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South Asia

Evolving Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations: A Game Changer in South Asia

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History of the bilateral relations

The genesis of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations can be found in the cultural connections of Islam and Buddhism. Islam came to the subcontinent in the early 8th century, following the conquest of Sindh by Muhammad bin Qasim, the commander of the Muslim empire, who led an armed campaign to rescue the widows of the Arab settlers in Ceylon (former name of Sri Lanka). Fast forward to the mid-20th century; it is reported that the Muslims of Sri Lanka supported the cause of the All India Muslim League for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. After Pakistan’s independence, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) constituted a Buddhist minority. On the other hand, Sri Lanka had 6.6 percent Muslim population by the 1950s and currently has 9 percent Muslims. Archeological surveys have traced various sights and symbols of Buddhist civilization and religion, primarily concentrated in Taxila, in the northern Punjab.

Pakistan has demonstrated due respect and appreciation for this heritage and have taken measures to preserve the remnants of the Buddhist civilization and became the first country in 1956 to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of Lord Buddha. Moreover, Pakistan also participated in the world Buddhist conferences in Colombo starting from the 1950s. In 1976, Sri Lanka reciprocated the civilizational gesture by naming a public ground in Colombo as Jinnah Maidan. Local governments in various regions of Sri Lanka also arranged exhibitions of Buddhist antiques and relics from Pakistan, including the inauguration of the Gandhara art exhibition arranged by the Pakistani community in Colombo.

Notwithstanding, the heartwarming historical connections, the cultural affinity got affected after the separation of East Pakistan in 1971 and has almost disappeared ever since the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-87)  instrumentalised Islam on the national scale. As of now, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promotion of religious tourism has great potential to revive the cultural affinities and linkages that Pakistan had with other nations and states. .

Nonetheless, one can find solace and take inspiration from the continued political, security and economic bilateral interaction between the two states

Political drivers of the relationship

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Both countries also regularly observe elections and seek to institutionalize the democratic norms and ideals as a prerequisite for democratic governance. They were also members of the Colombo Plan and conveners of the Bandung conferences, sharing the political stance against communism. When Sri Lanka assumed the chairmanship of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM), Pakistan became its full-fledged member in 1979.

Generally, there have been infrequent visits of the political heads of states from the two sides. Relations with Sri Lanka may well be analyzed in the general framework of Pakistan’s Indo-Pacific policy, which tends to vary from being non-existent to once in five-year term engagement.

The only exception may have been the defense and security aspects of the relationship.

Defense and Security Links of the Relationship

Almost all the smaller South Asian states are confronted with the dire consequences of India’s offensive military doctrines and strategies towards neighboring states. Given, India’s preponderance and aspirations to become a regional hegemon, these concerns can only be dismissed at one’s own peril. Sri Lanka’s northern region and India’s southern region is inhibited by the Tamil populations. It is also an open secret that New Delhi exerts political influence so as to pressurize Colombo to ensure political and economic rights of the Lankan Tamils and has covertly fueled the Tamil uprisings in Sri Lanka.

The threat from India might have propelled Sri Lanka to join the U.S.-led alliance of SEATO and CENTO, just like Pakistan which also saw these US-led pacts as a means to bolster its security against India. Later, during the 1971 crisis in East Pakistan, when India blocked West Pakistan’s overflight through the Indian airspace, Sri Lanka stepped in and granted the Pakistani civilian and military airplanes stopover and landing rights. However, the author could not find any evidence of military aircrafts making stopovers in Sri Lanka for refueling or other services during war in late 1971. Furthermore, Sri Lanka has observed a neutral stance on the Kashmir issue and India-Pakistan’s conflict. That leaves us with the single essential element of security, namely terrorism that set the tone of relations or laid the foundation for an expansion in the bilateral defense ties of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The Tamils of the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka formed a rebel group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in 1975, for curving out a separate state for the Tamil population. Pakistan has supplied Sri Lanka with fighter jets and military training and support that successfully defeated the LTTE terrorists.

Later, when Pakistan was engulfed in the terrorist strikes nationwide, from 2007 to 2014, it reportedly sought Sri Lanka’s support in military training for its counter-insurgency operations.

The cooperation in getting rid of terrorism paved the way for strong defense relations between the two countries. In 2016, Pakistan signed an agreement with Sri Lanka to provide eight JF-17 fighter aircraft. Pakistani and Sri Lankan armed and naval forces have also been through port calls, military, and defense workshops and seminars.

