G20 summit kicks off; leaders begin deliberations on pressing challenges facing globe

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden and other top leaders of the world’s wealthiest economies began deliberations on pressing global challenges at the G20 Summit here on Saturday under the shadow of the Ukraine war that has significantly fragmented the global geopolitical order.

Hosting the big-ticket summit for the first time, India is looking at producing tangible results in areas of financing for climate transition, digital public infrastructure, accelerated implementation of sustainable development goals, framework for cryptocurrency and reform of the international financial institutions.

Majority of priorities of the Indian G20 presidency were aimed at benefiting the Global South or the developing countries. Indian negotiators involved in drafting the leaders’ declaration are confident that most of New Delhi’s proposals would be endorsed by the top leadership of the grouping.

The leaders attending the summit include German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

However, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are not attending the summit.

Chiefs of many leading global bodies such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Health Organisation and African Union are also attending the two-day summit that is taking place at Bharat Mandapam in the heart of the national capital.

India currently holds the G20 presidency, which rotates annually among the member nations.

In his talks with Modi last night, US President Biden lauded India’s presidency for further demonstrating how the G20 as a forum is delivering important outcomes.

However, the biggest question looming over the summit is whether it will be able to come out with a joint leaders’ declaration in view of the sharp differences between the West and the Russia-China combine on the text to describe the Ukraine conflict in the document.

If the summit ends without the joint declaration, it will be a first for the grouping.

Multiple sources told PTI on Friday night that China emerged as the main stumbling block in reaching a consensus on the Ukraine conflict as well as some other proposals, including on climate change. They said Russia is completely isolated on the Ukraine issue.

The G20 operates under the principle of consensus.

Both Russia and China had agreed to the two paragraphs on the Ukraine conflict in the Bali declaration, but they backtracked from it this year, creating difficulties for India.

Almost all key meetings held under India’s G20 presidency, including those of finance and foreign ministers, could not come out with consensus documents in view of opposition from Russia and China to any text referring to the Ukraine conflict.

India’s G20 sherpa Amitabh Kant said on Friday that the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration will reflect the voice of the Global South and developing countries.

“Our New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration is almost ready, I would not like to dwell on it because this declaration will be recommended to the leaders during the summit and the leaders will then accept it and only after it is accepted by the leaders, we will be able to talk about the actual achievements of this declaration,” he said.

Some of the key issues facing the G20 Summit are reshaping international debt architecture, offering loans to developing nations, and having some kind of regulatory framework for cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence.

As the G20 president, India has been focusing on issues like inclusive growth, digital innovation, climate resilience and equitable global health access.

By leveraging its presidency, India is fostering collaborative solutions that not only benefit its own population but contribute to the broader global well-being, reinforcing its spirit of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family).

Besides the G20 member nations, India has invited leaders of Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Singapore, Oman, Nigeria and the Netherlands as guests to the summit.

After assuming presidency of the bloc on December 1, India held around 200 meetings related to the G20 across the country on a range of its priority areas.

The G20 member countries represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.

The grouping comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union (EU).