G20 Summit 2023 | India’s Geostrategic Shift and the Reawakening of its Foreign Policy

  • The focus of India at the G20 summit was to ensure the implementation of a framework for a stable world order that was away from Western obsessions and the same was achieved through India’s assertive diplomacy.
  • The successful Delhi Declaration was the result of India’s diplomatic manoeuvring, asserting its Indic value systems and the quest for an inclusive multilateral and multi-aligned world.
  • The summit moved away from the usual diplomatic and geopolitical arm-twisting and laid real focus on serious policy matters in resolving long-drawn conflicts through consensus-based diplomacy.
  • The world witnessed the vibrancy of India’s spiritual awakening and consciousness that reverberated across the summit.

The G20 summit which recently concluded in New Delhi has made significant waves in impacting the geopolitical progress and processes. As world politics is divided on the lines of exclusionism and power block polarization, India has emerged as a major uniting global force that can bring together the extreme ends of diabolical power structures. Diverting from the Western obsession with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, major issues such as sustainable development goals, climate financing, Cryptocurrencies, tackling global terrorism and a whole host of other issues were discussed in this summit. 

As the most significant set of developments, India’s diplomatic manoeuvring, asserting its Indic value systems and the quest for an Inclusive multilateral and multi-aligned world witnessed a major success through the signing of the outcome document, the Delhi Declaration. As analysts and political pundits across the world make further assessments and analyses, the strategic stature and significance of India’s foreign policy will be recognized. The crucial message of oneness in G20’s tagline which proclaims “one earth, one family, one future” will have a long-lasting impact on the world. 

Major Highlights of the G20 Summit and the Delhi Declaration

  1. Aim for establishing a peaceful coexistence in the world through consensus-based diplomacy.
  2. Driving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda with a fresh impetus of socio-economic frameworks, focused on its efficient and effective delivery. 
  3. Envisioning a greener future through a new approach to climate change objectives calls for reducing hazardous pollutants and replenishing the decaying ecosystems from harmful anthropogenic activities. 
  4. Reinvigorating the multilateral institutions, by augmenting the necessary reforms in the rigid 20th-century multilateral organizations including the UN. This also includes a strategic game plan to restructure the obsolete UN Security Council as per the contemporary conflict needs. 
  5. Envisioning a safer and more resilient digital transformation, by augmenting digital equity and access to digital platforms at affordable costs. Trust, safety and security would be the three pillars of global digital technological transformation. 
  6. A global pitch towards implementing fairer and a transparent international taxation regime.
  7. An intensive approach towards dealing with international financial issues such as terror financing and money laundering. This should be aimed at furthering the goal of higher global financial inclusion, which would help bring a large pool of people towards a formal banking system. 

The Geo-Strategic shift and the triumph of India’s diplomatic strategy.  

This G20 summit was indeed a splendid and grander display of global diplomatic fervours and sharpened endeavours to pitch through their own agendas, to every country.  Especially the Western block which includes the USA, UK and other European countries, as usual, had their instinctive agendas glued on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Similar to the previous year’s Bali G20 declaration, there was a clear objective to declare “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as illegal” thereby taking upon an aggressive stance against the Russians as the natural war criminals illegally invading Ukraine. But to everyone’s surprise, there was no direct mention of the war’s condemnation. Instead, there was a general statement made which reads “Concerning the war in Ukraine, while recalling the discussion in Bali, we reiterated our national positions. All states must act in a manner consistent with the purposes and principles of the UN charter in its entirety. All states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence”. This statement has clearly avoided phrases like “Russian invasion or aggression” that the Western block often uses on various international forums. Initially, the Americans and the British had shown a lot of apprehension towards the host for not promoting their foreign policy objectives towards Russia. But as a result of India’s swift diplomatic manoeuvring, intense negotiations with the diplomatic counterparts and rigorous strategic dialogue, a consensus was achieved.

According to reliable sources, India clearly laid its options on the table to the Americans. Indian side is believed to have said that, “there are numerous multibillion-dollar strategic defence deals, aviation deals and trade deals on the pipeline. Challenging a global summit, with one’s national security, foreign and strategic policy ambitions being flagged for geopolitical considerations and acceptance, can hamper a well-intentioned summit’s objectives. It is also against the spirit and intention of the G20 community of nations.

In the case of an Indian compromise, which could strengthen America’s strategic policy objectives on Russia Ukraine conflict, there can be a setback in the bilateral relationship (India-US) resulting in the diversion of strategic partnerships including the top deals, to a more favorable partner in Europe, such as France. Moreover, India is stressing and pushing the indigenization programs, quite swiftly, any such international strategic diversion can become a golden opportunity, for India’s economic self-reliance to rise up to its new and ambitious heights”. It is said that the USA agreed to the signing of the outcome document after this line of argument was clearly presented to the American side. 

