The G20 Summit of Heads of State was held in the Indian capital Delhi on 9th of September 2023, Delhi. This summit comprised the largest economies globally, representing 85% of the world’s economic output and 75% of global trade. The G20 is an annual economic and financial forum attended by the leaders of these countries and includes international bodies and organisations.
The finance ministers and central bank governors of the G7 major economies had decided to expand the group and include their counterparts from the G20 countries following the Asian Tigers financial crisis in 1999. However, participation was elevated to the level of heads of state following the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.
The annual summit and its preceding preparatory meetings, led by the foreign ministers of the G20 countries, succeeded in expanding the forum’s agenda to include issues such as climate change, sustainable energy, international debt relief, imposing taxes on multinational corporations, and sustainable development. However, financial and political crises, as well as regional disputes, have always cast shadows on these gatherings, such as the Ukrainian crisis, which dominated the 2022 Bali summit.
Due to disputes between India and China, it was expected that Chinese President Xi Jinping would not attend this summit. Instead, a member of the Central Committee and Premier, Li Qiang, represented China. India held a G20 meeting on tourism in the region it administers in Kashmir, which is disputed between Pakistan and India. Meanwhile, China escalated its border dispute with India by issuing a map that incorporates the state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin plateau into Chinese territory.
In addition to this, China has withdrawn several of its investments from the Indian market such as the electric car factory in collaboration with the Chinese company BYD worth $1 billion. Although this reflects the Sino-Indian conflict, it aligns with the interests of the US and its policy of deepening the rift between India and China, activating India’s alignment with the American strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, and solidifying its political role in the Quad grouping. This is particularly true after India signed the “Partnership for Material Security” agreement, which is expected to accelerate the development of supply chains for several strategic materials. The agreement holds promises of positioning India as a more secure hub for supply chains, while also facilitating the implementation of the American vision laid out by the Trump administration to enter the Indian market and reform Indian regulations that hinder American company investments, such as property and participation laws.
In this context, the announcement of the “Joint Railway Project” took place at this summit, connecting India to the Gulf countries, the Levant, and “Israel” as a rival to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, in addition to serving the Abrahamic Process. This idea was discussed at the I2U2 forum, which includes the US, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and India.
India’s response to the American vision is evident through its emphasis on “sustainable development” and measures to “promote more balanced economic growth between advanced and developing countries” as key pillars of the summit. India’s response to the American vision is also seen through the repositioning of its foreign policy as a “political mediator” to support countries of the “Global South.” Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stated that a host country of the G20 summit has never “consulted extensively with developing countries” before, adding that “India sought the opinions of more than 125 countries.” The summit is expected to announce a permanent seat for the African Union, all of which serves to disperse competition between Europe and China with the US and redirect it towards emerging international actors.
This refers to a US Indian agreement regarding competing with China and Russia’s policies toward the “Global South.” Jake Sullivan stated that China was wasting the opportunity for constructive engagement to solve the various multi-party problems facing developing countries, adding that “if China wants, it can play the role of the spoiler, but the chair India, us and every other nation of the G20 will do is to come together in a constructive way on climate, on multilateral development bank reform on debt relief, on technology, and set aside the geopolitical questions and really focus on problem-solving and delivering for the developing countries.”
The US, through World Bank President Ajay Banga, is determined to re-centralise the World Bank in development financing by implementing the recommendations of the report commissioned by India to reform multi-party banks, enabling them to lend around $500 billion by 2030. This move has been received cautiously by China as it disrupts its lending policy to markets, described by Sullivan as “non-transparent and coercive.” The American-Indian arrangements pose a challenge to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the BRICS bank, hindering its goal of becoming the preferred financier for developing countries.
One of the aspects of the Sino-Indian conflict is India’s attempts to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), a move opposed by China. This opposition stems from the fact that it reduces the effectiveness of China’s policies towards India and its ability to influence India through its veto power in the council. It also undermines China’s continental centrality as the only Asian permanent member of the Security Council. During a meeting with the French newspaper Les Echos in June of this year, Indian Prime Minister was reported to have questioned the international organisations’ ability to “keep pace with the world’s changes,” adding, “Do the world’s countries feel that these organisations and institutions are important or relevant?”