Later in 2020, during his visit to Sri Lanka, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has remained focused on establishing strategic ties with Sri Lanka and has invited it to join Quad- a multilateral alliance forged to ensure security in Indian Ocean’ region. The alliance is comprised of Australia, India, Japan and US. Pompeo stated, “We see from bad deals, violations of sovereignty and lawlessness on land and sea that the Chinese Communist Party is a predator, and the United States comes in a different way, we come as a friend, and as a partner”. Significantly, when Sri Lanka and China agreed to lease the Hambantota port to Sri Lanka for 99 years, other states like Japan and India tried to initiate similar projects for strategic objectives. In contrast, Pakistan did not seek to press Sri Lanka or other smaller regional states in pursuit of its strategic interests through military initiatives like the Indo-Pacific strategy. Hence, a shared diplomatic stance on emerging regional security and strategic dynamics has played a crucial role in further advancing their defense ties.

Another diplomatically significant but financially low-valued aspect of the relationship might be economic cooperation.

Significance of the bilateral relationship in economy

Pakistan has Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with only three countries, China, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. Interestingly, it is only with Sri Lanka that Pakistan a trade surplus. Both countries signed the FTA in 2002 that came into effect in 2005, and the phasing out process by the two countries ended in 2010. Sri Lanka got duty-free access over the 206 items, including tea, rubber, and coconuts. Pakistan received zero-tariff concessions over 102 articles, including oranges, basmati rice, and engineering products.

Pakistan’s top three exports to Sri Lanka include cotton, pharmaceutical goods, and mineral manufactured items. Sri Lanka’s top three exports to Pakistan have been a) ships, boats and floating materials; b) vegetable items, including tea, coffee, and pulses; and, c) rubber or rubber-made items.

Although, the financial value of the economic relationship may appear to be modest, the diplomatic significance of the FTA is enormous given that it has the potential to strengthen bilateral ties of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Sri Lanka visit: Game Changer

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first visit to Sri Lanka in February 2021 is viewed from the prism of India’s offensive strategy towards regional states and Pakistan’s proactive strategy aimed at regional stability. During the two-day visit Imran Khan highlighted the prospects of a bilateral strategic partnership between Islamabad and Colombo.  PM Khan urged his counterpart to join the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While addressing a joint press conference with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “My visit aims to strengthen bilateral relationship [with Sri Lanka], especially trade and economic ties through enhanced connectivity.”

During the visit, both states agreed to further enhance bilateral relations through investment, trade, technology, science, tourism and culture and agreed to boost connectivity to achieve this end.  Thus, both states signed several Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) pertaining to these areas of mutual interests. The MoUs signed between Pakistan and Sri Lanka during Imran Khan’s February visit include:

  1. MoU on cooperation in tourism.
  2. MoU between the Boards of Investment.
  3. MoU between Sri Lanka’s Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) and Karachi University’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences.
  4. The intent of cooperation between ITI and Comsats University Islamabad.
  5. MoU between University of Colombo and Lahore School of Economics.

 Subsequently, Pakistan and Sri Lanka agreed to collaborate in higher education. Pakistan announce 100 scholarships for Sri Lankan students as part of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Higher Education Cooperation Programme. 

Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been targets of radical terrorist groups and extremism due to multiple endogenous and exogenous factors. These include terror financing by hostile countries like India to foment unrest and exploitation of internal sectarian cleavages by vested interest groups for parochial purposes. .Predictably, the turmoil  and civil war in Afghanistan had a spillover impact on regional security. Escalating terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka instigate instability and insecurity in the country. During his visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a US$ 50 million for defense purchases.  The two countries also agreed to increase cooperation in countering terrorism and systematic crimes. Pakistan has initiated a series of military operations and effectively countered the menace of terrorism and extremism. Thus Pakistan can help Sri Lanka in combating terrorism and extremism drawing on its own experience. In this regard, Pakistan can help by sharing expertise in developing an effective mechanism to counter-terrorism and strengthening criminal justice institutions.

In fact, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are brought together among others by their geopolitical, economic, and security interests in the region. Therefore, Pakistan desires to enhance ties with Sri Lanka through economic and regional connectivity and this can be ensured if Sri Lanka becomes part of CPEC. This will help cement the ties and enable the two countries to beneficially promote regional connectivity and achieve economic growth and development. .