Moreover, India’s assertive diplomatic deliberations were focused on common globalist agendas, stressing heavily on the pressing issues of faulty and obsolete multilateralism along with its need for immediate and complete reform, and the dire need for developing a sustainable future with environmental and climate change issues lurking in the abeyance of polarized ignorance. So, the focus of India at the G20 summit was to ensure the implementation of a framework that was away from Western obsessions and considerable success was achieved in this objective, indicating the emergence of a paradigm shift in geopolitical priorities for a stabler world order. This has been possible through India’s assertive diplomacy and foreign policy strategy. 

India’s Assertive Diplomacy

Assertive diplomacy is a foreign policy strategy that involves the active pursuit of a nation’s interests through confident and proactive means. It is characterized by a willingness to employ a variety of tools and tactics to advance a country’s objectives, often including a combination of negotiation, economic pressure, military posturing, and public diplomacy. This strategy is typically used when a nation seeks to protect or expand its interests in a forceful manner, but without necessarily resorting to open conflict. Here’s a detailed explanation of assertive diplomacy:

  1. Setting Clear Objectives: Before implementing assertive diplomacy, a nation must define its specific objectives and goals. These objectives should be well-defined, realistic, and aligned with the country’s overall foreign policy priorities. Whether it’s protecting national security, securing economic interests, or promoting human rights, clarity in objectives is essential.
  2. Dynamic diplomatic channels: Assertive diplomacy often starts with dynamic diplomatic channels. This includes bilateral negotiations, multilateral forums, and the use of international institutions like the United Nations. Diplomats engage in negotiations and dialogue to resolve issues and advance their country’s interests.
  3. Leveraging economic powers: Economic tools such as sanctions, trade restrictions, and economic incentives can be employed to assert influence. These measures are often used to pressure other nations into compliance with a country’s demands or to incentivize them to align with the assertive nation’s interests.
  4. Military posturing and gunboat diplomacy: While assertive diplomacy aims to avoid outright conflict, it may involve military posturing or the deployment of military assets as a show of strength and resolve. This can serve as a deterrent and increase the leverage of the assertive nation during negotiations. Gunboat diplomacy is a foreign policy strategy in which a nation uses the threat or presence of military force, often in the form of naval vessels (gunboats), to achieve its diplomatic and geopolitical objectives. This approach typically involves employing a show of military strength to intimidate or coerce another nation into complying with specific demands or policies. Gunboat diplomacy has been used historically as a means of advancing a country’s interests, securing access to resources, or asserting dominance in a region.
  5. Alliances and Coalitions: Assertive diplomacy may involve forming alliances or coalitions with like-minded nations to collectively advance shared interests. This amplifies a country’s influence and can lead to a more assertive stance when dealing with global issues.
  6. Public Diplomacy through Outreach: Public opinion and international perceptions matter in assertive diplomacy. Governments often use public diplomacy to shape global narratives and garner support for their positions. This can include media campaigns, cultural exchanges, and public statements.
  7. Crisis Management: In situations where assertive diplomacy is used to manage crises, it often involves a combination of military readiness, diplomatic negotiations, and crisis communication. A clear communication strategy is crucial to manage expectations and prevent misunderstandings that could escalate tensions.
  8. Escalation Control: A key aspect of assertive diplomacy is managing the risk of escalation. Nations must carefully calibrate their actions to avoid unintended consequences and maintain room for de-escalation. Clear red lines and mechanisms for communication with adversaries are important.
  9. Flexibility and Adaptation: The effectiveness of assertive diplomacy can depend on the dynamic nature of international relations. Nations must be flexible and adapt their strategies as circumstances evolve. This may involve recalibrating objectives, adjusting tactics, or seeking new partners.
  10. Assessment and Review; Regular assessment and review of the assertive diplomacy strategy are essential. Governments need to evaluate whether their objectives are being met, whether their tactics are working, and whether the strategy aligns with their long-term foreign policy goals.
  11. Exit Strategy: Like any foreign policy approach, assertive diplomacy should have a clear exit strategy. Nations need to know when to de-escalate, seek compromise, or shift to alternative approaches if their goals are not being achieved.

It’s important to note that assertive diplomacy carries risks, including the potential for increased tensions and conflicts. Therefore, its successful implementation requires careful planning, effective communication, and a deep understanding of the geopolitical landscape. India must also be prepared to engage in sustained and patient efforts to achieve its objectives while avoiding unnecessary harm or instability. 

