At the very outset, a large number of commentaries have described India’s G20 presidency as unprecedented. Dozens of firsts in this year’s proceedings have already made it unlike any other G20 presidency so far. And, by most estimates, this India imprint on G20 is likely to be most enduring and impactful.
Amongst the most visible changes in 2023 will be the G20 becoming G21. Starting from twenty finance ministers meetings following the East Asian financial crisis of 1997 and their upgradation to leaders’ summit meetings following the global economic slowdown from 2008, for the last quarter of a century, it had remained a grouping of the world’s twenty largest economies. Now, with 55 African nations joining this elite grouping with the African Union being conferred permanent membership is a ground-breaking event with implications far and wide.
The second fundamental change during India’s presidency has been this elite club being transformed into the People’s Festival. G7, which has since expanded to G20, used to see their summits facing street protests by people many of whom were seen sitting in 2023 G20 meetings. Over 220 events in 60 cities over the last ten months saw India hosting over 100,000 foreign delegates from over 45 countries. It saw the addition of several new Officially Engaged Groups and their Working Groups thus adding a whole range of new themes. Nearly eight million Indians were directly or indirectly involved in these proceedings.
Third, India’s presidency will also be remembered for bringing Global South to the centre stage of G20. Starting with the convening of The Voice of Global South summit within weeks of taking over G20 presidency which was attended by delegates from 125 countries, priorities and perspectives of Global South were made the guiding module for all G20 meetings. What gives hope to this new template of India transforming G20 lies in the fact that this seems to be an era of Global South holding G20 presidency one after another. Starting with Saudi Arabia in 2020 and then Italy in 2021, Indonesia in 2022, and India in 2023 will be followed by Brazil and South Africa holding presidencies for 2024 and 2025.
Fourth, in the longer run, India’s presidency has reinvigorated fledging global trust in multilateralism and globalisation. India was able to build a hundred percent consensus on 112 items. What is interesting is that India was able to issue the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration at the end of their summit’s first session. Multilateral gatherings usually see the last sessions being extended to build consensus which sometimes also defies such extended deliberations. Conversely, the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, on the other hand, included a document more than twice the size of the largest such declaration ever produced by any of the G20 summits so far.
Fifth, unlike several earlier G20 summits, India’s presidency for 2023 continues for 81 days beyond the summit. This gives India time to work towards ensuring an effective implementation of what was agreed in their New Delhi Leaders Declaration. Indeed, having announced the New Delhi Leaders Declaration, delegations and leaders had time during their second and third sessions of the G20 summit to fine-tune their understandings of implementing their consensus. Indeed, this allowed the Indian Prime Minister to convene an online summit before the end of India’s presidency at the end of November to reassess their implementation strategies.
Sixth, talking of India’s gains, this G20 presidency has provided India great opportunity to make India ready for the world and make the world ready for India’s changing stature. It provided India with an opportunity to train and expose its people to India’s changing responsibilities in global governance. This will see the leadership of emerging India devoting increasing amounts of attention and resources to regional and global issues. But this also allowed India to share and showcase India’s development programmes, its culture, democracy, diversity and transformative drives as a civilisational state currently engaged in the fourth industrial revolution.
Seventh, being the world’s largest population nation — all set to emerge from being fifth largest to becoming the third largest economy of the world — this fastest growing economy surely makes India the most deserving country to lead of world’s top twenty economies towards the goal of ‘One Earth, Family, One Future’. G7-led globalisation — led by market- and profit-driven industrialisation and urbanisation — has only expanded the gap between rich and poor both within and between nations. This is where India seeks to take everyone together and this flows from India’s ongoing foreign policy shift from nonalignment to multi-alignment that believes in building partnerships in as many sectors with as many countries as possible.
In terms of its immediate gains, the success of India’s presidency is bound to bring both tangible and intangible benefits for India. This could be seen in simple indicators like an increase in India-bound tourism, trade and investments. But this may also be seen in the expansion of India’s partnerships in innovation and technology-driven social transformation. In terms of various intangibles, India is already being seen moving from norm-taker to norm-maker of India growing from being a balancer to becoming a leader in international relations. India’s Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L1 space explorations preceding the G20 summit have most aptly projected India’s tech power.
Eighth, India’s presidency has witnessed multitudes of ideational innovations as well. Templates like women-led development, targeting to reduce the digital gender gap to half by 2030 or novel format of technology transfers could present a few examples. Technology transfers were always restrictive and complex. But India today offers to freely share its successfully deployed platforms of Digital Public Infrastructure with both rich and poor nations. Likewise, India’s launching of the Global Biofuels Coalition — after its successful experiments with the International Solar Alliance — or launch of the India, Middle East, and Europe Corridor during the summit shows growing recognition of India’s convening power. This promises to make India a major player in global governance.
In sum, India’s G20 presidency has surely leapfrogged the building of Brand India and also raised the stature of India’s prime minister as a world leader.