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Business News/ Special Report / As India rises, The G-20 Reveals a Shifting World Order
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As India rises, The G-20 Reveals a Shifting World Order


As India rises, China and Russia seethe, Europe shrinks and America dithers.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in New Delhi, Sept. 10Premium
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in New Delhi, Sept. 10

Global gabfests rarely produce significant results, and last weekend’s Group of 20 summit in New Delhi was no exception. The carefully drafted and painfully negotiated declaration will be forgotten as quickly as all its predecessors. The war in Ukraine will rumble on exactly as if the language on the war had not been tweaked to favor the Russian position. The invitation to the African Union to participate in future G-20 summits won’t change the way the world works.

But even if the G-20 summit was no landmark in world history, it reflected three important continuing shifts. One of them works to America’s advantage. The other two will be more challenging to navigate.

The first and, from an American standpoint, the most beneficial of these developments is the emergence of India as one of the world’s leading powers and as an increasingly close partner of the U.S. The G-20 summit was a personal diplomatic triumph for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With both the Chinese and Russian leaders absent, Mr. Modi dominated center stage at a world gathering just weeks after India joined the elite club of countries that have landed probes on the moon.

India’s rise is overall a positive for America, but the second big trend is more difficult. China, Russia and some of their partners are stepping up their opposition to the American-led world order that has dominated global politics since World War II. One of their goals is to build an illiberal anti-American coalition in the Global South. Both Moscow and Beijing would like the growing group of countries known as BRICS+ to replace such meetings as the G-20 and the Group of Seven as the primary forums in world politics.

India has a different approach. Its critique of the global status quo shares some features with the Sino-Russian view, but ultimately India wants to reform, not demolish, the world system. As Russia moves closer to China, and as India’s fears about Beijing’s agenda grow, the competition between China and its allies and India and its supporters in the Global South will intensify.

The third trend, the accelerating decline in Europe’s global influence and reach, is more challenging still for the U.S. Observers have long warned that Europe’s slow economic growth, demographic decline, military weakness and unrealistic approach to world politics would constrain the Continent’s role in world affairs. One conclusion from New Delhi is that the long-deferred day of reckoning seems to have arrived.

This has been a year of disaster for Europe’s global standing. France has been largely expelled from a once-dominant position across much of Africa. Mr. Putin has revealed Europe’s impotence in Ukraine. The primary goal of Turkish foreign policy used to be joining the European Union. Today Turkey has largely turned its back on Europe, and European influence throughout the Middle East is in precipitous decline. China appears poised to challenge the German automobile industry. High European energy prices are hastening the continent’s deindustrialization.

Europe’s relative marginalization at the weekend summit reflected these developments. Mr. Modi and President Biden dominated the diplomatic action in New Delhi. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping both stayed home but had more impact on the agenda than the seven European leaders who attended in person.

For most of the world, the overrepresentation of Europeans in global institutions is the greatest flaw in the international architecture. The redistribution of global power and influence away from Europe to rising powers in Asia and elsewhere is, for most G-20 countries, the most important action item on the “global governance" agenda that the world faces today.

This is a problem for the Biden administration. On the one hand, working with India and other moderate states in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere requires the U.S. to support a sensible agenda of global reform that inevitably will reduce Europe’s role. Looking further ahead, to the extent that American policy makers genuinely care about a working global political and economic order, the survival of that system requires reforming it to reflect Europe’s declining clout.

Yet when it comes to outcomes rather than architecture, Europe is Team Biden’s closest global ally. It is the Europeans and for the most part only the Europeans who share the climate-change, human-rights, democracy and general wokeness goals at the heart of Mr. Biden’s global agenda. Most of the world’s rising powers are profoundly skeptical when it comes to the liberal policy goals that unite American Democrats and their European counterparts. As Europe’s voice in global institutions fades, the Biden administration’s chief goals will become much harder to achieve.

India rising, China and Russia seething, Europe shrinking and America dithering. The G-20 meeting in New Delhi changed little but revealed much.

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