The Success of Dr Jaishankar’s Strategic Foreign Policy  

G20 Foreign Ministers' meeting begins in New Delhi, Dr S. Jaishankar urges  member countries to find solutions to challenges facing the world
  1. Envisioning a multi-aligned and multipolar world order 

Dr Jaishankar believes that a multi-aligned world, with diversified partnerships based on economy, trade and commerce, security, geo-strategic necessity, and counter-balancing the adversaries with different countries based on the cost-benefit analysis, needs to be carried out by each country. This in a way justifies the Chanakyan principle that “there are no permanent friends or enemies in the world”. In fact, Dr Jaishankar has indicated in several instances that, “there are permanent interests, neither friends nor enemies”, this is the real-politick of multi-alignment, in Jaishankar’s lens. He has envisaged the need for a multipolar world where the geopolitical power dynamics are not operated by one country, a set of countries or by ideological power blocks as it happened in the Cold War.

Although a new cold war has begun, with the rise of Chinese hegemony, Dr Jaishankar’s advocacy of multipolarity has in fact become more assertive. In his view, diverse, plural and collective participation in global affairs would churn out more just and favourable conditions for each and every country in satisfying their individual goals and objectives. Though this approach might not solve all longstanding strategic issues, it would certainly facilitate a smoother functioning in international affairs. As the issue of multilateral institutional reforms and multi-aligned partnership was agreed upon in the outcome document of G20, we can say with an affirmation that Dr Jaishankar’s inputs have worked. In fact, there is a strong call to reform the UN and UN Security Council, which has been pitched in this G20 summit, which might be a beginning towards the long-awaited UN reforms and India’s inherent strategic role in the formation of a new multilateral structure. 

  1. Flagging the arrogance of American Hegemony and Neo-colonialism of the West

Dr. Jaishankar has never shied away from publicly demonstrating his discontent, with the American sinister geopolitical games of oppressing and changing regimes across the world which caters to its self-interests at best. He openly called out their freedom, liberty and democracy trilogy to be self-serving hypocrisy, which is imposed on the whole world on their terms. According to him, the American state and their economic powerhouse, fuelled by its military-industrial complex, is just an attempt to re-colonize the world with its hegemonistic tendencies to make the other countries subservient in the vicious cycles of dependency, as it is clearly a part of their strategic game-plan.

As India was successful in de-hyphenating the Russia – Ukraine conundrum from the G20 agenda, towards a true globalist agenda and concerns, the goalpost of the entire G20 is now changed to safeguarding the planet Earth and evolving a common greener, cleaner and sustainable future. 

Unprecedented Success of India’s Cultural Diplomacy

Cultural diplomacy is a diplomatic strategy that seeks to promote a country’s culture, values, and national identity as a means of building and strengthening relationships with other nations. Unlike traditional diplomacy, which often focuses on political and economic issues, cultural diplomacy emphasizes the exchange of ideas, arts, language, traditions, and other aspects of a nation’s culture. It aims to foster mutual understanding, goodwill, and cooperation between countries. India displayed its magnificent cultural renditions, with almost pride.

The world witnessed the vibrance and reverberations of India’s spiritual awakening and consciousness. The usage of the word Bharat, as a deliberate and conscious choice, gave us an indication of strengthening the foundations of India’s strategic culture. From now on, Bharat will become the hope of human civilization in being the torchbearer of the global values that include liberal order, democracy and individual freedoms, rule of law and rules-based order, to which there will be an essence of Dharmic civilizational consciousness.   

Overall, we can say that this G20 summit and the outcomes of the Delhi declaration have laid the foundations towards a new and stable world order. From the message of global peace and tranquillity to ensuring a sustainable greener future for the next generations. The essence of a human being’s pristine quality of life has been focused on conscious and consistent efforts in this summit, which was generally ignored in global summits in recent times.

The summit moved away from the usual diplomatic and geopolitical arm-twisting and laid real focus on serious policy matters in resolving long-drawn conflicts through consensus-based diplomacy. Even though we must judge these objectives based on their actual outcomes, we must note the fact that a beginning has been made to evolve the common geopolitical issues, at least on a few matters. The mundane, routine and customary years of G20s are a legacy of the past now. The format and agendas of G20 have taken a remarkable transformation. To put it in the words of Dr S Jaishankar, “Bali was Bali, and New Delhi is New Delhi.” 

(The author has an MA in International Relations. Views expressed are author’s own)


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