The G20 summit was hosted by India this year, marking a significant occasion for the country as it demonstrates its strength as a flourishing democracy. The G20 summit is a yearly gathering of the world’s most influential economies to discuss pressing global matters such as the state of the global economy, financial stability, climate change, and sustainable development. This year, the member nations gathered in India on 9-10 September for the G20 summit to discuss related issues.
The G20 summit presented a crucial chance for India to demonstrate its prominence as a leading nation in South Asia, as India aims to utilize this opportunity for its global standing.
Despite this, India is currently struggling with the problem of communal discord, which has had an inverse impact on its reputation as a multicultural nation. The BJP’s ascension to power has highlighted the deep-seated divides within Indian society. The party’s hardline approach has aggravated the communal differences, and Communal differences have spread in many parts of India, with minority groups often being the target.
The far-right groups, driven by Hindu nationalism, have targeted minority groups with impunity. The state of Manipur, for instance, is still grappling with a grave and concerning situation. Violent clashes began to take in July between the tribal communities of Meitei and Kuki, who are divided along ethnic and religious lines. The clashes started when the Kuki tribesmen who practiced Christianity expressed their disagreement with the Meitei tribe being granted scheduled tribe status, which grants them special rights as per the Indian constitution.
The ethnic violence lasted ever since, leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced. The violence in Manipur has still not ended, with sporadic instances of violence occurring in the state to this day. Violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims took place in the Nuh district of Haryana at the beginning of August, resulting in the death of seven individuals, including the imam of a local mosque.
The violence occurred after a procession by Vishwa Bhartya Parishad (VHP), a Hindu organization, and Bajrang Dal, a right-wing Hindu fringe organization, organized a procession through the majority Muslim parts of the district.
Several mosques were set ablaze in the region as violence progressed in the state, causing people to fear for their safety and refrain from leaving their homes for several days. India country has faced criticism from the global community for the sporadic instances of inter-communal clashes. India’s rising status as an emerging economic powerhouse and a democratic nation with liberal values has eclipsed its past of inter-ethnic and inter-communal violence. However, global actors are taking heed of the rise of fundamentalism and nationalism in India and the worsening status of minorities.
The EU parliament has taken notice of the catastrophe in Manipur and took a hard stance by passing a resolution on the violence in Manipur, urging the Indian government to halt hostilities between the clashing communities with immediate effect. India has strongly responded to the EP resolution, calling it a reflection of a colonial mindset. The Indian government was also criticized internationally for its failure to mitigate the out-turn of violence in the state of Haryana where Muslims were singled out for the economic boycott after the violence by far-right Hindu- nationalist groups.
The sporadic instances of communal violence put India’s liberal democracy at risk. India’s struggle to curb the separatist movements and rigid response by its security forces elucidates a lack of policy, especially with regard to Indian-administered Kashmir.
In May of this year, India hosted the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar from the 22nd to the 24th. This event sparked controversy surrounding the disputed status of Indian-administered Kashmir.
Indian-administered Kashmir is the only region in India with a Muslim-majority population and a history of intense violence. Since the provisions for its special status were revoked, the region has been under close state scrutiny and surveillance. Pakistan strongly protested India’s decision to hold the meeting there, calling it irresponsible. Meanwhile, China, a G20 member, condemned the move and boycotted. Moreover, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt skipped resignation to the conference.
The Muslim member nations of G20, such as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, did not enlist for the meetings preceding the G20 summit to be held in India, sending a strong message. The nations are also a part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which has a hard stance on Kashmir. Turkey, in particular, holds a stance on the issue of Kashmir, where India’s history of suppression is well-documented. India’s foreign policy will suffer a setback due to this development. This move might compromise India’s goal of establishing strong economic and diplomatic relationships with the Muslim world, and the current status of minorities in India contradicts this objective.
Human rights activists have repeatedly brought attention to the violence and brutal state repression that has occurred in the area. The G20 has been frequently criticized for not having an official charter that underlines its stance on fundamental human rights. For this reason, Human rights organizations have written open letters to the representatives of the member nations to raise awareness about the state of human rights in India. The organizations are calling on member nations to encourage the Indian government to release social activists and journalists to protect freedom of speech. Additionally, they are urging member nations to draw attention to the situation of Kashmiri Muslims since the annulment of Article 370 in 2019.
The deepening schism between the various communities in India is a testament to a growing trend of social divide that will challenge India’s global stature.
India’s focus inward does not correspond with its outward ambitions. The year 2023 marked a significant milestone for India as it takes on the G20 presidency, presenting a valuable opportunity to showcase its economic prowess and strengthen its relationships with the leading global economies. Despite India’s prominent role in economic and diplomatic affairs in South Asia, concerns have been raised regarding its human rights record, which does not align with its international standing.
Reports have highlighted issues such as restrictions on freedom of expression, arbitrary detention of political dissidents, worsening conditions for religious minorities, and the rise of right-wing ultra-Hindu nationalism. India needs to address these issues to ensure that it is a responsible global player who upholds the fundamental rights of its citizens, especially minorities.
The rise of religious intolerance in India has sparked international concern, with criticisms aimed at the government’s inadequate response to the issue. India’s adherence to democratic values, as enshrined in its constitution, hinges on its ability to safeguard the rights of marginalized groups and establish itself as a responsible global player.
The Author is an M.Phil. Scholar in International Relations at the National Defense University in Islamabad. His research focuses on South Asian politics, with a focus on the foreign policies of India and Pakistan.