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If there is one thing the Modi government in India is good at, it is staging an event. And that was on ample display at the just concluded G20 summit held in the national capital, New Delhi.

G20 summits used to conjure up images of mostly men in dull grey suits, holding elite talk shops about the world’s problems. But in the one year of India’s G20 presidency, there has been a remarkable shift from this, whether it’s by organising over 200 G20 meetings in 60 cities in India or by the constant messaging from the Prime Minister that this was a “people driven” movement, about their wants and needs, which would reach “the last mile”. This is no mean feat.

The Modi government took what could have been another high level summit and turned into some kind of festival. Sure, the neon pink lighting on the monuments and the laser show at the venue may be gaudy (and that is also a subjective matter ) but the fact is, India’s presidency has made headlines and put India firmly on the global stage.

A man walks past an illuminated hoarding of the G20 India summit logo along a roadside in New Delhi Image Credit: AFP

What about concrete outcomes?

The biggest of course was the fact that there was a consensus achieved through a Delhi declaration including on the very tricky issue of Ukraine.

Some experts were convinced that we were unlikely to see a declaration at all given the sharp divisions between Russia and China on one hand and the West on the other.

The declaration does not name Russia explicitly, unlike the Bali declaration of December 2022. Instead, the document adopted in Delhi is far more diluted and in fact more in line with India’s position on the issue.

Getting the G7 and the EU to back down on this is no mean feat. It is also interesting to note the line that “the G20 is not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues”. For India, the Delhi Declaration is a big win on the diplomatic front.

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Shift in global dynamics

The G20 comprises of 19 countries and the European Union, which together represent about 85% of the global GDP and 75% of global trade. Two thirds of the world’s population resides in these countries.

The aim of the grouping - which was set up in 1999 - is to achieve economic stability, prevent future financial meltdowns and create a new international financial architecture. The G20 really got down to serious business in 2008 during the global financial crisis.

What the G20 presidency for India has underlined is the country’s growing role in multilateral diplomacy and emerging as a voice which must be heard, with the world’s top economies in attendance. Among those top economies today is India itself, which is a key reason for the shift in global dynamics today.

The absence of the Chinese and Russian Presidents frankly did little to take that away and only highlighted the growing divide between the Russia-China bloc and the US on the other hand.

The big takeaway

One of the big takeaways is that India has emerged as a leading voice on sustainable development and the developing world itself.

The entry of the African Union into the G20 is therefore a big achievement for India. The Prime Minister made the announcement at the Delhi Summit. The Indian theme of “One earth, One family, One future” was about reinforcing the message that the benefits of globalisation must reach all in an increasingly inter connected world.

The summit also coincides with the countdown to India’s next general election in the spring-summer of 2024. The Prime Minister has used the G20 presidency to launch his election campaign, turning a rotational presidency into a major achievement for the country, very much in keeping with the messaging that India has found its place of pride in the world.

How that plays out on the political scene will be determined when people go out to cast their vote but for now, New Delhi has many reasons to be pleased with the foreign policy objectives it set out with this G20 summit.