The upcoming G20 Summit scheduled to be held in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) in September 2023 is a cause of concern since India has decided to host the Summit in a disputed territory. Pakistan has rejected India’s announcement, citing the internationally recognized disputed status of IIOJK. While India maintains that IIOJK is an integral part of its territory, Pakistan argues that India’s stance disregards the globally recognized disputed status of the region. If India succeeds in hosting the G20 Summit in IIOJK, it will be the first international event to take place in the disputed region since New Delhi’s unilateral abrogation of the region’s special status on August 5, 2019.
The G20 comprises of 19 countries and the European Union, including major developed and emerging economies. Together, these nations represent a substantial proportion of the global population, international trade, and global GDP, with the G20 members accounting for 85% of global GDP, 75% of international trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population. The decision to hold the G20 Summit in the disputed territory is viewed as endorsing India’s false claims of normalcy in the IIOJK, which could potentially mislead the international community regarding the current situation in the region.
It is noteworthy that in the recent past, the BJP government has attempted to falsely project normalcy in the disputed territory by organizing investment conferences. By attempting to host the G20 Summit, India is perceived as taking a further stride in this direction. Various international organizations, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, have reported Indian war crimes and atrocities against the people of Kashmir. India’s attempts to alter the demography of the IIOJK are a blatant violation of international law, UN Security Council resolutions, and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, at an event in 2020, asserted that “what applies to the world also applies to Asia. A multipolar world must have its foundations in multipolar Asia.” He also claimed that “the prospects for the global order depend on a more equitable and democratic distribution of power and resources. The world must be more multipolar. Such a multipolar world must necessarily have a multipolar Asia at its center. This can happen only if we, as Asian countries, consolidate our independence and expand our freedom of choice.” In line with this belief, India seems to be using the Summit to enhance its soft power and position itself as a leader of the Global South. Moreover, the Summit is being utilized for domestic political benefits. Therefore, the objective is to divert attention from geopolitical issues and instead, focus on topics such as growth, development, economic and disaster resilience, corruption, food and energy security, and poverty reduction. However, due to differences over the Ukraine crisis, these issues have been overshadowed on the agenda.
During the G20 Finance Ministers’ meeting and the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Bengaluru and New Delhi, respectively, India failed to reach a joint communique due to differences over the Ukraine crisis between the US-led Western powers and Russia. While India remains at the core of the US’ approach to contain China, it also maintains a significant relationship with Russia for defense procurements and the Russian oil’s supply. In the aftermath of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, India’s purchases of Russian crude oil increased significantly. India’s oil imports from Russia rose from 2% in February 2022 to 23% in November 2022.
India’s decision to continue dealing with Russia, such as in the purchase of high-value items like the S-400 missile system while simultaneously serving as the net security provider for the US in the region, is noteworthy. It also aims to uphold its “strategic autonomy” concerning its defense and foreign policy matters. At the same time, India has been pursuing strategic ties with the US and remains an essential partner for the US in its counter China drive. The growing strategic partnership between New Delhi and Washington has also paved the way for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) waiver in favor of India, which is in contrast to the case of Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia. The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
It has been reported that China skipped the two-day G20 “Research Innovation Initiative Gathering” organized by the Science and Technology Department. The meeting was held in Itanagar, which is the capital city of Arunachal Pradesh, a northeastern state that China considers a part of Tibet. It is expected that holding the Summit in such a sensitive environment could be perceived as an outright insult to China, which may therefore boycott the Summit. Hence, the forthcoming G20 Summit poses a challenge for India, given the gravity of the Ukraine crisis and the presence of major developed countries. India cannot afford to avoid the debate on the Ukraine crisis during the Summit, as it may have far-reaching political consequences at the global level, possibly leading to polarization within the G20.
Research Officer, SVI