Diplomatic Eye: EP-08

Golden Plate, Silver Utensils and the 18th G20 Summit: Prospects and Challenges (Video)

An elegant gala dinner served on gold-plated plates with silver utensils just wrapped up the 2023 G20 summit in New Delhi, India. It took place in the Bharat Mandapam International Exhibition-Convention Centre in Pragati Maidan. The fact that India has hosted the G20 summit for the first time in addition to South Asia was a cause for celebration.

As a forum for the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to debate international economic and financial concerns, the G20 was established in 1999 following the Asian financial crisis. The official page of G20 asserts that in the midst of the world financial and economic crisis of 2007, the G20 was elevated to the status of Heads of State/Government, and in 2009 it was named the “premier forum for international economic cooperation.”

Annually, the G20 Summit is conducted with a rotating Presidency in charge. The G20’s agenda has now been expanded to cover topics including trade, sustainable development, health, agriculture, energy, environment, climate change, and anti-corruption. The G20 initially concentrated mostly on broad macroeconomic issues.

Including the European Union (EU) and 19 other nations, the G20 is an intergovernmental organization. By focusing on concerns like international financial stability, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting sustainable development, it attempts to address important global economic issues. With the admission of African Union, G20 now has become G21 or G20+1.

Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union make up the group’s present membership. Over 85% of the world’s GDP, over 75% of its trade, and roughly two-thirds of its people are represented by the G20 countries excluding the African Union. It is an important fact that 60% of the world’s renewable energy resources and more than 30% of the minerals essential to renewable and low-carbon technologies are found on the African continent. An impressive acknowledgement of a continent with a population of 1 billion people is the African Union’s admission to the G20.

What is G20 “troika”?
After conferring with other participants and in response to changes in the global economy, the G20 Presidency is in charge of putting together the G20 agenda. In order to maintain continuity, the Presidency is backed by a “troika” made up of the current, recently-past, and next host countries. During India’s G20 Presidency, the G20 troika is made up of Brazil, Indonesia, and India.

What is Sherpa in G20?
The term “Sherpa” comes from the Nepali Sherpa people, who are well-known for their work as guides for mountaineers crossing the difficult terrain of the Himalayas. The G20 Sherpa is a high-ranking person appointed by a G20 member country to represent their leader (often the head of state or government) in the lead-up to the annual G20 Leaders’ Summit. Amitabh Kant, former CEO of NITI Aayog, was appointed as India’s G20 2023 Sherpa in July, far ahead of India’s G20 Presidency.

Golden Plates-Silver Utensils
The fact that the heads of State and other world leaders were served on silver and gold-plated utensils was a good way to highlight India’s rich cultural history. Around 15,000 pieces of silverware with finely etched designs have been made by over 200 artists in roughly 50,000 man-hours, according to Iris Jaipur, a metal-ware Company in Jaipur that supplied the hotels in bulk, as quoted in the Hindustan Times.


1 G20 Structure
There are four groups that make up the G20 structure: Sherpa Track, Finance Track, Initiatives, and Engagement. Sherpa Track leads 13 working groups in total, whereas Finance Track leads 8 working groups. In addition, the G20 structure consists of 4 Initiatives and 11 Engagement Groups (please refer to the table in video for specifics).

2. African Union’s admission as permanent member of G20
The African Union, which has 55 members’ countries, officially joined the G20 on Saturday i.e. September 09, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed it and other leaders approved it. Now it is G20+1 until the new name is announced.

3. Mega Rail, ports connectivity between India, US, Saudi and UAE
On the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on Saturday the creation of a rail and maritime route connecting the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. This corridor would be the new initiatives taken to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI).

4. Joint Communiqué of G20
After numerous delays and hiccups, the G20 nations’ members have finally come to an agreement, and the Delhi declaration has also been adopted. If not, it would be a humiliating first if the G20’s participants could not agree on a joint statement to be made at its conclusion.

The joint communiqué with the 83 points, which did not include a footnote, sent India, the host nation, into a euphoria. The leader of the Sherpa track, Amitav Kant, described it as a significant presence for India at the G20. He claimed that ‘Green World’ was receiving a lot of attention for the future. The proclamation is expected to hasten the achievement of sustainable development goals, particularly those related to nutrition, health, and education. He continued by saying that it placed a strong emphasis on the advancement of women, AI, and cyber security. The unified declaration was thought to have strengthened the voice of the Global South.

Food, fuel, and fertilizer were areas of particular concern. In paragraphs 39 and 41, it also discusses climate finance. Similar to this, a specific emphasis has been placed on green hydrogen, gender inclusive climate action, and environmental lifestyle issues. These issues have all been included in the joint declaration. The 37 page declaration had 25 lists of supporting papers and 83 points or paragraphs.

Positive features of the G20 include the adoption of softer wording regarding the Ukraine War, the official admission of the African Unions, the announcement of the US, Saudi Arabia, India, and UAE joint transit corridor, the gradual advancement of climate change, the Joint Communique of the G20, and India’s significant diplomatic involvement.


