June 24, 2024


Does India have a role to play in the G7?

(Image credit: Narendra Modi’s X post)

There’s a lot of talk about the shifting of world powers away from the West. China and Russia are seemingly leading that charge. Obviously, India also plays a significant part in that equation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi just formed his new government and concluded his first foreign trip of his third term – the G7 Outreach Summit.

A couple of things to ponder here. India isn’t a member of the G7, and some have written and talked about whether the G7 is still relevant in today’s geopolitical landscape. As far as India is concerned, it’s noteworthy that this was Modi’s first foreign foray of the new coalition government. But is India merely a guest player, or does it have substantive things to offer?


The United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom (UK) make up the G7. It’s an informal bloc of industrialised democracies that meets annually to discuss issues like economic governance, international security, and, more recently, emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The bloc’s history dates back to 1975 when the USA, France, Italy, Japan, the UK, and West Germany formed the Group of Six to provide a forum for non-communist powers to address the pressing issues of the time. The European Union has participated since 1981 as a non-enumerated member. It’s important to remember that, unlike the UN or NATO, the G7 isn’t a formal entity with a charter or secretariat.

This bloc was actually the G8. Russia was a member from 1998 till 2014. It was suspended following its illegal annexation of Crimea. Frictions between Russia and the bloc grew over the latter’s support of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in the wake of chemical attacks linked to the country’s forces. Things only escalated when Russia decided to invade Ukraine, and unprecedented sanctions by the G7 countries followed.

Another challenge the bloc faces is an increasingly ambitious China. The G7 previously condemned China’s repression of Uyghurs and its pro-democracy crackdown in Hong Kong. On the economic and trade front, its massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has garnered concern about its influences on developing countries.

Modi has attended previous G7 summits as a guest in 2019, 2022, and last year. As far as the individual members are concerned, India has important bilateral relations with each of them. They certainly see India as a vital ally in countering the influences of China and Russia. It’s why India has signed numerous defence, technology, and trade partnerships with the USA and France, for example.

As the Global South and Asian countries become more developed, the question is, where does India fit into all of this as far as the G7 is concerned? Does India have plenty to offer, or is it better to stay away?

VIEW: India should lean in

The fact that this was Modi’s first foreign trip of his third term highlights New Delhi’s continued interest in partnering with the G7. While it strengthens its partnerships with Western nations, India is emerging as a leader of the Global South. The ambition is to become an important middle power like it did during the non-alignment movement (NAM) in the Cold War era.

The G7 is an influential group of countries, and they figured out that ignoring India was not an option. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has lost a lot of influence as US relations with China and Russia remain wobbly. It makes G7 and India’s presence in it all the more vital. It also points to the G7’s greater acceptance of the Global South as an important voice, perhaps best exemplified last April when Japan organised regional sessions at the G7 foreign minister meeting.

What India can offer is something China and Russia can’t – a democracy. Despite all three countries being ambitious, India is the only responsible one. It’s one of the reasons why India became the G20 chair last year. Its economy is larger than three of the G7’s members – France, Italy, and Canada, and it continues to grow at a steady pace thanks to consumption, investment, and trade.

COUNTERVIEW: Not much for guest appearances

For many, the G7 is a Cold War relic. Its influence has waned over the years, and the bloc no longer represents the world’s most dynamic economies. Some observers have said we now live in a G-Zero world where no single country or bloc of powers holds a bulk of the political and economic leverage or the will to drive an international agenda. There’s no point in India being invited as an outside guest to this club that’s unlikely to bring it to the main table.

Obviously, India’s pursuit is for a multipolar world. Going about that mission can be done better by representing the Global South as part of the G20. In fact, it has, with much success. The G20 presents a forum with some rationale. While it might still be another bloc where countries talk shop, it at least has a claim to represent the world’s biggest and most dynamic economies.

Part of the reason why the G7 has little relevance today is it excludes two of the biggest economies – China and India. After all, the issues discussed at the G7 summits, like trade, AI, and climate change, also affect this side of the world. The “advanced industrialised” criteria still being applied for the G7 makes no sense. Some twentieth-century institutions haven’t reformed to reflect the changing winds. India is better off taking its wares elsewhere.

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What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) India does have a role to play in the G7.

b) India doesn’t have a role to play in the G7.


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