G20: Indian PM Modi welcomes world leaders at summit with traditional 'namaste'

More than 40 world leaders have gathered in Delhi for the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed world leaders as he inaugurated the two-day G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi on Saturday.

“India welcomes you all,” Mr Modi said with folded hands, signifying the traditional Indian greeting of namaste.

“A few kilometres away from where we are sitting today, there is a 2,500-year-old pillar that has a message in an ancient language: Manavta ka kalyaan aur sukh sadev sunischit kia jaye (the welfare and happiness of humanity should always be ensured). India had sent this message to the world about 2,500 years ago. With this message, let’s begin the summit.”

Mr Modi announced that African Union was made a permanent member of the Group of 20, an international forum that focuses mainly on the global economy, financial stability, climate change, mitigation and sustainable development, comprising the world's richest and most powerful countries.

In his opening remarks at the summit, the Indian Prime Minister invited the chairman of the 55-member bloc, Azali Assoumani, to take a seat at the table of G20 leaders as a permanent member.

Mr Modi earlier welcomed more than four dozen leaders at the sprawling international convention and exhibition centre – Bharat Mandapam – in the capital

He greeted each member, shaking hands and posing for the cameras.

US President Joe Biden, who seemed curious at the backdrop depicting the wheel of the 13th century Konark Sun Temple that is located in the eastern state of Odisha, learnt of its significance from Mr Modi.

The two leaders had briefly met at Mr Modi's residence on Friday evening and held talks, moments after Mr Biden had landed.

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed was also greeted by the prime minister. While the UAE is not part of the group, it is invited to the event as a special guest.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau were among the early arrivals.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who injured is eyes during a jogging incident, arrived at the summit wearing an eye patch.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also arrived at the venue. He is representing Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced that he would not attend.

India has also invited the heads of the UN, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Health Organisation and World Trade Organisation – the largest delegation in the G20 yet.

New Delhi took over the presidency from Indonesia in December.

It is celebrating the presidency under the theme of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or One Earth, One Family, One Future.

The summit has been divided into two days, with day one dedicated to One Earth and One Family, which will include discussions om climate change, mitigation efforts and commitments to achieving net – zero emissions.

India has prioritised climate finance and technology under its Green Development, Climate Finance and Lifestyle for Environment initiative – a special concept to fight climate change.

The discussions would be divided into two sessions and following which Indian President Drouapdi Murmu will host an official dinner for the dignitaries.

The leaders are expected to declare a joint communique, the Leaders’ Declaration, based on the discussions, on Sunday.

The declaration is a joint statement that is issued after every summit summarising their commitments and resolving issues.

But since last year, the Russia-Ukraine war has overshadowed the forum, making it difficult for the delegates to arrive at a consensus.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday said that the New Delhi declaration was in its final stages and would be presented to leaders of the bloc's members during the summit.

Another agenda in the declaration would be the induction of the African Union, the 55-member bloc, as a permanent member.

India has used the moment to be seen as global leader.

The government has heavily invested in sprucing up the city.

Roads have been cleaned, trees and plants manicured, public places painted and ubiquitous slums concealed behind green screens to send a message of prosperity and development.

Life-size posters of Mr Modi have been put up across the city to welcome the dignitaries.

Mr Modi has explained the pageantry as a moment for the world to experience the diversity of India, which has a population of 1.4 billion.

Updated: October 31, 2023, 10:12 AM