The two-day summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20) major developed and developing countries that gets under way in New Delhi on Saturday should be an opportunity to address many of the urgent issues facing the global economy, including food and energy security, climate change, debt distress in the developing world and the reform of multilateral institutions. As the current president of the G-20, India has tried to focus on these and other issues relating to global economic cooperation, which have been the subjects of more than 200 meetings held in several Indian cities this year. Its chosen theme for the summit is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, a Sanskrit phrase that translates as “The world is one family”, which underlines India’s desire to emphasise inclusivity and collaboration and present itself as a champion of developing countries, collectively known as the Global South.
But the backdrop to the G-20 summit is one of a deeply polarised world in which there are unusually strained relations involving some of the key members of the G-20, including China, Russia, the European Union, the United States and, indeed, India itself. This summit will also lose some of its heft because of the non-attendance of Chinese leader Xi Jinping – whether out of a desire to deliver a snub to India, or to devalue a West-heavy grouping, or as an act of solidarity with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who will also not be attending. Mr Xi’s absence scuppers the chances of meetings with US President Joe Biden as well as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which could at least help break the ice in China’s fraught relations with the US and India.
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