Consequently, the strategic troika comprising Pakistan-Sri Lanka and China can offset the growing concerns of regional states regarding Quad. Therefore, evolving Pakistan and Sri Lanka ties are marked as more practical and focused on bilateral cooperation aimed at overcoming the emerging geo-economic challenges. In particular, Pakistan’s assistance to Sri Lanka during civil war highlights the tactical or strategic nature of the relations.  In short, the Pakistan-Sri Lanka axis will further grow through bilateral cooperation; additionally, the prospects to connect China’s CPEC projects, economic and military engagements highlights that bilateral relations can be a game-changer in the region.

The growing role of India in the security architecture of the region and Indo-US strategic alliance is the concern of all the South Asian states. Thus, to maintain regional stability and further enhance bilateral cooperation following policy measures are recommended: 

Policy Recommendations

  1. Increased State level Visits

The visits must aim to enhance and develop bilateral relations in the areas ranging from human rights, economy, trade, environmental protection, climate change, cultural contacts etc. Therefore, frequent state to state visits between Islamabad and Colombo can play a significant role in further improving economic, political and military ties.

  • Regional Cooperation through SAARC

Cooperative regional organizations engaging in non-political or low-political spheres such as technical, social, economic, cultural and scientific sectors provide vastly practical opportunities for building effective cooperation among the member states. Hence, it can play an effective role in bilateral cooperation and regional development. PM Imran Khan’s vision of regional connectivity can be achieved through SAARC because of the mutual advantage for the participating states.

  • Enhanced cooperation in security, counter-terrorism and organized crime

Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the victims of terrorism and extremism. A bilateral security framework based on defense cooperation can provide adequate solutions to existing terrorism and regional security challenges.

  • Sports Diplomacy

Sports can be used as a political tool to enhance bilateral relations among states. Cricket is the most famous and widely played game in South Asia and can be used as a political tool to strengthen bilateral diplomatic relations.  Even during his visit to Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Imran Khan also exercised sports diplomacy and had an interactive session with the sports community of Sri Lanka.


Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations are based on cultural links, defense cooperation, and economic diplomacy. All of these segments of the relationship operate at a low scale currently. Both countries can coordinate to expand, deepen and strengthen each of these elements, given that the political will leads to policy formulation and execution. Sri Lanka will indeed face pressure from India to expand ties with regional states, but Colombo can find a balance, given its experience of doing so between China and India. Pakistan should revive the tradition of commemorating the anniversary of Lord Buddha and further advertise its Buddhist tourism sites. Both countries can also exploit the prevailing FTA and expand the bilateral trade. All of it only demands further policy reorientation.

Asma Khalid is a Senior Research Associate at the Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR), Islamabad. She was a South Asian Voices Visiting Fellow at The Stimson Center, Washington, D.C. United States. Her research interests include South Asian strategic issues, including nuclear nonproliferation, deterrence dynamics, nuclear politics and policies, and nuclear safety and security. Her analysis of these issues has featured in national and international publication platforms.

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South Asia

Breaking Diplomatic Norms: Indian Response to OIC & Turkish Support for Kashmir Issue




Recently, the Indian government has been facing backlash for its highly undemocratic and derogatory remarks on Turkey’s support to the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Indian government has also criticized the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for its statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

India’s long-standing hostility towards Pakistan has been a subject of much criticism in international diplomatic circles. While the two countries have a history of conflicts and disputes, India’s approach towards Pakistan has often been seen as unconstructive and counterproductive. The Indian government’s hardline stance on Pakistan has resulted in a deepening of the mistrust between the two countries, which has had serious implications for regional stability and security.

India’s rhetoric towards Pakistan has often been marked by derogatory and aggressive remarks, particularly in the context of the Kashmir issue. In recent years, India has sought to internationalize the issue of Kashmir and has baselessly accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism in the region. This has resulted in a hardening of positions on both sides and has made any meaningful dialogue between the two countries almost impossible.

India’s recent criticism of Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC and its condemnation of the OIC’s statement on Indian human rights abuses in IIOJK is another example of its obsession with Pakistan. The Indian government’s response to these developments has been highly un-democratic and derogatory, with Indian officials using aggressive language and personal attacks to discredit Turkey and the OIC.

