The 2023 G20 Summit held in New Delhi marked India’s pivotal moment as a platform for addressing global challenges. This gathering of the world’s most influential countries highlighted India’s resolve to assert its maritime influence in the Indian Ocean, underlining the significance of “Indian Sagar Power”. India further solidified its position by forging strategic partnerships with Middle Eastern nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, for groundbreaking mega projects. India and Saudi Arabia, along with the US, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates and others launched the initiative to link railways, ports, electricity and data networks and hydrogen pipelines.
India’s impressive economic growth has earned admiration from G20 members, with the most privileged partners located in the Indian Ocean Region, including Sri Lanka. The upcoming hosting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) by Sri Lanka next month is of significant importance, and India’s participation in this event holds a high priority.
Indian Ocean Region is beyond maritime trade route – Sagala Ratnayake
National Security Adviser Sagala Ratnayake recently emphasised that the Indian Ocean Region has evolved beyond being a mere maritime trade route. It has now become a critical global nexus where security, economics, environmental concerns, and social issues converge, making it a strategically vital arena. He outlined the Government’s key policies for the Indian Ocean, including safeguarding undersea cables, combating illicit fishing, addressing human trafficking and smuggling, and confronting climate-related disasters and maritime pollution.
Former Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Gopal Bagley, emphasised the significance of the connectivity document as a major achievement in India’s relationship with Sri Lanka. This document encapsulates their shared vision, with connectivity playing a pivotal role and having multifaceted implications. The dynamics of the India-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship embody their collaborative efforts and joint vision for the entire Indian Ocean Region and the Indo-Pacific, encompassing various aspects such as maritime, air, energy, and power connectivity.
Saudi Arabia and India tie up for major connectivity network
Additionally, during the G20, Delhi unveiled plans for a shipping and rail corridor that will link India to the UAE, Saudi Arabia (KSA), and further extend to Europe and the US. This announcement was made by leaders at the G20 Summit.
Saudi Arabia’s membership in the G20 reflects its growing importance in global energy exports and pricing, as well as its increased international trade volume and global influence. In 2022, the Saudi economy achieved an impressive 8.7 per cent growth in GDP, surpassing international expectations, which were set at a maximum of 8.3 per cent. This growth rate is the highest annual rate in the past decade, further underlining its significance within the G20 countries.
“The economic corridor between Saudi Arabia and India will not only connect the two countries, but economic cooperation, digital connectivity between Asia, West Asia and Europe,” Modi said at the Summit.
The G20 Summit hosted by India in 2023 set a record as the largest Summit to date underscoring the nation’s increasing global influence. The annual rotation of the G20 presidency provides each host nation with an opportunity to shape the global agenda for a year, potentially leaving a significant impact on international policies.
The G20 consists of 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. The G20 countries account for around 85 per cent of worldwide GDP, more than 75 per cent of global commerce, and almost two-thirds of the global population.
Canada and Khalistan discussed
The Indian Government said during a meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Modi expressed concern over Canada’s alleged promotion of Khalistan extremism and strongly criticised anti-India activism within Canada. Modi emphasised that such activities are promoting secessionism, inciting violence against Indian diplomats, causing damage to diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship. This discussion took place as a side event at the G20. In response, Canada’s Prime Minister reiterated Canada’s commitment to upholding the freedom of peaceful protest, expression, and conscience while consistently preventing violence and countering hatred. Trudeau emphasised that the actions of a few individuals do not represent the entire community or Canada as a whole. Additionally, the importance of respecting the rule of law and addressing foreign interference was discussed during the meeting.
Xi Jinping absent at G20
Unfortunately, China’s President Xi Jinping was absent from the Summit. Reports from the Berlin-based China think -tank, the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), founded in 2013 by Stiftung Mercator to enhance knowledge and discussions about China in Germany and Europe, suggested that Xi Jinping faced sharp criticism from influential party members during the traditional summer meeting in Beidaihe. Abigaël Vasselier, Director of Research at China’s Foreign Relations, had tweeted that President Jinping would not be attending the G20. However, China’s delegation at the Summit was led by Premier Li Qiang and the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said China had always supported the G20 and believed that its members should “stand in solidarity and cooperate on global issues.”
India’s modern positioning
India further strengthened its position by establishing significant bilateral partnerships with Middle Eastern countries and other G20 member nations. This not only emphasised India’s regional influence but also showcased its expertise in information technology (IT) to the international community, serving as a global example. India’s innovative approach to conducting business includes the concept of connectivity, which has even been introduced to Sri Lanka. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been at the forefront of these initiatives.
During her visit to the Delhi G20 Summit, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, highlighted her takeaways from the successful G20 India presidency. She emphasised the importance of bringing Africa into the discussions, enhancing ambition in addressing climate change, and rallying support for digital public infrastructure. The President of the European Commission stressed the significance of a strong partnership with India for Europe. She introduced two major projects under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment: the India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor and the Trans-African Corridor. Further, she acknowledged the valuable role played by MERICS (Mercator Institute for China Studies) in analysing the political, economic, and social trends in China and their global impact. She expressed support for the right of think-tanks to provide analytical and critical perspectives and expressed solidarity with individuals and institutions unfairly sanctioned by the Chinese Government. India took a significant step by placing its focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Fintech during the G20 Summit. The discussions delved into how AI is not only transforming industries but is also poised to revolutionise everyday life through automation, predictive analytics, and machine learning. Additionally, during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India introduced its Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a digital payment system that provides a seamless experience for conducting digital transactions. The Summit also featured in-depth discussions on India’s initiatives related to cryptocurrency, digital technology, and the cybersecurity roadmap.
India-Sri Lanka ties key for the region
India has recognised its potential over time, particularly in response to China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean Region, which has prompted India to strengthen its position in SAARC countries. Similarly, Sri Lanka, despite being a small country, has recognised its strategic position along the East-West Corridor and has taken steps to maximise its potential. While Sri Lanka may have faced political and economic challenges, India has the capacity to provide substantial support beyond what has been offered thus far.
Sri Lanka, with its strategic location, has the potential to pose challenges to India, particularly in countering China’s influence in the region. The best approach for India is not to exploit Sri Lanka but to be a source of strength and hope, bridging disparities. Simultaneously, Sri Lanka should embrace a new perspective and recognise India’s potential. Together, they can mutually benefit and achieve significant outcomes.