India’s Presidency of G-20

 India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and would not be required to arrest Vladimir Putin.  Relations between India and Russia are clearly not the problem, however.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi [Source: X]


Washington Post’s Adam Chandler has expressed the opinion that India’s taking over the Presidency of G-20 is propitious for the country. He writes “Last year, it overtook its neighboring giant, China, to become the world’s most populous nation, according to estimates from the United Nations. Its future looks comparatively brighter, too: India’s population is far younger than China’s, and the government expects its economy to grow by 7 percent this year — besting China. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country’s ambitions are becoming loftier: India last month succeeded in becoming the first nation to land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole. This all is coupled with a growing geopolitical divide between the United States and China that is seeing Washington pull New Delhi closer — despite its concerns about Narendra Modi’s nationalist bent.


In June, Modi was greeted by President Biden for an official state dinner during a trip to Washington, where he addressed Congress for the second time, joining an elite group of world leaders such as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Benjamin Netanyahu. More notable than who will be in New Delhi for the event is who will not be there: Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping. Putin has not specified specifically why he will not attend the G-20 summit. Though he faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court due to alleged oppression during the invasion of Ukraine.  India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and would not be required to arrest Vladimir Putin.  Relations between India and Russia are clearly not the problem, however.


Modi spoke with Putin on the phone just last week, with a warm-sounding statement from the Indian government saying that the prime minister thanked his Russian counterpart for “Russia’s consistent support to all initiatives under India’s G-20 Presidency,” and that the two leaders “reviewed progress on a number of issues of bilateral cooperation.”These are good words indeed. But India is unlikely to have a smooth sail in her Presidency of the group.

India and Russia consider their relations as forged in blood. But for Russia’s repeated veto in 1971 Bangladesh’s war of liberation could have been delayed for an indefinite period. Wikipedia informs that the G20 is the latest in a series of post–World War Two initiatives aimed at international coordination of economic policy, which include institutions such as the ‘Bretton Woods twins”, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, and what is now the World Trade Organization would not have been born. The G20 was foreshadowed at the Cologne summit of the G7 in June 1999 and formally established at the G7 Finance Ministers’ meeting on 26 September 1999 with an inaugural meeting on 15–16 December 1999 in Berlin. As of 2023, there are 20 members in the group: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. Guest invitees include, amongst others, Spain, the United Nations, the World Bank, the African Union, and ASEAN.


A 2011 report released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicted that large Asian economies such as China and India would play a more important role in global economic governance in the future. The report claimed that the rise of emerging market economies heralded a new world order, in which the G20 would become the global economic steering committee. The ADB furthermore noted that Asian countries had led the global recovery following the late 2ooo recession. It predicted that the region would have a greater presence on the global stage, shaping the G20’s agenda for balanced and sustainable growth through strengthening intraregional trade and stimulating domestic demand.


Criticism by the Danish Institute of International Studies of the G20’s exclusivity, particularly highlighting its underrepresentation of African countries and its practice of inviting observers from non-member states as a mere “concession at the margins”, which does not grant the organization representational legitimacy. Concerning the membership issue, US President Barack Obama noted the difficulty of pleasing everyone: “Everybody wants the smallest possible group that includes them. So, if they’re the 21st largest nation in the world, they want the G21, and think it’s highly unfair if they have been cut out.” Others stated in 2011 that exclusivity is not an insurmountable problem and proposed mechanisms by which it could become more inclusive. Things however has changed for China.


In an article titled Xi’s Age of Stagnation The Great Walling-Off of China by Ian Johnson September/October 2023 published on August 22, 2023has written about the youth unemployment rate is over 20 percent, and many people wonder how their children will be able to get married if they cannot afford to buy an apartment. Figures for the second quarter were slightly better, but only compared with the second quarter of last year, when the economy was nearly brought to a standstill by COVID lockdowns. A variety of indicators show growing vulnerabilities in a range of sectors, and many Chinese feel they are in a recession.

The authors have also pointed out the asphyxiant style of government under Xi-Jinping. In comparing to this predecessor’s style of governance they wrote in decades past, if accidents or disasters occurred that reflected poorly on the party, leaders such as former president Hu Jintao and former prime minister Wen Jiabao visited the locales in question to show they cared, drawing on much the same playbook as their Western counterparts in such situations.

Xi also travels often around China, but rarely to express condolences, let alone to take implicit government responsibility for failures. Instead, he mostly visits local communities to exhort them to comply with party doctrine and government policy. This feeds into the impression among many Chinese people of an increasingly remote leadership that allows few dissenting viewpoints, shuns internal debate, and feels no compulsion to explain itself to the public.


The differences between Xi’s China today and the Eastern bloc of the 1960s and 1970s are many. In those years, the countries in the Soviet sphere experienced a shortage of economy, with lines for bread and years-long waits to buy automobiles.

There are no signs of such privation in China today. Nonetheless, the government’s pursuit of total control has set the country on a path of slower growth and created multiplying pockets of dissatisfaction. Critics of the regime point out that Beijing’s restrictions on information very likely created the conditions that led to the COVID-19 crisis: in late 2019, local officials hushed up early warnings of the virus because they feared that bad news would reflect poorly on them. That silence allowed the virus to gain a foothold and spread around the world.

Although censorship keeps these and other government-induced problems out of the public eye, it also cuts off some of the smartest citizens from global trends and the latest research. The authoritarian style of governance cannot be but act as a bottleneck in the path of China’s growth and ultimately bring it down to the level of most G-20 countries from the pinnacle of being the richest country in the world.

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat. During his tenure, he worked in several countries as the ambassador of Bangladesh including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany

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