India's New Multilateralism at the G20

India's New Multilateralism at the G20
Posted on 07-09-2023

The Transition from Old Multilateralism to a New Order at the G20

In its role as the current G20 presidency, India has been actively working to bridge the gap between developing and developed nations. This approach has gained significance as the world witnesses deteriorating relations between Eastern and Western powers, prompting a growing realization in the developed world about the importance of enhanced cooperation between Northern and Southern countries.

Understanding Multilateralism

Multilateralism refers to the diplomatic relationships involving three or more groups of states. It is characterized by certain principles that define the nature of an institution or arrangement. These principles include a commitment to reciprocity, the shared interests of all participants, and a mechanism for resolving disputes.

The Evolution of Old Multilateralism (Post Cold War Multilateralism)

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s created favorable conditions for a surge in multilateralism. Europe, for example, moved toward rapid regional economic integration through the European Union. In Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) played a pivotal role in enhancing regional economic and political cooperation. The absence of great power rivalries in both Europe and Asia facilitated regionalism.

During this period, Russia became part of the Group of Eight (G8), strengthening ties with Western nations. China also established closer economic and political partnerships with the United States, leading to cooperation among major powers on global issues such as weapons proliferation, climate change, and pandemics.

Challenges to Post-Cold War Multilateralism

However, the post-Cold War multilateralism faced significant challenges. Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 marked a major crisis, resulting in Russia's suspension from the G8 and its reversion to the G7. In 2017, Russia announced its permanent withdrawal from the G8.

China's unilateral actions in Asia, including territorial disputes with neighboring countries, created tensions. China's growing influence in Asia and its support for Russia in Europe complicated the global security landscape.

Challenges for India

India, which had initially advocated for a multipolar world to counter American unilateralism, found itself grappling with the rise of China as a dominant force in Asia. India began to view a unipolar Asia dominated by Beijing as a more significant challenge than a unipolar world led by the United States. Positive engagement with the United States further contributed to this shift in India's perspective.

The Beginning of a New Order

India has embraced the concept of the Indo-Pacific and revived the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) with Australia, Japan, and the United States, fostering military-strategic cooperation in Asia. New security institutions like the Quad and AUKUS (comprising Australia, Britain, and the United States) have emerged in recent years.

To reduce dependency on China, the United States and Japan have sought to de-risk their economic interdependence with China, a move also followed by India.

India's Role in Shaping a New Order

India's foreign policy has transitioned from non-alignment to multi-alignment, emphasizing friendly relations with major powers and the developing world. This approach positions India as a potential global mediator and advocate for balanced globalization.

Delhi plays a critical role in the Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral Forum and aims to expand the scope of the G20 to address the concerns of the Global South, promoting a more inclusive form of globalization.

Likely Features of India’s New Multilateralism at Jakarta ASEAN Summit

India emphasizes that the Quad complements rather than competes with ASEAN, aiming to promote regional stability through bilateral and multilateral security cooperation.

India calls for a re-globalization that is diversified and democratic, reducing dependence on Chinese manufacturing and political influence.

India remains committed to finding collective solutions despite the challenges in multilateralism. It has actively pursued agreements on various consequential issues within the G20 framework, including global tax regime modernization and multilateral development bank reforms.

India's commitment to highlighting the concerns of the Global South is a key aspect of its new multilateral approach.


India, as a democracy and sincere interlocutor, possesses unique moral authority to influence global affairs. The G20, with its mix of developing and developed countries, provides India with an ideal platform to propagate foundational ideas and contribute to the emergence of a new world order.