India’s Presence in the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, 2023: What Does It Mean for the World?

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A group of the leading industrialized nations in the western world, the Group of Seven (G-7) has had its 49th summit held in Hiroshima, Japan in 2023 from 19th to 21st May. Under the group’s outreach policy, eight other nations were invited as guests by the host Japan, and India was one of the invitees.  India’s engagement at the global stage has witnessed a remarkable transformation over the years. From being primarily focused on regional issues, India has gradually assumed a more proactive role, engaging with multilateral platforms and demonstrating its commitment to international cooperation, it has emerged as a major force in global diplomacy and multilateralism. The year 2023 has been particularly busy for India in diplomatic point of view, as it is not only building on successful engagements with close allies and neighbors but also has been exceptionally busy on global stage with assuming the presidency of the G20 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and receiving a G7 invitation. These achievements have firmly established India as a champion of international cooperation, dedicated to fostering global peace, security, and sustainability and positioned itself to positively impact the global stage. India’s presence in the G-7 summit has brought into play its strategic vision in addressing crucial non-traditional global challenges such as food, fertilizer, and energy security as well as important security issues like the Ukraine war, curbing Chinese interference in the Indo-Pacific and establishing free, fair and open Indo-Pacific.

G-7 Invitation: India’s Growing Significance on the Global Stage

India has a growing significance on the global stage and is generating increasing recognition and respect from international forums. As one of the most prominent international forums, the G7 consistently acknowledges India’s diplomatic and economic heft, positioning it as a regular guest in their meetings. Since 2019, India has received invitations to every single G7 summit, a clear indication of the world’s newfound admiration for India’s ascent to diplomatic and economic dominance. The world has come to realize that meaningful progress in geopolitics cannot be achieved without the active engagement of the largest democracy in the world. On the other hand, engaging with India on various fronts is also imperative for the G-7. Firstly, India’s economic prowess cannot be overlooked. With a GDP of $2.66 trillion, India surpasses three member countries of the G7 – France, Italy, and Canada. The IMF has identified it as one of the fastest-growing economies, outpacing the growth rate of the seven largest emerging-market and developing economies.

At the same time, while Western economies face stagnant growth prospects, India is projected to grow at a robust rate of 5.9% this year, making it a key global economic engine. Secondly, India’s population has surpassed China, making it the leading country in terms of population. With over a billion people in the working-age population, India offers immense potential for market growth, innovation, and human resources. Thirdly, as Western countries formulate policies to engage in the Indo-Pacific region, India’s geostrategic location makes it an indispensable partner in strategic relations. Its presence in the region becomes pivotal for ensuring peace, stability, and economic cooperation in a region of growing importance.  Lastly, India’s emergence as a backdoor transit for Russian oil to Western Europe highlights its strategic significance. Following the imposition of sanctions on Russia due to the Ukraine invasion, Europe has relied on India as a key exporter of refined oil. This relationship strengthens India’s position as an important player in the energy sector and establishes it as a crucial actor in Europe’s energy demand. India’s engagements with the G-7 are imperative to address the challenges the grouping is facing.

The Hiroshima Summit–Significance and Issues

This year, the presidency of G7 rotated to Japan, which chose to host the summit in Hiroshima, a city historically associated with the world’s first atomic attack at the end of World War II. The selection of Hiroshima as the venue underscores Japan’s determination to prioritize nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in this year’s summit. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida welcomed the participating leaders at the Hiroshima Peace Park, escorted the leaders to a bomb museum, held a session with the atomic bomb survivors, all to serve as a reminder of the devastating consequences of nuclear weapons. Kishida aimed to bridge the gap between the harsh reality of the world’s current nuclear landscape and the ideal world without nuclear weapons, attempting to forge a realistic roadmap during the summit.

In addition to this, the G7 summit covered a broad range of agendas that included nuclear disarmament, security, non-proliferation, economic resilience, regional issues, climate change, energy security, gender, food security, and health. However, two overarching challenges dominated the discussions. Firstly, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine garnered strong condemnation against Russia, with the G7 leaders reaffirming their support for Ukraine. Secondly, the uncertain global economy, devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war, prompted the leaders to discuss strategies to address the economic challenges and vulnerabilities. In addition, the summit also focused on Beijing’s escalating threats against Taiwan and ways to reduce Western economic and supply chain dependency on China. The avenues to provide deeper support to countries in the Global South, particularly in health, food security, and infrastructure development, as a means to counter Chinese and Russian influence were also among the agendas.

India’s Priorities at G7

At the Hiroshima summit India sought to realign great power relations, adjust to the changing global economy, and reevaluate its multilateral priorities. While there was considerable synergy between India’s goals and the agendas of the G7, a point of contention arose regarding the debate on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

India has continued to acquire Russian crude oil at a record rate despite harsh sanctions put in place by Western countries, and did not explicitly denounce Russia for its aggressiveness. As the G7 countries planned to intensify the sanctions regime against Russia, and expect India to join the force, it sought to navigate a fine line, maintaining its foreign policy independence and balancing its relationships between both sides. In addition, as a representative of the Global South, India aimed to amplify the challenges and concerns faced by nations in that region. It focused on global changes and challenges, particularly in the areas of energy, digital technology, and supply chains.

Impact

Being a regular guest member and well-acquainted with the setting, India’s presence was indeed felt throughout the summit. It occupies a unique position as both an emerging and developing country, with a stake in global decision-making, making it representative of the countries often left out of the G7’s core group. While India participated in only three structured sessions on specific topics, namely “food, health, development, and gender equality,” “climate energy and environment,” and “towards a peaceful, stable, and prosperous world,” it made impactful contributions within these discussions.

One notable moment was when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought to win India’s support in his country’s war against Russia, recognizing that India’s purchase of Russian crude has been a lifeline for Russia’s war funding. In response, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Zelenskiy that India would do everything it can to assist Ukraine and provide solutions to alleviate the country’s difficulties. Another significant moment was the shift in India’s language concerning the Ukraine-Russia war. During the first meeting with Zelenskyy following the war’s outbreak, India, for the first time, stated the need to “raise your voice against unilateral attempts to change the status quo,” indicating a change in India’s stance.

However, analysts argue that this statement was actually directed towards China, as Modi later reiterated the importance of respecting the UN Charter and international law in resolving international crises. Furthermore, Modi emphasized the impact of the war on food and energy security, highlighting the ineffectiveness of the United Nations as the voice of the Global South. By raising these concerns, India shed light on the challenges faced by many developing countries and advocated for a more inclusive and effective global governance system.

India’s growing dominance on the global stage has been acknowledged by influential forums such as the G7 and its presence at the summit, despite being an invited guest, had a significant impact.  Although its participation was limited to a few sessions, it made strategic interventions and raised important issues that resonate with the concerns of many countries in the Global South. It addressed key challenges, including the Ukraine-Russia war, food and energy security, and the need for a more inclusive global governance framework. India’s presence provided an opportunity to amplify the voices and interests of emerging economies and developing nations, challenging the traditional power dynamics within the G7. By advocating for the concerns of the Global South it contributed in creating a place for the Global South’s voice and more balanced and comprehensive dialogue on global issues.

– Wahid Uzzaman Sifat is a Research Intern at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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