India’s preoccupation with Pakistan has also had implications for its relationship with other countries in the region. India’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and its strategic partnership with the US have raised concerns among its neighbors, who fear that India’s pursuit of its own interests could undermine regional stability and security. India’s aggressive stance towards China and its border disputes have also added to regional tensions and have led to a deterioration in its relationship with Beijing.Bottom of Form

It is important to note that Turkey has always been a strong supporter of the Kashmir issue, and has been vocal about the human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in the region. In September 2021, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the issue of Kashmir during his speech at the UN General Assembly, stating that the “Kashmir conflict, which is also key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue.”

In response to Turkey’s support of the Kashmir issue, India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement condemning Turkey’s stance, claiming that it was “completely unacceptable” and that Turkey had no right to interfere in India’s internal affairs. India’s statement also accused Turkey of using the Kashmir issue as a “distraction” from its own internal problems.

This reaction from the Indian government is highly undemocratic and uncalled for. It is the right of any nation to express its views on global issues, and India’s attempt to suppress Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue is a clear violation of this right. The Kashmir issue has been a longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan, and the international community has a responsibility to support a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue is a step in the right direction towards achieving this goal.

Furthermore, the Indian government’s criticism of the OIC’s statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK is also highly inappropriate. The OIC, a group of 57 Muslim-majority countries, has expressed concern over the human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in IIOJK, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. The OIC’s statement is a reflection of the international community’s concerns over the situation in IIOJK, and it is the right of the OIC to express its views on this matter.

India’s response to the OIC’s statement has been highly critical, with the Indian government accusing the OIC of interfering in India’s internal affairs. This response is yet another attempt by the Indian government to suppress international criticism of its human rights abuses in IIOJK. The Indian government’s stance on this issue is highly hypocritical, as it has repeatedly called for international support in its own disputes with other nations, including Pakistan.

Indian government’s highly undemocratic and derogatory remarks on Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC, as well as its criticism of the OIC’s statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK, are reflective of its lack of respect for international law and global human rights standards. The Kashmir issue is a longstanding dispute that requires a peaceful and just resolution, and the international community has a responsibility to support this goal. The Indian government must recognize this and work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict, rather than resorting to undemocratic and inflammatory rhetoric.

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South Asia

The Taliban’s Loss of Popular Support in Afghanistan

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image source: Tehran Times

Afghanistan is currently facing an unprecedented crisis due to the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August 2021. Despite initially claiming to have widespread support from the Afghan population, reports from within the country now suggest that the Taliban’s grip on power is increasingly fragile. The Taliban’s regime has been marked by egregious human rights violations, economic hardship, lack of inclusivity, international isolation, and brutal tactics during the war, all of which have contributed to their diminishing popularity. The people of Afghanistan continue to suffer under the oppressive rule of the Taliban, and urgent action is needed to address the humanitarian crisis and restore stability to the region.

Economic Hardship

One of the most pressing issues facing Afghanistan under the Taliban is the economic crisis that has emerged in the wake of their takeover. The country is facing inflation, food shortages, and job losses, all of which are having a significant impact on the lives of ordinary Afghans. The prices for basic goods such as flour and sugar have skyrocketed and many families are struggling to afford even one meal a day. In 2022, many reports emerged that people are selling their kidneys to feed their families.

The Taliban has struggled to revive the economy, and their policies have not been effective in addressing the economic crisis. According to the New York Times, “the Taliban’s financial plan relies heavily on the illicit drug trade, a strategy that may provide some short-term gains but will ultimately lead to greater instability and economic hardship for ordinary Afghans.”

Human Rights Violations

The Taliban’s history of human rights violations, particularly their treatment of women and girls, has also contributed to their loss of popular support in Afghanistan. The Taliban has a reputation for imposing strict restrictions on women’s rights, including banning girls from attending school and requiring women to wear burqas in public. Various media outlets report suggest that women and girls have been virtually invisible in public since the Taliban took over. The Taliban has also used violence against civilians, including women and children who raised voice for their rights. We see constant demonstrations against ban on girls’ education in Kabul and Taliban use to suppress them by using force. No one is allowed to held a protest against the Taliban repressive policies.

Lack of Inclusivity

The Taliban’s government has been criticized for its lack of inclusivity and representation of Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic, political and religious groups. The Taliban is dominated by Pashtuns, and there are concerns that other groups may be marginalized or excluded from political participation. No previous polit al leaders who are in politics for decades is a part of the new set up. Taliban have imposed a narrow interpretation of Islam that does not reflect the country’s diversity and tolerance as well as equal opportunities to men and women. The Taliban’s cabinet is made up entirely of men, and there are no non-Pashtuns or Shia Muslims in key positions.

