Biden heads to New Delhi for G20 amid rising global tensions

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US President Joe Biden looks on as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a meeting with senior officials and CEOs of American and Indian companies, in the East Room the White House in Washington, DC, on June 23, 2023. 

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President Joe Biden will travel to New Delhi, India to meet with the world’s largest economies at the Group of 20 summit and once again flex his muscles as the diplomat in chief.

Throughout his presidency, Biden has preached a gospel of diplomacy and multilateralism, assuring America’s friends and its rivals that rule of law and alliances can serve as a bulwark against the rise of autocracy.

“The United States’ commitment to the G20 hasn’t wavered and we hope this G20 summit will show that the world’s major economies can work together even in challenging times,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday.

The Group of 20 represents 85% of global gross domestic product, 75% of international trade and two-thirds of the world’s population. Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate change, the economy and delivering for developing countries will be top of mind for the president as he meets with other world leaders, Sullivan said.

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Biden nearly missed attending the event in person after his wife, first lady Jill Biden tested positive for Covid-19 over Labor Day weekend. The president will continue on to Hanoi, Vietnam on Sunday before traveling to Alaska to observe the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The leaders of two prominent members, Russia and China, will not be in attendance. Russian President Vladimir Putin will skip the summit for the second year in a row, as will Chinese President Xi Jinping. Both leaders are sending other officials in their absence.

This will be the first G20 summit a Chinese president has missed since its inaugural event in 2008; he attended virtually during the coronavirus pandemic. The conference has long been touted as a possible meeting point for Biden and Xi, who last met at Indonesia’s G20 summit in November. Biden said Sunday he was “disappointed” in Xi’s decision, but added he would “get to see him” without elaborating. Xi did attend the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa last month.

China has not stated why Xi will not attend, but host country India and China have deep tension stemming back to an incident in 2020 on their Himalayan border that resulted in 24 deaths.

Putin has not left Russia since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him in March for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Even without Russia’s leader at the summit, the country’s invasion of Ukraine will likely remain at the forefront of discussions.

Like last year, Russia’s war in Ukraine is likely to cause disagreement among members and complicate the signing of a joint statement, especially with Xi skipping. The group was only able to reach a consensus on a joint communique in Indonesia condemning the war with careful wording. Not doing so would mark the first time the group has not released a joint statement.

Sullivan said Biden will once again call for a peaceful resolution to the war.

“The reality is Russia’s illegal war has had devastating social and economic consequences and the poorest countries on the planet are bearing the brunt of that,” Sullivan said. “As he has done before, President Biden will call for a just and durable peace, one founded in respect for international law.”

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