Modi’s Diplomatic Triumphs Haven’t Solved India’s Enduring Challenges

Modi’s Diplomatic Triumphs Haven’t Solved India’s Enduring Challenges
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waits to receive Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in New Delhi, India, Feb. 21, 2024 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

As an aspirational great power, India had a big year for its foreign policy in 2023. It was marked by highlights that brought India’s potential as a political, economic and strategic player to the limelight, including presiding over and hosting the G-20 Summit and being recognized as the world’s fifth-largest economy. In its pursuit of economic growth and global recognition, India also expanded its international partnerships with new trade and security deals. It championed the cause of the Global South, while simultaneously promoting its claim to a global leadership position. Overall, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has constructed a narrative of a “New India” that is open for business and ready for a seat at the table where global affairs are shaped.

In January 2023, India hosted the Voice of the Global South virtual summit, bringing together over 120 countries to share common concerns and challenges. The summit came against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, whose fallout has led to significant food and energy shortages affecting many of these nations. In amplifying the voice of the Global South, Modi “stressed the need to redesign global political and financial governance.” And in campaigning for the developing world, he used the forum as an opportunity to project India’s global leadership, reiterating the theme of “One earth, one family, one future” that New Delhi adopted as rotating president of the G-20 in 2023.

In addition to the Global South summit, India hosted a virtual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in July 2023, while also taking part in the BRICS Summit—comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—which was hosted by the latter in August. However, it was the G-20 Summit in September that provided India’s moment to shine. Presented as a crowning achievement of the Modi government’s international overtures, the summit showcased India’s economic potential, infrastructure development and security capabilities. Indian diplomacy was instrumental in the adoption of the summit’s Leader’s Declaration by consensus, an achievement that also served the purpose of highlighting Modi’s leadership—a trope he has used to great effect domestically.

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