Cold Diplomacy And Hot Debates: India’s G20 Summit Struggles To Find Common Ground – Analysis

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The G20 Summit, a forum for the world’s major economies, holds immense significance. As the host nation, India is tasked with setting the agenda and facilitating discussions among member nations on critical global issues, including economic stability, trade, climate change, and more.

India is set to host the G20 Summit in Delhi from 9-10, September 2023, marking a historic occasion for the country. However, amid current global tensions, Russia has decided not to attend in person, a move reminiscent of its absence at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. President Vladimir Putin conveyed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would represent Russia at the summit during a pre-summit phone conversation. Despite this absence, G20 members, foreign organizations, and institutions are poised for active participation in what promises to be a significant event on the global stage.

The G20 comprises the 19 wealthiest countries globally and the European Union. India currently holds the G20 presidency, which rotates among members on an annual basis. This presidency provides a crucial platform for in-depth debates and discussions on pressing global issues that impact economic development and progress. It serves as a forum for designing comprehensive strategies for the future on the global stage, emphasizing the importance of collaborative solutions.

Shaping a Multilateral Agenda: Insights into India’s G20 Summit Leadership

The New Delhi G20 summit represents the culmination of extensive meetings focused on shaping a multilateral agenda for a range of critical global issues. These topics encompass reforming global financial institutions, addressing climate finance, tackling debt challenges in developing economies, promoting inclusive development, and showcasing India’s unique initiative called Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE).

The summit also includes working group discussions spanning diverse global economic domains such as healthcare, infrastructure, education, energy transitions, the digital economy, and tourism. In addition to the G20’s core member nations, which collectively wield significant influence in terms of global GDP, trade, and population, the summit will welcome nine other invited countries and participants from various international organizations.

India has been actively advocating for the African Union (AU) to attain full membership within the G20, a proposition that has garnered support from most member nations. Presently, South Africa stands as the sole G20 representative from the African continent. India’s G20 presidency is anchored in the theme of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” encapsulating the idea that “the world is one family.”

This theme underscores India’s commitment to fostering international cooperation and unity. India’s Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S Jaishankar, has described the G20 presidency as a national celebration, extending until November 2023 when Brazil assumes the G20 presidency from India, providing continuity and a platform for shared global goals. India took on the G20 presidency in December 2022 through a rotational arrangement, succeeding Indonesia.

In the lead-up to the summit, India recognized for its prominence in the space sector and its role as a representative of the Global South, hosted nearly 200 meetings across 50 cities, offering a vibrant display of its rich culture and heritage to the international community. India’s active participation in the G20 aims to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration in areas such as renewable energy, e-governance, and digital technology innovation for the collective benefit of the global community.

Putin’s Absence at G20 Summit: Ukraine Conflict and Global Diplomacy

Russia has decided that President Vladimir Putin will not attend the upcoming G20 summit in Delhi. This decision is expected to revolve around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is likely to be a major topic of discussion at the summit, with world leaders like US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in attendance. The United States and Europe plan to address various issues concerning Russia, including rising commodity prices, social unrest among the population, and global instability.

The reason officially given for Putin’s absence is a busy schedule, as stated by the Russian government spokesperson and widely reported by local media. India, the host of the G20 summit, expressed understanding of Russia’s decision and thanked Putin for supporting India’s initiatives during its G20 presidency. While Russia’s statement did not explicitly mention Putin’s absence from the G20 summit, it emphasized a close collaboration between Russia and India during Russia’s upcoming BRICS chairmanship, starting on January 1st of the following year.

The discussion between the two countries focused on current issues in their bilateral relations, highlighting their specially privileged strategic partnership. In late August, Putin participated in the BRICS summit, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, through a video link to avoid potential arrest by the ICC. The ICC had issued a warrant against Putin, accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine.