International Isolation

The Taliban’s return to power has resulted in international isolation, with several countries imposing sanctions and restrictions on the Taliban regime. This has limited the Taliban’s ability to access international aid and resources, which has further exacerbated the economic crisis in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports that “the Taliban’s international isolation is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan,” and that “the country desperately needs international aid to address its economic woes and provide basic services to its people.” Unless the Taliban bring a change to their repressive policies, they will remain isolated in the international community.

Taliban’s Tactics During the War

The Taliban’s tactics during the war against US-led NATO and ISAF forces, including their use of suicide bombings and targeting of civilians, have also contributed to their loss of popular support among Afghans who have been affected by the violence. The New York Times reported in September 2021 that “the Taliban’s brutal tactics during the war have left a legacy of fear and trauma among the Afghan people.” Many Afghans are deeply distrustful of the Taliban because of the group’s violent tactics during the war and the atrocities they committed against civilians. The Taliban’s reputation as a violent and extremist group has made it difficult for them to gain the trust and support of the Afghan population.

Addressing the Issues

The Taliban faces a significant challenge in regaining the trust and support of the Afghan people. They will need to address the economic crisis, provide basic services to the population, and create an inclusive government that represents Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic, political and religious groups. They will also need to address human rights concerns especially women rights and restore the rule of law. Also, they will need to make significant concessions if they hope to regain the trust of the Afghan people and the international community. They need to create a more stable and predictable environment for the Afghan people if they hope to build a functioning state. The Taliban has taken some steps to address these concerns, including pledging to respect women’s rights and promising to form an inclusive government. However, the effectiveness of these measures remains to be seen.


The Taliban’s loss of popular support in Afghanistan is a significant challenge for the group as they seek to govern the country. Economic hardship, human rights violations, women rights, lack of inclusivity, international isolation, and the Taliban’s tactics during the war have all contributed to their declining popularity. The Taliban will need to address these issues if they hope to regain the trust and support of the Afghan people and build a functioning state. The Taliban’s future depends on their ability to govern effectively and address the concerns of the Afghan people. If they fail to do so, they risk losing the support of the population and facing significant challenges in the years to come. It remains to be seen whether the Taliban can rise to this challenge and create a stable and prosperous Afghanistan for all its citizens.

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India’s G20 Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities

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The global community has experienced significant disruption, since 2020, due to COVID-19 pandemic. The isolationist economic policies of several powerful Western nations, who drifted away from their erstwhile global approach during Covid-pandemic, compounded its profound impact on the global economy. The economic instability further exacerbated, owing to growing Sino-US rivalry, coupled with Russia-Ukraine conflict, having roots in their intensions to enhance their respective strategic interests in global arena. Despite these challenges, India was successful in shielding its economy from the effects of this disruption. Considering India’s vast population and geographical diversity, this achievement assumes great significance. To India’s credit, it not only managed the pandemic effectively, within its borders, but also selflessly extended assistance to other nations.

The assumption of G20 presidency by India in 2023 offers it a significant opportunity to prove its potential and commitment to global affairs in economic arena. In the recent past, the G20, a leading economic forum, that brings together the world’s leading economies to discuss global economic issue, has been dominated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, overshadowing the grave concerns on contemporary issues, including climate change, poverty, proliferation of nuclear weapons and Supply chain problems amongst others. It cannot be gainsaid that neglect of such issues has gravely affected the economies of Global South, of which India is a key player. India’s renewed pragmatic foreign policy helped it to take this issue with the Western powers during regular bilateral exchanges/mini-lateral forums.

India’s global footprint expanded under the assertive foreign policy pursued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is evident in India’s proactive engagement with various multilateral forums, including I2U2 (Israel, India, US &UAE), the QUAD (India, Japan, US and Australia) and the SCO. Simultaneously, India’s increasing vocal approach of raising its concerns with the Western powers and aligning itself more closely with the Global South, further yielded the desired outcomes. India has the chance to play an important role in strengthening global architecture and governance on major international economic issues, as it takes the lead in shaping the G20’s priorities.

