Reality and delusion of India’s ‘great power dream’ from G20 New Delhi Summit
Published: Sep 12, 2023 07:10 PM
People walk past a banner with flags of countries participating in G20 summit at the International Media Center at G20 venue on the eve of the two-day G20 summit in New Delhi on September 8, 2023. Photo: AFP

People walk past a banner with flags of countries participating in G20 summit at the International Media Center at G20 venue on the eve of the two-day G20 summit in New Delhi on September 8, 2023. Photo: AFP

After marathon negotiations, the G20 summit held in New Delhi, India, finally managed to reach a joint declaration on September 10, avoiding the embarrassment of a fruitless summit. The Finance and Central Bank Deputies Meeting and Foreign Ministers' Meeting hosted by India before the summit failed to produce a decent joint declaration, highlighting the significant differences in positions and opinions among the countries as well as the Indian government's struggle to deal with a divided world.

The joint declaration of this summit once again clarifies the positioning of the G20 as "the premier forum for international economic cooperation," and it states that "while the G20 is not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues, we acknowledge that these issues can have significant consequences for the global economy." G20 members have reached a consensus and invited the African Union (AU) to become a formal member of the mechanism. This can be seen as a "rectification" to counter the attempts by the US and the West to hijack the G20 summit agenda, as well as a response from developing countries and the Global South.

Despite the discontent in Ukraine and the difficulty of reaching consensus, Western diplomats were willing to "let through" the declaration's wording on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, probably believing it was a price worth paying. Aljazeera commented that "many Western countries, concerned about China's rising power, want New Delhi - a strategic counterweight to Beijing - to be able to claim this summit was a great success."

Inviting the AU to join the G20 is an important outcome of this summit. As the largest developing country and a member of the Global South, China was the first country to explicitly express its support for the AU's membership in the G20. Of course, India's efforts to include the AU may imply a calculation to win the support of African countries for India's bid for permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

Since taking over as the rotating chair of the G20 summit in December last year, the Modi administration has regarded the G20 summit as a "golden opportunity" to confirm India as a "global leading power." It also intends to turn this into a major diplomatic achievement domestically and use it as an opportunity for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to campaign for next year's general elections.

At the same time, India sees itself as a bridge between the "Global South" and the "Global West." The External Affairs Minister of India, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said India has the potential to become "a bridge between the established and emerging orders."

However, India's dream of being a great power is idealistic, but the reality and setbacks it encounters are cruel. From the beginning, India has been under pressure from the US and the West, demanding condemnation of Russia at the G20 summit. New Delhi wants to maintain its special partnership with Moscow, while also trying to please the US and the West and act as the spokesperson for the "Global South." Meanwhile, the current administration wants to campaign for the BJP in next year's general elections. It is obvious that India expects too much from the G20 summit.

It is understandable that India wants to use the G20 summit stage to demonstrate its status as a major power and shape an international order that is favorable to itself. 

However, the excessive political calculations and geopolitical considerations introduced into the G20 summit agenda have led to reduced expectations from relevant countries and have deprived the international community of an opportunity to concentrate on substantively addressing global challenges such as food and energy crises.

China and India have had good cooperation in many areas. However, in recent years, India has deliberately highlighted its differences with China in such areas as regional and global governance as well as sustainable development, with the intention of marginalizing China from the Global South community. New Delhi's practice of undermining developing countries' unity and cooperation and boosting itself by belittling other countries deserves vigilance. It is destined to be recorded in the history of the G20 New Delhi Summit and reflects the delusional side of India's dream of becoming a major power.

The author is the director and associate research fellow at the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies, China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn