’ I have repeatedly said that we have to find a way to return to the path of ceasefire and diplomacy in Ukraine.
Over the past century, the Second World War wreaked havoc in the world. After that, the leaders of that time made a serious effort to take the path of peace. Now it's our turn. The onus of creating a new world order for the post-Covid period lies on our shoulders. The need of the hour is to show concrete and collective resolve to ensure peace, harmony, and security in the world. I am confident that next year when the G20 meets in the holy land of Buddha and Gandhi, we will all agree to convey a strong message of peace to the world’ he said.
On digital transformation, he said:‘Digital technologies can become a force multiplier…India's experience of the past few years has shown us that if we make digital architecture inclusive, it can bring about socio-economic transformation….at the international level, there is still a huge digital divide. (Let us) pledge together that in the next ten years we will bring digital transformation into the life of every human being so that no person in the world will be deprived of the benefits of digital technology!’
India may be able to reap the windfall of peace around the world if the US and Russia agree to a modus vivendi, which will lead to a de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis. Already, the Biden-Xi meeting in Bali has opened lines of communication, which had been shut during the pandemic and following the visit of Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. While the US and China don't agree on most things, at least they seem to be avoiding conflict while engaging in more serious competition.
PM Modi besides his constructive remarks at the G20 displayed a bonhomie with world leaders like Biden, Macron, and Jokowi. He had pull asides with new UK PM Rishi Sunak in one of the breaks. He sat between the host Jokowi and Biden in a position of honour.
Bilateral meetings were held with the PM of Spain, which is a permanent invitee to all G20 meetings. A meeting with the PM of Singapore, which is not a G20 member but was a guest was notable. India too has invited Singapore as a guest to the next G20 and Singapore is the country coordinator for India within ASEAN.
In PM’s meeting with Biden, they reviewed the continuing deepening of India - US strategic partnership including cooperation in future-oriented sectors like critical and emerging technologies, advanced computing, artificial intelligence, etc. They expressed satisfaction with the close cooperation between India and US in new groupings such as the Quad, I2U2, etc.
The two leaders discussed topical global and regional developments. PM Modi thanked President Biden for his constant support for strengthening the India-US partnership. He expressed confidence that both countries would continue to maintain close coordination during India’s G-20 Presidency.
Pull-aside meetings with Senegal President Macky Sall, the Chair of the African Union, the heads of the World Bank, WHO, WTO, and senior officials of the IMF were also held. India has joined the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, a joint initiative of Indonesia & UAE under the Indonesian G20 Presidency. Mangroves are important in the climate change agenda and India hosts large mangroves too.
The G20 Summit in Bali concluded with India assuming the Chair. This will be effective on 1 December for a year. The Bali Summit ended better than anticipated and without walkouts. The Biden-Xi meeting set a positive tone, and the joint statement including all views and Indian contribution to the emergence of fresh hope for cooperation under its leadership were positive takeaways. Indonesia also needs appreciation for steering the G20 through a difficult year. India will build on that to clear a path for global development.
Gurjit Singh is former Indian Ambassador to Indonesia and ASEAN