ICC’s Growing Impact: Pursuing Accountability for War Crimes

The evolving effectiveness of the ICC in bringing individuals accused of war crimes to justice. The author, Jonathan Power, points to past cases of captured war criminals, including Ratko Mladic, Bernard Munyagishari, Charles Taylor, and the posthumous trial decision for Muammar Gadhafi. The killing of Osama bin Laden is also mentioned, with the suggestion that he could have faced trial as a war criminal if captured alive. Power emphasizes the ICC’s track record in apprehending individuals it seeks to prosecute, highlighting the court’s growing reach and confidence. He notes a shift in perception, even within the U.S. government, toward recognizing ICC arrests and prosecutions as powerful tools for promoting democracy, limiting warfare, and advancing human rights.

The potential legal implications for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who faces an ICC arrest warrant related to war crimes allegations concerning the deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia. Additionally, mentions Putin’s possible attendance at the G20 summit in New Delhi and the controversy surrounding Ukraine’s invitation to the summit, as India initially cited the G20’s focus on economic matters rather than conflict resolution. However, Ukrainian officials continued efforts to secure an invitation. Putin could potentially face arrest in 123 countries, including South Africa, that have ratified the Rome Statute, reflecting the global implications of ICC actions.

Prospects and Implications of African Union’s Permanent Membership in the G20

The potential inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the G20 and the geopolitical implications of this move. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed granting the AU a permanent seat in the G20, aiming to highlight the concerns of the developing world. The G20, a forum for the world’s leading economies, has been discussing themes such as supply chain resilience, digital transformation, debt distress in developing countries, and climate change goals during its three-day conference.

The inclusion of the AU in the G20 is seen as a significant step, supported by global leaders such as President Joe Biden of the United States, European nations, China, India, and Russia. The importance of this decision for the AU and Africa highlights Africa’s growing role in the global economic system. It also mentions the need for reforms in international organizations like the United Nations and the G20 to accommodate African representation and address global challenges more effectively. This move represents progress from diplomatic intentions to concrete actions in making Africa more visible in the G20, with potential implications for politics, economics, and cultural relations.

One of the key questions at the summit is the potential collaboration between the G20 and the AU to address global inequalities. The article highlights the need to address inequalities in the current rules-based world order, which primarily benefits the industrialized North. It calls for a pragmatic approach to consider irreversible geopolitical changes, particularly in international financial and economic organizations, to create a more equitable global governance system.


The G20 Summit is scheduled for September 9-10, 2023, in New Delhi, India. India, as the host nation, holds the responsibility of shaping the summit’s agenda, covering topics like economic stability, trade, and climate change. However, the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin due to Russia’s Ukraine conflict is notable. The summit’s focus includes financial institution reforms, climate finance, debt challenges, and inclusive development, with India advocating for the African Union’s full membership in the G20. The ICC’s effectiveness in addressing war crimes is discussed, highlighting previous cases and Putin’s potential legal implications. Additionally, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposes granting the AU a permanent G20 seat, reflecting the growing role of Africa in the global economy and advocating for reforms in international organizations to address global challenges more equitably.

About the authors:

  • Prof. (Dr.) Jagmeet Bawa: Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala, India. Dr. Bawa brings with him a rich experience of 15 years in teaching and research. His expertise lies in the domains of Indian Political System and Central Asian Politics. Prior to his current position, he taught for a decade at I K Gujral Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar, India. Throughout his academic journey, he has guided ten students toward the successful completion of their Ph.D. degrees. Additionally, Dr. Bawa’s scholarly contributions extend to the realm of publications, with five books authored and over 30 research papers penned. His pursuit of academic excellence has taken him across various countries, where he has engaged in academic and research activities. Presently, his focus lies on Central Asian Politics, with four students currently pursuing their doctoral degrees under his guidance on this very subject. 
  • Balinder Singh: Research Scholar and Academic. Ph.D. in Political Science, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala, India. Dr. Singh has actively participated in numerous national and international conferences and has published over 20 research articles in esteemed international journals.

Dr. Jagmeet Bawa

Dr. Jagmeet Bawa, Professor & Head, Department Political Science, Central Univesity of Himachal Pradesh, India.

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