New Delhi, Sep 9 (EFE).– India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the African Union as a new member of the G20 on Saturday, during the first session of the group’s summit in New Delhi.
“We welcome the African Union as a permanent member of the G20,” Modi said in his opening remarks at the summit, following it up with a handshake and hug to the Union’s chairperson Azali Assoumani.
India had advocated the inclusion of the African Union as a permanent member of the Group of Twenty since assuming the presidency, a proposal welcomed by other world leaders as a step forward to strengthen multilateralism.
The African Union now becomes the most recent member of the G20, created in 1999 and made up of Germany, Canada, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Russia, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.
The summit of the leaders of the world’s 20 major economies kicked off Saturday in New Delhi, attended by US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, among others.
Notable absentees are the presidents of China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, respectively, at the summit that concludes Sunday.
The US government admitted Friday it would be difficult to reach consensus on the final joint declaration owing to differences over the war in Ukraine.
If the current G20 summit in New Delhi concludes without a joint declaration, it would be the first time such a thing happens in the history of the group, leading to questions about its geopolitical relevance.
Another notable aspect of the opening session of the summit was the name plate in front of the host prime minister read “Bharat” instead of “India,” adding fuel to the “India vs Bharat” debate that has sparked across the country in recent days.
Bharat is what India is referred to in Hindi and is one of the two official names of the Asian country recognized in the Constitution.
“It is from the very place where we are seated that stands a pillar, approximately 2,500 years old, bearing an inscription in Prakrit that reads, ‘May the welfare and happiness of all be ever ensured.’ This message was imparted to the world by the land of Bharat millennia ago. Let us remember this message as we commence the G20 summit,” said Modi.
The use of the word Bharat has been the subject of controversy this week in India, after invitations to an official G20 dinner by the south Asian country’s president, Droupadi Murmu, was sent in the name of the “President of Bharat.”
This invitation was followed by another official document shared by spokesperson of the ruling BJP, Sambit Patra, confirming Modi’s attendance at this week’s ASEAN-India summit in Indonesia, and referring to him as “Prime Minister of Bharat.”
These two documents fueled speculation among opposition parties about an impending attempt to change the name of the Asian country. EFE