By helping the African Union earn a seat at the G20 table, India has emerged as a champion of the Global South. The announcement that the AU will join the G20 comes as India and China are competing for greater influence.
“This will strengthen the G20 and also strengthen the voice of the Global South,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his remarks, which were also posted to social media.
With 55 member states — six of which are currently suspended because they are under the rule of juntas — the AU has become the second regional organization to join the G20, after the European Union. “This membership, for which we have long been advocating, will provide a propitious framework for amplifying advocacy in favor of the Continent and its effective contribution to meeting global challenges,” AU Commission head Moussa Faki Mahamat wrote on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“One of the points India has also been making with its presidency is that, at a time when multilateral institutions across the board are not working effectively, the G20 with a mix of the developing and developed world is at a better position to articulate global governance issues,” Harsh Pant, the vice president of studies and foreign policy at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told DW. “While G7 represents an older order, G20 represents a new global order where new voices are rising, and new actors are making their presence felt.”
‘More African voices’
The African continent is home to about 17% of the world’s population. However, until Saturday South Africa had been the only G20 member from the region.
“The idea is to bring more African voices to the table, instead of them being the recipients of decisions, norms and rules by countries and institutions that are far more advanced,” Sreeram Chaulia, a professor and dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs at India’s O.P. Jindal Global University, told DW. “It will also help unify African countries if they have a voice through the African Union.”
Back in December, US President Joe Biden said G20 membership for the African Union had “been a long time in coming.” At its summit in February, the AU formally declared its intent to become a permanent member of the G20. Modi expressed his support for AU membership during the Business 20 summit in August.
The approval is seen by some experts as a victory for Indian diplomacy.
“During the pandemic, the developed world was busy using vaccines for their own people while African countries were ignored,” Rajiv Bhatia, the former Indian ambassador to Mexico and Myanmar and a distinguished fellow at the Gateway House think tank, told DW. “This is when nations such as India came forward to help them. When the Ukraine conflict happened, the developing world suffered due to the shortage of food, fuel and fertilizers. Keeping all this in mind and considering the heavy burden of debt that developing countries have to carry, India is pushing all these issues into the mainstream G20 agenda.”
India, China compete
China is the largest trading partner for the African continent overall and the fourth-biggest source of international investment. Bilateral trade between China and Africa stood at about $282 billion in 2022, whereas trade between India and Africa stood at nearly $98 billion in 2022-23 according to government data from Beijing and New Delhi, respectively.
“There is a degree of competition for influence in Africa — not only between India and China, but also other partners operating in the region such as the US, EU, Brazil, Turkey, UAE, Japan, Indonesia and so on,” Bhatia said.
In August, the BRICS grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa announced that it would welcome six new members — including Ethiopia and Egypt from the African continent.
International observers say officials from the US and EU would prefer to see India emerge as the more prominent ally of emerging economies.
“China today stands in opposition to the West, whereas India sees itself as a bridge,” Pants said. “It doesn’t see itself or its priorities as antagonistic to the West. India’s idea of global governance is to bring together the developed and developing world to face common challenges. India provides an alternative to China, which a lot of developing countries are more comfortable with.”
Beijing was supportive of the decision to admit the African Union to the G20 and the joint declaration at the summit. However, in a commentary posted online Saturday, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations think tank criticized India for having “created divisions and rivalries in the G20” and hosting the Global Voice of the South online summit earlier this year without inviting China. The CICIR accused India of “using its presidency of the G20 to act as a spokesperson for the Global South.”
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Publish date : 2023-09-10 05:38:16