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G20 welcomes African Union as permanent member at Delhi summit

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Flags of participating countries are pictured inside the International media center at the venue of the G20 leaders’ summit, days ahead of its commencement in New Delhi on September 7, 2023.
Money Sharma | Afp | Getty Images

NEW DELHI — The African Union became the second regional grouping to be admitted to the Group of 20 leading industrialized and developing nations as a full permanent member, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Saturday at the start of the two-day G20 leaders’ summit in Delhi.

The widely-anticipated move underscores India’s wide-ranging agenda to elevate the global multilateral forum’s focus on the Global South in its presidency of the G20 this year. The 55-member bloc of African nations joins the European Union as only the second regional organization to become a permanent member of the G20.

“India’s G20 presidency has become a symbol of inclusion with a spirit of together with all, both within and outside the country,” Modi said in his opening remarks, according to a translation provided by the summit organizers. “It is in the spirit of together with all that India proposed permanent membership for the African Union in the G20.”

With an embrace after the announcement, Modi welcomed AU Chairperson Azali Assoumani and offered him a place at the conference table for permanent members of the G20.

Weekend agenda

The summit is an important one for Modi, whose government has turned the normally sedate rotating G20 presidency into a branding vehicle to burnish India’s geopolitical importance ahead of national elections next year. Many governments, investors and businesses are also starting to look toward India — as China slows — which the International Monetary Fund expects to be the fastest growing economy this year.

This weekend’s agenda includes expediting climate action, mitigating the impact of geopolitics on food and energy security, the provision of more loans to developing nations by multilateral institutions and reforming the world’s debt architecture as well as an international framework for cryptocurrencies.

“This period in the 21st century is the time to give the world a new direction,” Modi said. “It is a time in which age-old challenges are demanding new solutions from us, and therefore it is with a human-centric approach that we must fulfill each of our responsibilities and move forward.”

At a time of shifting global alliances, India is hoping to persuade the Global South that its deepening strategic partnership with the U.S. offers a more viable alternative from food security to debt resolution.

World leaders present in Delhi this weekend include Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and U.S. President Joe Biden.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are conspicuous absentees, with both G20 member states having objected to the wording referring to the war in Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and China Premier Li Qiang are representing their respective countries this weekend.

The pair’s absence has sparked fears that a communique binding member states may not be issued at the end of a G20 leaders’ summit — undercutting India’s clout and diminishing his domestic messaging.

“After the Covid pandemic, the world is going through a major crisis, and that is a lack of trust. War has deepened this trust deficit,” Modi said Saturday.

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