A last-minute, no-questions-asked cancellation from China’s President, the creation of IMEC within G20, and a new joiner of the clique- the G20 summit had all the makings of drama
In an era of geopolitical fragmentation, the G20 summit saw the confluence of East and West across major policy issues and was deservedly the rage through the past weekend in host country India and across the world.
Some successes included consensus on Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), aimed at the development of digital products and services to benefit all of society. Another big achievement was the inclusion of the African Union into what has now been informally dubbed the G21.
Despite President Macron’s insistence to keep geopolitics out of G20, the geopolitical elephant did sneak into the room, primarily in the shape of China, which made headlines due to the absence of President Xi Jinping.
As an economic giant, Xi’s absence signals his increasingly isolated stance towards his competitors and an acknowledgment of domestic economic problems. It also begs the question as to whether this is a gradual, permanent shift from his previously active international diplomacy to a leader who is burdened by domestic problems and a rising India.
The distance between China and the rest of the group also potentially widened with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to create the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).
The G20 has been dubbed a roaring success for India, who used this chance to rebrand itself domestically and internationally.
The multiple sessions across Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir, both areas disputed by China and Pakistan respectfully as being theirs, were a strategic way for PM Modi to showcase India’s hold on them. Standard maps produced by China and Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir are both likely to be taken less seriously by onlookers.
India having championed the cause of the inclusion of the African Union in G20 could have potentially opened the door to stronger African ties. Arguably, the Wagner group and Chinese investments in Africa are more of a mercenary stance than a partnership of equals. India’s ability to invest in and execute infrastructure and development projects will determine if a friendship could blossom.
Another question that now arises is if India could take over as the definitive voice of the Global South. India has always maintained a neutral diplomatic position and a defensive military strategy. However, it is also cementing international strength with its role in BRICS, as negotiator at G20 and as a new US partner vis-a-vis semiconductors, a problem area for China. How its influence across global institutions impacts the Global South will likely determine this.
In terms of global dialogue, climate change remains a global concern, however, a biofuel alliance was created. Despite this, a shift away from oil is considered an ambition for the future.
The IMEC has also come under much scrutiny, not least because of its direct parallel against China’s Belt and Road Initiative, but also because of the scale of ambition of each of the projects. Each participant’s investment in the many projects is still unconfirmed and a cohesive agreement on each of them could take years to achieve.
Nevertheless, prospects for growth are abounding.
Image source: https://www.g20.org/en/about-g20/