G20 summit ends on high note for host India

Chris Taylor for RFA
G20 summit ends on high note for host India Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) and world leaders arrive to pay respects at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at Raj Ghat, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, Sept. 10, 2023.

UPDATED at 10:42 a.m. EDT on 2023-09-12

The G20 summit in New Delhi wrapped up on Sunday as leaders visited a memorial statue to Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, a day after admitting the African Union as a new member and hashing out a compromise communiqué about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden skipped the final session of the summit and headed to Vietnam where, a White House official said, the two nations would elevate their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, putting it on a par with Beijing and Moscow’s engagement with Hanoi.

Despite widespread anticipation that this year’s summit of leaders from the world’s top 20 economies would be a damp squib, it appeared to have featured some significant pushback on China’s apparent unwillingness to play ball with the developed world.

Modi pronounced the summit a success.

“On the back of the hard work of all the teams, we have received consensus on the G20 Leaders Summit Declaration. I announce the adoption of this declaration,” Modi told his fellow leaders from G20 nations in New Delhi.

#G20India has been the MOST ambitious in the history of #G20 presidencies. With 112 outcomes and presidency documents, we have more than tripled the substantive work from previous presidencies,” Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa representative, said on social media.

Commentators said it was significant that India appeared to be ready to take a more assertive role in global politics.

During his opening remarks on Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited the African Union to join the G20 as a permanent member, while calling on members to end a “global trust deficit.”

“It is time for all of us to move together,” Modi said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shares a light moment with African Union Chairman Azali Assoumani upon his arrival at the Bharat Mandapam convention center for the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Sept. 9, 2023. [Evan Vucci/Pool via Reuters]

Also on Saturday, India’s leader announced that negotiators had resolved deep differences over the wording in the communiqué about the war in Ukraine. But the phrasing in the clause about Ukraine in the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration was softened to mention the “war in Ukraine.” 

Without any reference to Russia or a Russian invasion, the language clearly is a bone to Russia and China, whose leaders did not attend the summit. China and Russia were opposed to any joint statement that censured Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“All states must act in a manner consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the U.N. Charter in its entirety,” according to an excerpt from the clause. 

“In line with the U.N. Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible,” it said.

Modi ended the summit by passing on the ceremonial gavel to Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose country takes over the bloc’s presidency.

Welcoming Africa

The announcement of permanent inclusion of the 55-nation African Union (AU) is likely to be a blow for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who did not attend the summit for unannounced reasons, and recently heralded the new membership of six countries in the BRICS grouping as “historic.”

The AU’s young population of 1.3 billion is expected to double by 2050, when it will account for a quarter of the global population. It’s strategically important to both China – Africa’s largest trading partner and one of its largest lenders – and Russia, its leading arms provider. 

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands next to U.S. President Joe Biden on the first day of the G20 summit in New Delhi, Sept. 9, 2023. [AP/Pool]

Meanwhile, in what will likely be seen as a challenge to Xi’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), U.S. President Joe Biden, Modi and allies announced a rail and shipping corridor connecting India with the Middle East and ultimately Europe.

The project will include the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union and other countries in the G20. 

Commentators speculate that it will enable greater trade and be an ambitious counterweight to China’s massive BRI, through which it has sought to invest and lend its way to making its economy better connected with the world.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Qiang upon his arrival at the Bharat Mandapam convention center for the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Sept. 9, 2023. [Evan Vucci/Pool via Reuters]

The moves on Saturday, which were roundly seen as pushback against China, came against a backdrop of speculation as to why China’s Xi was not present and calls for Beijing to explain itself.

“It’s incumbent upon the Chinese government to explain” why its leader “would or would not participate,” Jon Finer, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, told reporters in Delhi.

He said there was speculation that China is “giving up on G20” in favor of groupings like BRICS, where it is dominant.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang, who attended the summit in New Delhi in place of Xi, called on the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for greater unity and cooperation between the two sides to counter global uncertainties, according to a statement on Sunday from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Li urged the European Union to provide a non-discriminatory environment for Chinese companies, as the bloc becomes more wary of the risks of engaging China, seeing it as a “systemic rival” since 2019.

Radio Free Asia (RFA), a news organization affiliated with BenarNews, produced this report.

An earlier version incorrectly reported that the G20 had admitted the 55 new member-states via the African Union.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.