As the G20 Summit came to a close, its leaders made time to honour Mahatma Gandhi, a significant figurehead for Indian independence. The summit’s final day, held on Sunday, saw the group granting membership to the African Union and settling on common ground on a variety of issues. However, the language used to address Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine war was notably softened.
The decision to include the African Union as a member of the Group of 20 rich and developing nations was seen as a part of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to boost the standing of the Global South. Despite intense disagreements among various members, predominantly regarding the European conflict, host India was successful in securing a unified final statement from the group.
During the event, India also announced a significant project in collaboration with the United States, the European Union, and others – a proposed rail and shipping corridor connecting India to Europe and the Middle East. This strategic bid seeks to improve economic growth and encourage positive political interactions.
After settling the pressing issues on the agenda, the leaders congregated at New Delhi’s Rajghat memorial site, with Modi leading the assembly. Each leader was given a shawl made of khadi, a hand-woven fabric that Mahatma Gandhi had popularised during India’s struggle for independence from British rule.
Several leaders, such as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and last year’s G20 host President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, made a symbolic gesture of respect by approaching the memorial site barefoot. Others, including U.S. President Joe Biden, wore slippers to navigate the grounds that were dampened by rain.
The leaders congregated around the memorial site, laden with wreaths, marigold garlands, and an eternal flame. The wreath reserved for Narendra Modi boldly identified him as the Prime Minister of “Bharat” — an ancient Sanskrit name gaining prominence as the summit approached.
The responsibility of the G20’s rotating presidency was passed on to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva by the summit’s end. Under Lula’s leadership, Brazil, where the majority of the Amazon rainforest is situated, is expected to push for increased funding for environmental conservation.
However, progress on global concerns was muddled by complications regarding the Ukraine conflict. Despite efforts to mediate the situation, Brazil’s non-involvement received backlash, making it more likely to focus on issues other than the Ukrainian crisis during its presidency.
Prior to the summit, a consensus on the language concerning Ukraine proved elusive, with resistance from Russia and China. The final conference statement drew attention to the “human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine,” yet refrained from directly referencing Russia’s invasion.
While the language concerning Ukraine was not as direct as many Western leaders would have preferred, the unanimous approval of the statement by Russia, China, and other countries holds potential to bolster the West’s position in the future. Russia’s participation in a pact mentioning Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty was especially noteworthy.
However, in contrast to Western sentiments, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed gratitude towards the Global South for warding off the West’s attempt to make the Ukrainian crisis the central focus of the summit.
As the summit’s host, India worked determinedly to prevent the Ukrainian conflict from dominating the event and made a concentrated effort to address the developing world’s requirements. India also initiated a global biofuel alliance with 19 countries to stimulate interest in sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.
Notably, the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the summit ensured no challenging discussions with Western counterparts.