One of the United States’ objectives in this summit, especially if the African Union is granted a permanent seat in the forum, which has already happened today, is to appear biased towards the demands of “South World countries” and empower them to voice their concerns in international political, economic, and financial forums. This move aims to reduce the influence of former colonial powers, namely European countries, and undermine their attempts to use the forum to rebuild their relations with China and hinder their efforts in establishing joint political and economic projects.
Furthermore, granting the African Union a permanent seat in the forum would integrate America’s political, security, economic, and cultural agenda into the African vision and direct its trajectory and development. This would deepen U.S.-African relations, especially in countries where Russia and China have achieved success through bilateral agreements under the Belt and Road Initiative and the Russia-Africa Forum.
Perhaps for these reasons, in addition to the US escalation against Russia and its exhaustion in the Ukrainian crisis, as well as provocation through compensating for Ukrainian weakness and generating a level of “traditional” military balance in the field, providing depleted uranium, tanks, ballistic missiles, modern technology, F-16 jetfighters, and targeting Russian depth with drones, all of these provide Putin with a reason to be absent from the summit, similar to his Chinese counterpart.
The US strategy in countering China becomes evident through the “Joint Railway Project” between India, the Arabian Gulf, the Levant, “Israel”, and its later expansion into Europe. Additionally, it is manifested through the launch of the “Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment” initiative by the Group of Seven (G7) leaders in the developing countries, with a value of $600 billion. This initiative offers these countries a competitive alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative, in particular.
As for Russia’s presence in Africa, which has security and economic dimensions, it does not concern the US because the welcome it receives from some African countries and peoples is more a reflection of their dissatisfaction with France rather than a shift towards Russia.
Despite America’s attempt to appear as a benevolent actor, it has not concealed its colonial ambitions. This was evident in President Biden’s comment on the Partnership initiative when he said, “I want to emphasize the word “investments” — investments that are driven by local needs, in development with our partners, and delivering real results to improve the lives of all of our people.”
He further emphasised that it is not limited to this initiative alone but could involve hundreds of billions from multilateral development banks, specialised institutions financing development projects, sovereign wealth funds, and others. This approach will allow countries to see tangible benefits in partnering with democratic nations.
In this context, the announcement by the European Union of the launch of the “Global Gateway” project comes into perspective. Europe will invest around 300 billion euros over four years in projects that include Indonesia, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Tajikistan. These are regions within the spheres of influence of Russia and China. This move will undoubtedly lead to the reinforcement of the colonisation of these countries and their dependence on Western capitalist institutions.
Based on the aforementioned, it can be said that the US may succeed in making progress in its vision. However, it was unlikely that there would be an agreement or consensus on the Ukrainian issue, which Russia and China refuse to discuss at the summit. It was also unlikely that the summit would reach fundamental solutions regarding climate change, as Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia are united in rejecting efforts to triple the current level of renewable energy production by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2035. They are concerned about the negative economic implications, especially in the context of the global economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian crisis.
Therefore, we can understand the absence of the Russian President and the absence of the Chinese President from the forum. This is especially significant given China’s direction to rebuild and redirect the BRICS economic bloc as an economic and value-based competitor to the G20, and to invest in it during his third term based on creating a favourable environment for making China a “prominent global power.” China is propagating a global vision built on “common interests of humanity” and emphasising that it “does not seek to disrupt the stability of any party or seek domination.” Instead, it seeks an “active role in leading the reform of the global system,” in contrast to the US, which both Putin and Xi have described as pursuing a unilateral approach to addressing international issues, resorting to force, and intervening in the domestic affairs of other countries. China is also investing politically, economically, and financially in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as another means to liberate its economy from the consequences of the American containment policy.