While welcoming world leaders to the Raj Ghat memorial complex in central Delhi on Sunday, where the everlasting flame that burns for Mahatma Gandhi is located, monsoon rains abated.
Gandhi oversaw the nonviolent demonstrations that helped India win its 1947 independence from British colonial authority. Another evidence of India’s ascent was Modi’s choice to utilize the second and final day of his G-20 summit to remind his visitors of the Father of the Nation.
It’s difficult to avoid symbolism in the so-called family photo. It is a G-20 tradition that provides a unique, unvarnished look into the interaction between leaders — the warmth or chill of greets, the backslapping, the side conversations, the scowls or moments of embarrassment — and so points to the state of global relations.
Xi Jinping, the president of China, and Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, were not present this year due to tensions with the US and its allies. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico, who rarely travels outside of the Americas, likewise stayed home.
According to Indian media, there was discussion over whether to include Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister who substituted for Putin, in the image, preventing it from being a conventional family portrait.
Putin’s war on Ukraine and US-China competition pervaded the meeting and permeated the joint declaration. However, those global issues temporarily took a backseat as leaders walked toward the Gandhi monument made of black marble to take a family photo.
Some people, including Justin Trudeau of Canada and Olaf Scholz of Germany, walked barefoot through the puddles. Among those sporting slippers or overshoes were President Joe Biden and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will take over the G-20 chair from India.
Following a moment of quiet, traditional Indian music started playing as the G-20 leaders left, walking by Gandhi’s ashram, which served as the focal point of the Indian freedom struggle.
Biden followed Modi as Rishi Sunak of the UK reached out to say something. Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and Fumio Kishida of Japan strolled side by side, showing the recent reconciliation between the two US allies. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has been urging Russia to restore the Black Sea grain trade, spoke with Lavrov, who was avoided by a number of world leaders.
The G-20 presidency of India may be best remembered for achieving an unexpected consensus among world leaders, particularly on the sensitive rhetoric surrounding Russia’s conflict, as well as on climate change action and the admission of the African Union as a full member of the organization.
A few veterans have seen it all before, while some fresh leaders are on their way out. But the course of events is always predetermined. Prior to the epidemic upending the world, Japan hosted the final G-20 summit. The summit the year after, which Saudi Arabia hosted, was online.
These were happier times for Argentina when it hosted the G-20 in 2018, but now the country is going through severe economic upheaval. Argentina has just joined the BRICS grouping as it grows to 11 members from the core of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernandez, isn’t standing for re-election so he’s attending his last conference.
The 2017 G-20 summit in Germany was remarkable for two things: the anti-capitalist riots that shook the host city of Hamburg and nearly cost the mayor, Olaf Scholz, his job; and the moment when other leaders impulsively rose up and applauded Angela Merkel. Naturally, Scholz eventually succeeded Merkel as chancellor of Germany.
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