India’s G20 moment: Praise for Modi comes from unexpected sources

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

When ahead of the G20 Summit, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praised the Modi government’s stand on the Russia-Ukraine war, saying the country has “done the right thing by prioritising its sovereign and economic interests while advocating for peace”, it was clear that it was India’s moment. In fact the former PM was so profuse in his praise that he went on to say that he was “more optimistic about India’s future than worried and very glad that India’s rotational chance for the Presidency of the G20 came during my lifetime.” Another leader Shashi Tharoor described the New Delhi Declaration at the 18th G20 Summit as “undoubtedly a diplomatic triumph for India”. He lauded the government for bringing all member states to a consensus on the New Delhi Declaration amidst the changing geopolitics.

It is indeed creditable that the government actually made it a people’s G20 by holding 200 meetings in 58 cities. The most daunting task was the tightrope walk diplomacy but it proved to be our trump card during the just-concluded G20 summit. The challenge for India was neither to antagonise the US-led West nor to annoy old ally Russia over the raging conflict in eastern Europe and Modi pulled it off with aplomb. As curtains fell, both Russia and the Western powers claimed that their respective positions on the Ukraine crisis had been vindicated. It was in India’s best interest to not get trapped in conflicts and maintain an equilibrium across nations. The G20 Declaration was adopted by consensus and it avoided any mention of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, India’s growing clout on global platforms is a key takeaway from the G20 summit besides its independent foreign policy.

PM Modi’s words that today’s era must not be of war sum up the diplomatic skill in navigating this complex challenge at the summit and at the same time showcasing India’s growing economic strength, diplomatic capabilities, and leadership acumen to reshape the global order. Modi’s decision to hold a virtual “review” meeting in November, before India gives up its presidency, will deftly ensure implementation of the decisions arrived at the crowning glory moment of G20 Summit.

India has been able to engage with America, and President Joe Biden’s visit to India represents trust and cooperation at the global and bilateral levels. The India-Middle East-Europe corridor announcement is equally significant. To reassure Russia, India ensured that the declaration dropped the specific reference to Russian aggression. As far as China is concerned, it was the first time that President Xi Jinping skipped the G20 summit. Modi-Xi handshake would have invited criticism from the Opposition given the situation at the border. From the bilateral to the global, India had its best moments in geopolitics and it heralds a new chapter in the global order.