Tensions loom over G20 summit

Sep 8, 2023, 7:51am EDT
REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
politicsSouth Asia
Karina Tsui/

Global leaders arrived in New Delhi on Friday to attend the weekend G20 summit amid mounting skepticism over the bloc’s ability to reach any meaningful consensus at a time of ongoing divisions over issues such as Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Russia's war in Ukraine and ongoing U.S.-China tensions are likely to overshadow host India's hopes to lead with the Global South’s concerns — even with the absence of Russia and China’s leaders. “It is very difficult now for any of these large-scale summits to avoid the major issues" of the day, said Ian Lesser, vice president of the German Marshall Fund.1 This may mean that the summit for the first time concludes without a joint communique — an apt symbol of international disunity.

The summit is an opportunity for India to position itself as a rising global power with its fast-growing economy and rapidly expanding technological capacity. “It is one thing to hear about India’s demography, democracy, diversity and development from someone else,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in a column for The Indian Express. “It is totally different to experience them first-hand.”2

But critics of Modi’s government say that the leader has brushed aside India’s problems, including by demolishing shantytowns in an attempt to beautify the country ahead of the summit, and more broadly cracking down on opponents and minorities. For Foreign Affairs, academic Sushant Singh wrote that “great powers need to be stable, and the ruling party’s exclusionary policies will open the country’s various fault lines.”3