The G20 summit held in the Bharat (Indian) capital, New Delhi, from September 9 to 10, was simultaneously marred by a very tense international environment. The war unleashed by US-led NATO at the hands of Ukrainian neo-Nazis against Russia has already exacerbated the global energy and food security crises, which were already severe due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on production levels and international supply chains. This is happening amidst a changing international order as many countries are pursuing their own interests and a growing desire to form stronger alliances and blocs. Russia and China are pushing hard toward a multipolar order, and their global outlook, articulated in terms such as global development, global security, multipolarity, democratization of the UN system and reform of the post-World War II order, is at odds with Washington’s unipolar, dilapidated worldview.
The G20 summit took place hot on the heels of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. In addition to discussing critical issues of interest to developing countries, the landmark BRICS summit saw the expansion of the bloc’s membership, strengthening the emerging market grouping at a time when more countries are boosting domestic production to safeguard themselves from shocks arising from the disruption of interdependence.
Notably, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited Egypt to attend the G20 summit. Egypt’s presence at the G20 following its successful application to join BRICS is another manifestation of Cairo’s growing international weight and reflects the growing confidence of international institutions in the Egyptian economy. Goldman Sachs, for example, predicts that Egypt will become one of the top 10 largest economies sometime between 2030 and 2075. Egypt’s presence at the G20 also emphasized its balanced foreign policy outlook and strategy. In addition, as the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram accurately noted, Egypt’s presence at the summit highlighted the significance and weight of the BRICS gaining strength.
Currently, as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi noted, Egypt is seeking to diversify partnerships beyond the Western bloc, which is one of the reasons why other blocs want Egypt to join. Ultimately, it is in their and Egypt’s interests, especially when it comes to addressing the many challenges that African and other developing countries face in a multipolar world. It should be borne in mind that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are now leading the entire Arab world, and much depends on their decisions in the Global South.
In a landmark decision on September 9, the G20 summit accepted the African Union (AU) as a permanent member. As chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Egypt is not only in a position to help the AU achieve its goals of promoting economic integration, accelerating the African Development Agenda and mobilizing resources for priority areas such as energy, communications and food security, but also to facilitate the AU’s integration into the G20 and possibly BRICS. In addition, as the President noted in his speech at the first session of the summit, Egypt is ready to host a global center for grain storage and trade and has already taken steps to become a regional energy center. He said such actions contribute to increasing energy market stability and addressing the food crisis in a way that contributes to the creation of a multilateral international ecosystem.
It has been 75 years since Egypt and India established diplomatic relations and 62 years since they co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement. The invitation to attend the summit in New Delhi reflects the closeness of bilateral relations between Egypt and India. A few months ago, they elevated their relationship to a strategic partnership, seeking to promote mutual benefits in the fields of politics, security, economy, defense and energy.
India is Egypt’s seventh largest trading partner and the two countries plan to increase bilateral trade from the current $7.25 billion to $12 billion. Efforts are underway to allocate space in the Suez Canal Economic Zone for Indian investment projects. India is currently investing $3.15 billion in Egypt and the two countries are looking forward to closer cooperation in areas ranging from defense technology, cybersecurity and renewable energy to food security and building resilience to supply chain shocks.
India sees Egypt as a dynamic regional power, a prominent representative of African countries and a voice for demands for greater support from industrialized countries to the Global South. India has actively championed the interests of these countries as part of its efforts to rally a large voting bloc to help strengthen its role in the international arena. By strengthening its relationship with Egypt, India will gain access to a major gateway to Europe and Africa, located in a geographically strategic location at the junction of two continents and on either side of the Suez Canal, through which 12% of international trade passes. Thus, Egypt can play an important role in helping India advance its strategy in the area between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Egypt’s desire to increase investment in renewable energy projects, such as clean hydrogen production, and sustainable development projects, coincides with the interest of Indian energy companies wanting to cooperate in these areas.
One of the most notable aspects of the latest G20 summit was the absence of the leaders of Russia and China. The former was the result of events surrounding the US-led NATO-led war in Ukraine against Russia, while Beijing’s decision not to attend was largely motivated by deteriorating relations with Washington. During the G20 summit in Indonesia, US and Chinese leaders held a meeting on the sidelines that led to an agreement on a broad framework for US-China relations. It is therefore especially surprising that the Chinese leader did not turn up in New Delhi. But at the same time it is clear that Beijing is sharply opposed to American hegemony in world affairs and the pumping of Taiwan with new advanced weapons.
The summit culminated in the adoption of the African Union as a permanent member of the G20. African issues such as food security, migration, infrastructure development and health have been on the G20 agenda since 2010 and the AU has already been admitted as an observer. Now, with a permanent seat at the G20 table, it will have the opportunity to influence decision-making, participate in meetings on an equal footing with other members and voice its opinion on critical issues such as climate change, the global trading system and debt relief. The African Union’s membership of the G20 will also enhance the effectiveness of the Africa Initiative and help attract more investment to Africa in areas such as energy, infrastructure and technology.
Membership of the G20, which the AU has insisted on for seven years, is a recognition of Africa’s growing importance in the world order and the necessity to give more equitable attention to the needs of developing countries. G20 members are among the leading trading nations with many African states, which, in turn, are major exporters of raw materials that G20 members rely on. Africa’s resources, agricultural potential and many other capabilities are why it has become a major factor in the rivalry between world powers, which is evident in the policies of India, China, Russia and the US.
Despite disagreements among participants and the absence of the leaders of China and Russia, the summit addressed many issues, of which one of the most important was the problem of world debt. For many developing countries, debt has become an unsustainable burden, and developed countries need to step up their efforts to finance the efforts of developing countries to overcome the challenges they face in achieving sustainable development goals. The summit also addressed climate change issues with a focus on the principles of climate justice and climate support for developing countries, which are the countries most affected by climate change.
In this vein, participants discussed financing for developing countries’ climate change projects and the transition to a low-carbon economy. India succeeded in convincing other G20 members of the importance of establishing an international alliance on biofuels, contributing to one of the most important foreign policy goals related to renewable energy. India’s energetic and successful hosting of the G20 summit even prompted some analysts to suggest that India could mediate between the US and Russia on a number of contentious issues, including the so-called Ukraine crisis.
In any case, the latest G20 summit clearly showed that the world is changing dramatically and that this organization is transforming from a closed Western club into a meaningful forum for solving real world problems.
Victor Mikhin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.