The G20 Summit, slated for this weekend in New Delhi, is usually a quiet affair. Most meetings are attended by finance ministers and central bank governors with the aim of a coordinated approach to the world economy. After all, these countries account for 80 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of all the countries of the world. The G20 countries also represent 75 percent of international trade.
No matter how one looks at it, they are a big deal. They also comprise two-thirds of the world’s population and 60 percent of the land area.
In his attempts to establish the importance of India, the Indian leader, Narendra Modi, took an unusual step: he sent individual invitations to all the G20 heads of government, and most of them accepted, notably Joe Biden the US President who has been trying to wean India away from Russia.
The fly in the ointment for Modi is that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have declined his invitation. Some are calling it a snub but even if not, it has certainly, as the saying goes, taken the bloom off the rose.
So there we are, Modi without the leaders of the world’s largest economy, at least on a purchasing power parity basis, and also without the man armed with the world’s largest destructive potential on a par with the United States.
Meanwhile, India keeps celebrating its landings on the moon, over a half-century after others but no doubt still of great pride to Indians. All of this when India continues to become worse in the global hunger index (GHI) and in the latest ranking (Nov. 2022) fell six positions to 107 behind all the other countries in the Indian subcontinent. Rubbing salt on the wound was the ranking of archrival Pakistan at 99. In fact, it is not unusual for the poorest in India to eat just bread or rice with salt for a main meal.
Although extreme poverty in India has been reduced according to the World Bank, a study by the World Economic Forum in 2022 found some 220 million lived on less than Rs 32 per day, the poverty line for rural India. The world poverty clock counts about 600 million people in the world living in extreme poverty of which India inhabits a third, the largest number for any country in the world.
Against this backdrop, Narendra Modi is showcasing India. He has evicted beggars from the streets of Delhi while erecting fences and curtains bordering the roads that the visiting leaders will be using to hide the shanty towns beyond. The fences display Modi’s visage prominently alongside large letters slowcasing the G20 meeting. Let us hope the wind will be favorable.
As the host, Mr. Modi will make the inaugural speech. His topic: increased aid for developing countries, India being the largest in population. Ironic then that after evicting beggars, he is on the world stage, begging on a grand scale. Good luck to him, if the aid goes to help the poor, for his assistance to industrialists has been noteworthy in the past.