Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Saturday that the African Union has been granted permanent membership in the Group of 20 top international economies, bolstering his efforts to give the Global South a stronger voice as host of this year’s annual summit.
Modi announced the membership in his G20 weekend summit opening remarks. Growing global rifts and the absence of key actors made consensus on the toughest issues difficult.
Many supported admitting the AU to the G20 as the second regional bloc to become a permanent member after the EU.
Modi rapped his gavel three times before announcing the motion to applause.
He welcomed Comoros President Azali Assoumani, the AU chair, to the table after shaking hands and hugging him.
“I invite the African Union representative to take his place as a permanent G20 member,” Modi added.
Modi has made giving voice to the Global South a centrepiece of this year’s summit, and including the AU early was a major step.
He warned leaders they needed “concrete solutions” to the “ups and downs in the global economy, the north and south divide, the chasm between the east and the west,” terrorism, cyber security, health, and water security.
Modi addressed delegates from behind a nameplate that said “Bharat,” an old Sanskrit term championed by his Hindu nationalist followers at the G20.
India wants the summit to focus more on the developing world’s concerns, even if many issues, like food and energy security, are intertwined with the Russian war against Ukraine.
“Friends, after COVID-19, the world is facing trust deficit,” he remarked. “The war deepened this trust deficit. “If we can beat COVID, we can also overcome the trust deficit caused by the war,” he stated, without naming any countries.
A quarter of G20 leaders were absent from New Delhi when the summit began. The leaders of Russia and China chose not to attend, avoiding difficult discussions with their American and European counterparts over many disputes, including the Ukraine war. Spain and Mexico’s presidents skipped it owing to COVID-19.
Due to Ukraine disagreements, preliminary talks before the summit failed to generate agreements. Leaving the weekend without a statement will highlight how strained relations are and damage Modi’s image of India as a global issue solution.
Participants coming in Delhi were met by empty streets, fresh flowers, and unending posters of Modi and slogans. Most journalists and the public were barred from the summit due to strict security.
Hydrogen, resource efficiency, food security, and a digital public infrastructure framework were on the G20 agenda for developing nations.
Countries were also expected to overhaul development banks like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to aid lower- and middle-income countries fight climate change.
Amitabh Kant, India’s top G20 negotiator, told reporters that developing and emerging countries most needed climate action and investment.
“We thought Global South, developing countries, emerging markets needed long-term financing,” he said.
Despite numerous other challenges, Human Rights Watch encouraged G20 leaders not to let international discord distract them at the summit.
Members should not “shy away from openly discussing challenges like gender discrimination, racism and other entrenched barriers to equality, including with host India, where civil and political rights have sharply deteriorated under the Modi administration,” according to Meenakshi Ganguly, deputy director of the Asia division.
Putin said a key accord allowing Ukraine to ship grain safely over the Black Sea will not be restored until Western nations meet his demands on Russia’s agricultural exports days before the summit. In July, Russia declined to prolong the UN-and-Erdogan accord, alleging that a parallel agreement to reduce barriers to Russian food and fertiliser shipments had not been honoured.
Top Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov attended the G20. Erdogan was in Delhi, and others said they wanted to find solutions before the conference, even as Russia’s military strikes Ukraine’s ports.
“The Kremlin’s war is also unravelling lives far beyond Ukraine, including right here in South Asia,” European Council President Charles Michel told reporters in New Delhi Friday. “Over 250 million people are food insecure, and the Kremlin is depriving them of food by attacking Ukraine’s ports.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated he wanted to gather international resources to challenge Russia’s food supply influence. Moscow’s moves will prompt London to organise a global food security summit in November. Sunak’s government also plans to fly Royal Air Force planes over the Black Sea to discourage Russia from attacking grain shipping from Ukraine to developing nations.
Hundreds of Tibetan exiles protested outside the summit venue to criticise Chinese participation and urge leaders to examine Sino-Tibetan relations.
Modi met with Biden Friday night before the meeting. Afterward, White House staffer Kurt Campbell told reporters there was “undeniable warmth and confidence between the two leaders.”
Leaders of the U.S., India, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE were finalising a joint infrastructure pact for ship and rail travel between India and the Middle East to Turkey and beyond to announce in New Delhi during the summit.
The arrangement might be “earth-shattering” and Campbell stated “the strongest supporter of this initiative is India.” Campbell said India’s authorities had resisted major multinational projects “almost a knee jerk reaction” in the past.
U.S. officials downplayed how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wasn’t invited to the G20.
Since the war began more than 18 months ago, the Ukrainian leader has often appeared at international forums, both virtual and in person, to urge supporters to defend Ukraine.