New Delhi: In May 2023, the G7 summit will be held in Hiroshima, Japan. This year, Japan will invite India as the guest country. Indeed, this is not the first time for India to be invited by G7. India was invited when France was the G7 host in 2019.
India was invited to the G7 which was to be hosted by the US, though it was cancelled because of COVID-19 in 2020. When the UK was the host in 2021, India was invited. And when Germany was the host in 2022, India was invited. India looks like a permanent member of G7 as a guest country. Will India join G7 as a formal member? The view from the above historical record, there is a possibility in the near future. There are three reasons.
The first reason is the rising India's influence and responsibility to the world and the fact that the G7 cannot ignore India's opinion. So far, G7 is the most influential group of countries. This is especially important when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is losing influence.
Because the relationship between the US and China-Russia has been deteriorating, the UNSC is not able to make stronger decisions now.
For example, despite North Korea violating the rule and testing missiles, the UNSC cannot impose stronger sanctions against North Korea because China and Russia vetoed it. Therefore, instead of UNSC, G7 has contributed more. Especially, G7 has shown a high level of influence since Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
However, the influence of G7 has also been declining. In the 1980s, the GDP of the G7 countries shared nearly 60 per cent of the total GDP of the world. Now, it has declined to nearly 40 per cent.
Other than the influential countries of the G7, it is likely to further lose its influence in the future.
India could be a new member of G7. India stands third in the world when it comes to defence expenditure. India's GDP is similar to the UK, and higher than France, Italy, and Canada. Also, India is a democratic country, therefore, G7 invites India every year and wants to communicate with her.
Secondly, the world needs a responsible and great power like India, instead of China. Despite both China and India rising, the attitudes of the two countries are completely different.
In the South China Sea, China is competing for its territorial claim with several countries including the Philippines. The Philippines took the matter to the International court.
The International Court in 2016 refused China's claim but China ignored it and continued to build the artificial islands around the Philippines. In addition, China kept claiming that these islands were not for military purposes despite of deploying missiles and bombers there.
Such an attitude of China is challenging the current international law. China cannot be called a responsible "Super" power.
Compared to China, India is different.
In 2014, when Bangladesh took India to the International Court regarding a maritime Dispute With India, The International Court gave a verdict in Bangladesh's favour.
India's attitude was clearly great and responsible towards international rule. G7 countries do not want China to be a great power because it is not responsible.
Thirdly, the inclusion of India in the G7 reflects the importance of the Global South to the G7.
G7 focuses on the Global South because the US and China have been competing for their influence in the Global South countries. But this situation accelerated when Russia's aggression toward Ukraine started.
Despite G7 countries asking the international community to cooperate with the sanctions against Russia, a certain amount of Global South countries did not agree.
However, there is a traditional rift between G7 and Global South.
In June 2022, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar represented the mood in Global South by saying "Europe has to throw out of the mindset that Europe's problem is the world's problem, but the world's problem is not Europe's problem."
Therefore, G7 countries have started to persuade Global South by understanding Global South, recently, especially under Japan's presidency.
In April 2023, in the G7 foreign minister meeting, Japan set up many regional sessions including a special session for Africa, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Iran and the Middle East, Ukraine and a session for the Indo-Pacific.
This year, India is the G20 chair. The G20 has the same framework as the G7 but with thirteen other rising powers. Agreement in the G7 with some Global South countries could be a step toward the agreement of G20.
And because the total GDP of G20 reaches 85 per cent of the world. G20's decision could represent world decisions that include both developed countries and developing countries. Including India in the G7 is reflecting the opinion of the Global South and is an important step to be the decision of the world.
As mentioned above, India can be a member of G7 in the future. India's influence is growing enough to be the most influential multinational framework in the world politics like G7.
India's participation in the G7 proves that India is a responsible democratic great power but not a brutal authoritarian power like China. And India's participation in the G7 will contribute to Global South countries.
That is why India has been invited to the G7 every year since 2019.
Will India too become a formal member of G7? The decision relies on the Indian side.
Experts say that there is hesitation to be a member of the G7 because there it is possible that India could be a target of China's provocation if India joins G7.
In this case, India needs stronger defence capabilities and confidence based on the capabilities to deter and repel China's provocations. And G7 must support India more to deal with China's provocations.
Another expert pointed out that India hesitated to cooperate with G7 because India was a colony of these countries in the past and cannot trust these Western countries.
The door of G7 is opening step by step every year. What should India do? It is no doubt that India's participation in the G7 is a welcome move. But the final decision would be India's.
The author of this opinion piece is Dr Satoru Nagao, who is a Fellow (Non-Resident) at Hudson Institute.