As an exhibition of inclusivity as well as in conformity with India’s G20 motto ‘’One Earth, One Family, One Future’’, India, ahead of G20 Finance Ministers and Foreign Ministers meet, organized (January 12) the ‘Voice of Global South Summit’, to ensure the concurrence of Global South states on relevant issues. It showcases India’s responsible and effective leadership for the Global South, in addressing their concerns. PM Modi has often reaffirmed that India’s G20 agenda will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented. In the prevailing state of global disorder, India is well-positioned to take the challenge of bringing the international actors, together, India’s persistent goodwill and deft diplomacy are key tools in helping it accomplish this objective. India emerges as a natural mediator because of its cordial relations with the majority of G20 nations and allows it to gently push forward the states in disagreement towards a consensus and jointly work towards a better world.

The global community is confronted with complex and sensitive challenges that needs a nuanced approach. Fortunately, India is uniquely positioned to initiate discussions on a range of issues, including nuclear weapons usage, the role of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and need to revisit the existing economic system. In the backdrop of rising tensions between global players and receding democracies across the world, India’s potential to prioritize human security over military security and promote democratic values cannot be gainsaid, particularly owing to its ancient traditions and pursuance of Gandhian ideology.

With regard to the recently held G20 foreign ministers meeting, there was a certain degree of optimism over the joint communique, however, some observers who ardently follow the geopolitical developments with critic’s eye were even ready to accept the fact that there may not be any desired outcome from the event. As anticipated, the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting failed to forge consensus on a joint communique. The failure is attributed to the sharp differences between Russia-China camp and the US-led West camp over Russia-Ukraine war.  However, despite all the constraints, India as the Chair of the meet was able to garner a major achievement by getting the ministers to come up with an ‘Outcome’ document. It was the first ever document/statement exhibiting that the group had achieved consensus on broader issues. Washington, marking its calibrated step forward, backed Delhi’s statement as a product of consensus on a variety of issues, which was put out by India, as the G 20 Chair.

India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar clarified that there was consensus on 95% of the issues except on two paragraphs, related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In this backdrop, India can pat itself in succeeding to bring out an outcome document from a forum that hosts major international players, entangled in many contentious issues, while simultaneously vouching for the concerns of the Global South. Meanwhile, India diplomacy ensured to utilize the event for engaging in bilateral/mini-lateral meetings with the leading powers viz. US, China, Russia as well as the QUAD. Resorting to its full diplomatic clout, India took initiative to bring close the polarized powers and make them understand each other’s concern to find a common ground.

The questions were constantly being raised over the effectiveness of G-20 forum mainly attributed to its repeated failure to forge a consensus over a particular conflict at the cost of neglecting the other broader issues pertaining to the Global South. This scenario may prompt   developing economies to skip the forum and vouch for more assertive alternative framework. For India, it is crucial that despite the existing differences, it continues to work, ahead of the annual meeting (September 2023) of G20 leaders, towards bringing all the member States on the same page.  The first step towards achieving this goal may be to engage all member nations in constructive dialogue to understand their concerns and reach out to the countries, having different perspectives. This exercise will certainly help India, identify areas of common ground and make efforts to work jointly towards developing mutually beneficial solutions.

The shared values and interests of the G20 nations should be the driver of Indian initiatives as G-20 Chair. It is a fact that all member nations share a commitment to promoting economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction, despite existing differences over few issues in line with their strategic interests. The focus on common goals can help India, build consensus on important issues and promote cooperation among member nations.

India, enjoying the status of, a leader in the global South can leverage its position, to promote greater engagement and cooperation among G20 nations. India has successfully overcome the developmental challenges and pursues an exclusive approach towards issues being confronted by the developing countries. It can offer to share its experiences and knowledge to curtail the gaps between developed and developing economies by forging better understanding and cooperation. 

India, certainly faces a daunting task to bring together all the G20 member States on a common platform with shared goals and benefits, but India can ill afford to ignore the challenge to promote economic growth and development among member countries. In order to realize desired outcome from its presidency of G20, India should persist with its engagement in constructive dialogue through multilateral forums/platforms along with initiatives, which could help promote global economic cooperation. It needs to highlight the shared values and interests and push aside the contentious issues, adversely impacting the economic progress.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) as global Institutions play a crucial role in harnessing global economic growth and stability. India, in collaboration with G20 nations, should continue its efforts to further strengthen such global institutions and maintain their identity as key tools, in fomenting economic progress.

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