Ukraine shadow on G20 meeting
The group is a divided house. As India takes over, it must bring back the focus on Global South issues
Indonesia’s efforts as the G20 president to bring together the world’s largest economies for post-pandemic recovery have run into very rough weather, with the grouping effectively split over the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin is skipping the G20 Summit in Bali, and the leaders of Brazil and Mexico are also not in attendance; G20 members have struggled to finalise the text of the joint communiqué because of efforts by Western countries to include language denouncing the Ukraine war. This is all a reflection of the deep divisions that have characterised the working of the world’s premier economic forum for most of this year. It is all the more unfortunate as the G20 should have been in the lead in forging a united response to the challenges of food and energy security plaguing developing countries during the pandemic, exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict. Moreover, today more than ever, there is a need to collectively respond to the climate crisis, especially given the shortfall in funding from the developed world for climate transition, and to future health crises. But while Mr Putin will not physically be present in Bali, his country’s actions will dominate the proceedings at the summit and even beyond.
All of this means that India will face a tough challenge as it takes over the presidency of the G20 in December. Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised that India’s focus during its leadership of G20 will be on equitable growth and a shared future for all, and New Delhi — which enjoys close relations with both Moscow and Washington — will try to bridge significant differences among the world’s major economies.
What should have been an opportunity for the G20 Troika — which includes the current, incoming and next presidencies or Indonesia, India and Brazil — to sharpen the focus on the challenges and problems of the Global South may instead be focused on efforts to keep the grouping together at a time when no solution to the Ukraine crisis appears to be in sight. The Indian side has been developing a promising agenda that includes infrastructure financing, reforms of the global financial architecture and the digital economy. But the country’s leadership will have to work to keep the focus on these issues and not let the Great Powers hijack the spotlight.