India stands with the Global South and seeks to strengthen the United Nations’ effectiveness. India’s focus is on reformed multilateralism, rule of law and a fair and equitable international system aimed at ensuring UN’s continued relevance. 

While India has been a consistent and prominent voice of the Global South the crisis resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war has only intensified India’s efforts to work towards equitable representation to the Global South. 

Global South may be defined as the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania  outside Europe and North America.

Support to the countries categorized as Global South has been the cornerstone of India’s foreign policy. India’s commitment to the cause of the Global South stems from its own experiences as a colonized nation. Even after gaining independence in 1947, India consistently voiced its support to the independence of the colonized nations of Asia and Africa. 

The end of the Second World War witnessed the formation of the United Nations as an international institution but at the same time there emerged a bi-polar world order led by the United States and the Soviet Union that looked to expand their influence through propagating capitalist and communist systems respectively. India, while welcoming the institutional mechanism of the United Nations, steered clear from the power politics of the two blocs. Further, India strongly supported the initiative of Non-Alignment particularly for the newly independent nations. The reason behind such an initiative was protection of national interests of economically weaker countries by not becoming a subordinate of major powers.

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, India has been calling for cessation of hostilities and dialogue and diplomacy as the way forward to resolve the conflict. India also called for respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the parties concerned. 

India’s stand on the Russia-Ukraine war is backed by its reiteration for the role of a strong institutional mechanism to avoid and resolve conflict situations. In the past few months, India has been vocal about the reforms necessary for effective functioning of the United Nations. The United Nations could become irrelevant if essential reforms are not undertaken. Countries from the Global South feel isolated at the global forum implying countries from Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Island nations. There are continents perceiving that the United Nations Security Council does not take into account their problems. 

For its part, India has been an active collaborator with the United Nations in South-South Cooperation a broad framework for collaboration among countries of the South in political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains involving two or more developing countries.  

In September, India became the fifth largest economy in the world as per projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Only the United States, China, Japan and Germany are ahead of India. However, despite taking rapid strides in becoming one of the major economies in the world, India continued with its commitment towards the Global South.  

India has been calling for the UN to be inclusive and has raised the concerns of the Global South. In this sense, India is a link between the North and the South. For their part, Africa and Latin America are also keen to strengthen their engagements with India and benefit from India’s economic rise. 

The balance in India’s foreign policy in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war has been considered only from the perspective of India’s maintaining close relations with the West as well as Russia. However, India has also balanced its engagements with the developed countries on one hand and the Global South on the other.


India aims to be a facilitator in bridging the gap between the Global South and the rest of the world. In the continued discourse of conducting itself as the leader of the South, India is not only claiming its position as a reformist nation but is also asserting itself as an alternative to the prevailing dominance of China in the same domain. New Delhi’s unique position in the global order due to its growing engagements with the Global North also presents it with the opportunity to put forth the concerns of the Global South in a manner that brings substantial changes in the existing order. However, in its endeavor of championing the agendas of the developing world, India’s approach is bound to face some challenging contradictions. By advocating for an equitable global forum that integrates the South, New Delhi will have to find the right balance in its leadership endeavor by seeking reforms within the existing mechanism as opposed to China’s leadership which is steadily promoting its own alternative model for global governance.

India and China which are more often considered the two fastest developing countries from within the Global South have in their respective capacities indicated that the prevailing world order has generated unfavorable policies against the developing economies. From seeking a greater say in multilateral institutions to accommodative trade practices in multilateral trading systems, Beijing and New Delhi have on various occasions voiced their discontent with the mechanisms that currently function in global governance. However, their convergence in fundamentally agreeing on the existing power imbalance between the North and South also brings to light the divergence in their paths of mitigating such global inequalities.

The differentiation of approach between the two in the developing world can be outlined through the norms and principles they project in their efforts to dispel the global divide. For instance, both countries advocate for a greater share of the developing world in the UN; both seek to alter the status quo prevailing in many of the multilateral institutions too, albeit, leaning with their own normative stands.

A fundamental differentiation in India’s position, as opposed to China’s, lies in the fact that New Delhi acknowledges the value systems and norms that uphold the rules-based world order while simultaneously differing in the implementational mechanisms that drive these institutional settings. It seeks to reform rather than revise the existing model with a consensus-driven approach which is also much in line with its internal democratic model as against China’s alternative methods.

For India’s agenda, integration of the Global South evolves out of principles based on unbiased rules, accountability and most importantly through a democratic process that enables an equitable voice in matters that impact the whole of the Global South. India unlike China also finds itself much closer to the Global North in terms of bilateral engagements. This relationship between India and the West has importantly gained greater significance since China’s alternatives (such as the BRI) began taking shape. Its decision to join the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) along with three of the most developed countries (U.S., Japan and Australia) among other initiatives is a direct result of China’s growing influence in the region as well as internationally. These engagements also expand its ambit of opportunities where it can, through its unique position, call for reforms that can actually bring a meaningful change in the developing world’s global status by way of concessions that have long been awaited from the West.

Beijing’s growing influential approach is not as much a challenge for India and the North as much as it is an opportunity for them to set the existing house in order.

India, at present with its presidency of the G20 finds itself in the best position to seek the required reforms that it has been seeking for decades. Among these voices of reforming the multilateral institutional mechanism, is the call from India to reassess the functionality of lending to the developing world. Excessive debt burden sustained by the Global South due to unpaid debt during the pandemic has caused growth rates of the Global South to falter significantly.

New Delhi, which stands at the crossroads of the developing South and developed North is in the right position to utilize China’s advances to illustrate the strategic threat it poses not only for the north but also for regional powers that are concerned by China’s influence and thus seek the required reforms in the same domain. From debt restructuring for developing economies to financial lending by MDBs, reforms that integrate the developing world’s concerns need to be stressed and acted upon to showcase that India’s leadership actually inculcates substance.

Its leadership for the Global South should therefore begin from negotiating for debt restructuring under the G20’s Common Framework in order to aid countries in revising their debt repayment mechanism to bilateral creditors including to China which has become amongst the largest lender to the developing world. Apart from inviting countries from the Global South by providing them with a platform to seek debt restructuring, India’s presidency should also actively work towards enhancing the critical functions of the Common Framewotk such as convincing private lenders to join the process and delaying debt repayments for economically volatile countries. This is not only vital for countries that have induced a hefty debt burden over the past couple of years but is also an insight into how much the developing world has shifted to Chinese finances as an alternative to the existing unequal financial system.

These efforts would also aid in projecting New Delhi’s global vision as a leading power where integration into the existing order is possible through reforms for the Global South, unlike for China, where the developing world is an avenue for it to exhibit its alternatives that can possibly revise global governance.

India’s G20 presidency is therefore, more importantly an opportunity for New Delhi to project its role as a reformist power as well as put forth the Global South’s concerns in order to enhance the developing world’s global position. Its calls for pursuing a reform and action-oriented agenda as well as voicing the Global South is a step in the right direction which would also require concrete actions to be initiated in order to propose a better leadership role than that inculcated by Beijing at present.



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