India’s G20 Summit – the latest milestone for an emerging global leader

By Kealan Finnegan

Just over nine months on from taking up the G20 Presidency, India will host the 18th G20 Summit this week in New Delhi. All eyes are on the nation’s capital!

The G20 presidency has marked a significant milestone in India’s global leadership role. As president, India is directing discussions and conducting collaboration among the world’s major economies on important, but complex, challenges.

India has focused the G20 group towards inclusive growth, digital innovation, climate resilience, and equitable global health access. In those nine months, Ministers and Secretaries from around the world have come to India for focussed sessions working towards these objectives, ranging from trade and investment to digital economy to culture and health.

These sessions have been hosted all over India – as well as Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, and Bengaluru, among others, have all hosted experts and leaders from government, business and academia. This inclusiveness is a key theme of this year’s G20.

One Earth, One Family, One Future

That’s the motto of G20 India. A Government of India press release notes that the theme ‘affirms the value of all life – human, animal, plant, and microorganisms – and their interconnectedness on the planet Earth and in the wider universe’. It also recognises India’s position in the world as a bridge between developed and developing nations. When countries come together, we all prosper because of the interconnected nature of our world. Climate change is an obvious example, but it’s evident in peace, prosperity and freedom too. India has emphasised the need for equitable growth for all in the world.

India is seen as an emerging world leader – represented both by its rising economic size (now the fifth largest economy) and its increasing geopolitical influence. India will soon be the third largest economy and firmly the largest population size (as its population continues to grow while China’s falls). That will mean growing influence and Prime Minister Modi and people across the country are well aware. There is a real sense in India – and indeed in other corners of the world – that this century is India’s.

Every major nation is keen to strengthen its relationship with India as a result.

Growing India and growing UK-India relationship

Since the UK Government’s “Indo Pacific tilt”, signing of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and ongoing FTA negotiations, the UK and India relationship has deepened and widened. Total trade in goods and services was £36.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023. India is the 2nd largest source of FDI projects in the UK, with over 600 UK companies established in the other direction. Partnerships are expanding in science and technology, climate action and defence. Record levels of Indian students are coming to study in the UK.

The Summit will mark the first visit of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to India as PM. As FTA negotiations continue, that could be significant.

It will be a chance for PM Sunak to see India’s development progress with his own eyes, with New Delhi’s enhanced transport network, infrastructure, and facilities on full display. Although ultimately a multilateral forum, the G20 provides opportunities for world leaders to network and hold bilateral meetings on the fringes of the main event. For the UK and India, while FTA negotiators will continue the consistent hard work that has seen good progress on a deal regardless, it can only be positive for PM Sunak and PM Modi to have the chance to speak face to face.

What to expect from the summit?

The Summit will be hosted by Prime Minister Modi at the state-of-the-art Pragati Maidan centre on September 9 and 10 in New Delhi. As well as PM Sunak, world leaders including Emmanuel Macron, President of France; Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany; Lula, President of Brazil; Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister of Japan; Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa; and Joe Biden, President of the United States are confirmed to be attending the summit.

Discussions are expected to continue around reforming international debt architecture, more loans to developing nations from multilateral institutions, and the effects of geopolitical uncertainties on food and energy security.

After celebrating 75 years of independence, India has been the world’s fastest growing major economy, its geopolitical influence is rising, and India is now the world’s largest population; India’s Presidency has come at a good time.

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