G20 will push for greater role for African Union and Arab countries

G20 will make the African Union seen and heard in the world, experts say

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed  greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in New Delhi. Hamad Al Kaabi / UAE Presidential Court
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India’s presidency at the G20 will push for greater roles for Africa and the Middle East on the global platform, experts say.

New Delhi, which hosted the G20 summit has been making efforts to represent the voice of emerging and under developed economies as it aspires to lead them in the ever changing geopolitical landscape.

As India conducted the two day summit of the Group of Twenty on the weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the induction of the African Union to the group, a bloc of 55 countries in the African continent as well as inviting four Arab nations, including the UAE.

“India has been sending out a message that global challenges cannot be resolved without bringing in important stakeholders and African Union and Gulf states are very important stakeholders,” Harsh V Pant, a senior analyst at the Delhi based Observer Research Foundation, told The National.

“The representation of the Middle East and Africa should be significant because that's how you make for an inclusive global governance architecture. So for the G20 to retain its relevance, it has to reach out to these geographical regions.”

Mr Modi had written to the leaders of the G20 nations in June proposing the African Union be given full, permanent membership of the bloc at the upcoming summit in the Indian capital.

The Indian leader has given a push to make India the voice of the Global South, a term used to refer to developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

He has been to ten African countries including Mozambique, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and most recently South Africa since he first came to power in 2015.

Mr Pant said that after the inclusion of Africa, a continent of 1.21 billion people, the strong grouping will give the region an opportunity to be seen and heard.

“One of the main complaints Africans always have is that the world forgets Africa, because it is not part of the decision making structures. By having the African Union as part of the G20 certainly will ensure that African concerns are not forgotten.”

“Africa is the continent where enormous opportunities lie with the growing growth rates and with growing demographics, interesting demographics,” Mr Pant said.

Middle East expansion

Along with the leaders of the 19 countries and the EU, it also invited the leaders of four Arab countries – UAE President Sheikh Mohamed, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Omani Deputy Prime Minister Asaad bin Tariq to the summit.

In the Middle East, only Saudi Arabia is part of the G20.

Mr Pant said that along with AU, the platform would also benefit Arabian countries to be seen beyond the lens of energy dynamics.

“A lot of the Arab countries today are looking for a future beyond just oil and gas, energy and how to integrate them into the global economic order has been a big issue of concern for a number of these countries, including the big ones like the Saudis and the UAE,” Mr Pant said.

As he hosted the first day of the summit on Saturday, Mr Modi also announced the ambitious multibillion-dollar rail and shipping corridor that will link India, the Middle East and Europe.

The project, dubbed as "spice route" is part of an initiative called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment which will include a railway and ship-rail transit network and road transport routes.

“With various projects, they are being integrated into a post fossil fuel energy dynamic, and by making the energy trade more accessible to a large part of the world through this connectivity corridor, there are enormous opportunities here that can be tapped for by these nations as well.”

“These are very important roles for these geographies in the emerging global governance architecture through the mechanism of G20 and perhaps this moment that would continue and one hopes it continues,” Mr Pant said.

New Delhi has been increasingly deepening and redefining its economic and cultural relations with the Arab world. The deepening relations are also important for the South Asian nation to shore up support to counter influence from China.

The Indian government calls the Gulf Cooperation Council “significant” and its “immediate” neighbourhood separated only by the Arabian Sea.

It not only enjoys traditionally cordial relations and cooperation with the GCC, but also trade ties with increasing imports of oil and gas, growing trade and investment, and the presence of approximately 6.5 million Indian workers in the region.

With the UAE, which is currently India’s third-largest trading partner and the second-largest export destination, it especially enjoys strong ties.

The two nations have a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which aims to provide opportunities for building new and sustainable relations between the two countries.

They have also signed an agreement to settle trade in the Indian currency rupees instead of US dollars.

India shares historically close and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia with extensive people-to-people contacts, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.

It has invited Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on a state visit on Monday.

“India has defined its strategic priority, which is through the lens of the Indo Pacific, making the Arabian Sea very important…therefore, to have a stable, prosperous Arab region is very important.

“With China spreading its wings in the region, becoming such an important partner of so many countries in the region, certainly given the way India-China relations are going, it will be a matter of concern if India does not have an adequate presence,” Mr Pant said.

Updated: September 11, 2023, 7:09 AM