1. Issues of the Seventeenth G20 Summit
The seventeenth G20 summit took place on November 15–16, 2022, in Bali, Indonesia. The main topic of discussion at the summit was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and some nations demanded that Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, be banned from the G20. A statement that most participants in the Bali summit deplored Russia’s invasion finally appeared in the summit’s joint declaration, along with an acknowledgment that there were diverse perspectives and analyses of the situation. Another significant event that should be recalled was the three-hour meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 14, which was the day before the summit. After Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the United States House of Representatives, visited Taiwan in 2022, one of the reasons why the situation, or let’s call the ties, between the two nations deteriorated. In this regard, it is believed that Bali’s baggage was also brought to the Delhi Summit.

2. Division within G20 member countries
The G20 comprises the US and its allies along with other member countries which are not US allies. Given the G20’s divisions over a number of subjects, the Ukraine War being the most significant, it was not simple. Earlier this year, the G20 foreign and finance ministers’ meetings came to a close without issuing a joint statement. According to officials, it took 200 hours of negotiation on the Ukraine War to get a compromise on paragraph 8 of the joint declaration.

[8. Concerning the war in Ukraine, while recalling the discussion in Bali, we reiterated our national positions and resolutions adopted at the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly (A/RES/ES-11/1 and A/RES/ES-11/6) and underscored that all states must act in a manner consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter in its entirety. In line with the UN Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. Pg 2, G20 Delhi Declaration, 2023]

3. Chinese President’s absence in the Summit
Chinese President Xi Jinping has decided not to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi, contrary to his usual attendance. Media reports reveal that the most recent meeting, where he was supposed to have encountered difficulties in the parties, is thought to be the cause of the unexpected action. Ever since he assumed office in 2012, President Xi has never missed a G20 summit. The announcement of his absence comes at the time when there is ongoing friction between China and Several members of G20. There should be some pertinent reasons why he wanted to skip the summit in Delhi.

  1. China-US Conflict (Which is caused due to US-China trade war, Huawei case and US-China semiconductor war
  2. India-China border dispute and recently released map from China
  3. China’s continued support to Russia which US and its allies have opposed.
  4. China is not in a central stage in G20.

In conversation with me, one of the international journalists based in Delhi said, “I think President Xi Jinping wanted to send a strong message to Indian leadership and his absence from the G20 summit underline fact about China’s dominance and its disdain for the Modi government, as witnessed from recent interactions between the two leaders at Johannesburg and Bali.”

For the details of the US-China conflict, I would like to request my readers and viewers to go through my previous presentation, especially episode 5.

4. Journalists were not allowed to ask questions during India –US meeting

The US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met bilaterally in Delhi ahead of the G20 Summit, but the Congress said on Friday that Joe Biden’s team claimed the government forbade questions from the media to be directed at them. According to BBC, US President Joe Biden stated that he discussed human rights problems in India as well as the significance of a free press with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.

5. Canada-India tensions

At this year’s G20 conference, there looked to be tension between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to CBC news, Trudeau was unhappy with the joint statement’s wording on climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine whereas Modi pressed him to stop Sikh separatists in Canada. During the G20 summit, Modi conducted bilateral meetings with a large number of world leaders, but not one with Trudeau. Further, he skipped the G20 gala dinner. The body language of the two G20 leaders was obviously noticeable at times. Observers spotted Modi reaching for Trudeau’s hand during a wreath-laying ceremony, but Trudeau rejected, indicating that Trudeau was the lone leader to reject the lengthier handshake.

India is a country having huge disparity between poverty and wealth. According to World Poverty Clock, a Vienna-based think tank, in July 2018, a minimum of 5.3%, or 70.6 million Indians, lived in extreme poverty. According to Oxfam India’s recent research “Survival of the Richest: The India Story,” as quoted in The Times of India, while just 5% of Indians held over 62% of all wealth in the country in 2021, the lowest 50% of the population possessed only 3% of the wealth. It is a huge challenge for India to manage 4, 13, 670 (as per census of 2011, Ministry of Social Justice Government of India) beggars and 1.8 million homeless people living on the streets. On the contrary, Forbes’ 2023 World’s Billionaires list now has a record 169 Indians, up from 166 the previous year. Growing income inequality makes it harder for the poor to move up the economic ladder and raises the likelihood that they will fall into poverty. Low earnings, lengthy workweeks, and a lack of basic amenities like first aid, clean water, and sanitation characterize the bottom 10% of the population.

In this regard, India held the 2023 G20 Summit in New Delhi effectively. Positive features of the G20 include the adoption of softer wording regarding the Ukraine War, the official admission of the African Unions, the announcement of the US, Saudi Arabia, India, and UAE joint transit corridor, the gradual advancement of climate change, the Joint Communique of the G20, and India’s significant diplomatic involvement. The obstacles facing the G20 include the US President’s worry about the issue of press freedom and human rights, personal adulation of Prime Minister Modi through brand displays on the street, the Canadian Prime Minister’s unhappiness, and his absence from the G20 Gala Dinner.

We need to wait and see how Brazil’s journey to take the elite club of the Global South and developed World develops, even though the two-day G20 Summit was a fantastic opportunity for India to promote its brand on the international stage.