‘Nine guest countries’ to summit will be ultimately guided by ‘continuity’ of G20

The meet comes in a year when G20 is struggling to strike a balance between the agenda of western countries and that of the Global South

February 24, 2023 01:13 am | Updated 01:13 am IST - NEW DELHI

Victoria Memorial is decorated with G20 signage. | File Photo

Victoria Memorial is decorated with G20 signage. | File Photo | Photo Credit: PTI

The “nine guest countries” to the G20 summit and ministerial meetings are expected to bring their own plans to the events but they will be ultimately guided by the “continuity” of G20, a source familiar with the planning of the summit has informed. Under India’s Presidency, nine countries — Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and the United Arab Emirates — have been invited to be the “guest countries” in a year when the G20 is struggling to strike a balance between the agenda of the western countries and that of the Global South.

“The invitee countries are like any other participants of G20. This is an opportunity for these countries to come and be an equal partner in the G20 process. We will not create preconditions for countries saying ‘don’t bring this or that’ but G20 has a certain agenda. G20 has a continuity as the summit represents a continuous process that has run through many Presidencies,” said the source emphasising that the G20 lays seeds for actionable policy and therefore the “invitee countries” are also expected to play an important role in the summit without in anyway derailing it.

The agenda of this year’s G20 summit is in the early stage and the ideas are being “socialised”, said the official. The evident caution regarding the ideas is partly fuelled by the intense differences that have been generated by the division among the leading members of the group because of the Ukraine crisis.

Already, ahead of the summit, countries like the UAE, Egypt, Bangladesh have boosted diplomatic activities, indicating that they wish to use the gathering in India for respective foreign policy goals as well. During last week’s visit to Dhaka, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra was told about Dhaka’s interest in becoming a non-permanent member at the UN Security Council. In the coming months, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to take this idea to multiple foreign partners of Dhaka. Similarly, continued Israeli actions in the recent weeks against the Palestinians have increased bilateral irritation with Egypt. Similarly, Netherlands is expected to raise the Ukraine issue forcefully. These angles have attracted attention of the G20 watchers about what the “guest countries” will bring to the table on their own. 

Governance issues

The agenda of the G20 has so far remained a strongly contested matter with two different groups demanding differing subjects to be highlighted. While the western block in G20 led by the U.S. and the U.K. are expectedly focused on cornering Russia the other side is determined not to allow the event to become an anti-Russia meeting. The broad approach that is emerging across a majority of members is that the “governance issues that are not being addressed in the United Nations and other multilateral forums should be taken up at the New Delhi G20”.

Accordingly, the commodities crisis, price rise, energy price rise, debt restructuring — issues that have intensified in the backdrop of the Ukraine war since February 2022 are likely to find attention of the bulk of the members. A good test of this evolving agenda-forming discussion will be apparent in Bengaluru where the meeting of the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors will take place on Friday to be followed by the foreign ministers’ meeting in March (1-2), which will be the biggest diplomatic event of the outfit before the summit of the heads of states and governments in September. 

A sign of the western focus was evident in U.S. Treasury Secretary Jannet Yellen’s comments in Bengaluru on Thursday when she pledged to bump up economic support to Ukraine by $10 billion while coming down heavily on Russia’s military campaign. The meeting of the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) to be chaired by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das is being keenly watched here as it will be held on February 24, which marks the first anniversary of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The FMCBG meet is likely to give a hint to the foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi during March 1-2 but it is understood that the coming summit aims to strike a balance where all compelling issues will be addressed without overshadowing the economic issues that are posing a tough challenge before the countries of the Global South. A source indicated that the issues that are closer to the Global South will not be allowed to be overshadowed by western insistence on a particular European matter.

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