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The International Convention Centre 'Bharat Mandapam' is the venue for the upcoming G20 Summit scheduled to be held next month in New Delhi on August 31.SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

For the first time in history, India is set to host the G20 summit. More than 25 world leaders will convene in New Delhi from Sept. 9 to 10 to discuss economic stability, climate change and, potentially, Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The summit will be a chance for India to show its growth as a major economic player on the global stage, as well as position itself as a potential replacement for China on trade, manufacturing and more for Western nations. This year’s conference is said to focus on “a pro-planet approach” and the theme is “One Earth, One Family, One Future.”

Who is attending? Who is skipping out? Which issues are at stake? Here’s what you need to know about the two-day leaders’ summit.

What is the G20 summit?

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A man rides past an illuminated hoarding with the G20 logo displayed along a street in New Delhi on August 29, 2023.ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images

The Group of Twenty (G20) was founded in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. It started as an informal forum for finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s biggest economies to discuss international economic and financial stability. Heads of states and government only started to attend in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007.

The G20 comprises 19 countries – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, United Kingdom, and the United States – and the European Union. Its members represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world’s population.

The G20 doesn’t have a permanent secretariat. Instead, the presidency rotates every year among its members and hosts are responsible for preparing the leaders’ summit along with organizing a series of meetings that advance the group’s work throughout the year.

What is this year’s theme?

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Moon is pictured above a G20 logo installed on a pedestrian bridge in front of the main venue of the summit in New Delhi, India.ADNAN ABIDI/Reuters

The G20 summit is held annually, and is a culmination of all the meetings held throughout the year among ministers and senior officials. Initially, the agenda of the leaders’ summit focused on broad macroeconomic issues. It has since expanded to include trade, climate change, sustainable development, health, agriculture, energy, environment, climate change, and anti-corruption.

At Delhi’s G20 summit, a ‘scramble for India’ and fears that Canada may miss an opportunity are top of mind

The theme of this year’s two-day summit is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth, One Family, One Future.” The theme is taken from the Maha Upanishad, an ancient Sanskrit text, and “affirms the value of all life – human, animal, plant, and microorganisms – and their interconnectedness on the planet Earth and in the wider universe,” according to the official G20 website. This year’s theme will have a focus on environmental sustainability.

Who is attending the G20 summit?

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hold a press conference at last year's G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.Leon Neal/The Associated Press

The heads of state and government along with official delegates from each member country have been invited to attend the 18th annual summit in New Delhi. This year’s special invitees include the heads of state or government in Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and United Arab Emirates.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud are all expected to attend the summit.

Who is skipping the G20 summit?

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President of China Xi Jinping attends a session during the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the New Delhi summit, the office of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed after a phone call between the two world leaders. Instead, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also likely to skip a summit of G20 leaders, according to reports from Reuters. Instead, Premier Li Qiang is expected to represent Beijing at the meeting in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was not invited as an observer nation – and CBC reports that Prime Minister Trudeau is not happy that Ukraine was excluded. “I will be at the G20 in a week and I am disappointed that you won’t be included,” he told Zelensky during a telephone conversation on Thursday.

What are the issues at stake?

India’s growth as a global economic leader

India is officially the most populous country in the world, having overtaken China this year. Its economy is on track to surpass Japan’s by the end of the decade. By then, India’s GDP is expected to have more than doubled, from US$3.5-trillion to US$7.5-trillion.

When leaders of the G20 countries gather in New Delhi next week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have the perfect opportunity to sell this success story to a global audience, reports James Griffiths.

India dreams of superpower status, but climate change threatens new nightmares

The summit will also underline India’s growing clout as a geopolitical player, courted by the West as a potential counterbalance to China, even as Mr. Modi stakes out a largely independent foreign policy that has seen New Delhi remain close to Russia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky give a press conference on August 24, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine.Alexey Furman/Getty Images

India has been reluctant to discuss the issue in other G20 events this year, and declined requests from countries like Canada to have Ukraine’s Mr. Zelensky attend the summit. India also does not want the bloc to discuss sanctions on Russia and is pressing to avoid using the word “war” in any communiqué, according to a Reuters report.

In July, India’s Sherpa Amitabh Kant said in an interview that brokering peace between Russia and Ukraine is beyond the remit of the G20 and should be instead handled by the United Nations and bilateral negotiations: “Our view is that G20 is an economic forum, not a forum to discuss security issues.”

The Liberals have said that Mr. Trudeau will advocate for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine at the G20 summit, yet many members have opted against criticizing Moscow.

China and India’s border dispute

China and India are embroiled in a three-year military standoff along their shared border. The border, dubbed the “Line of Actual Control,” separates Chinese and Indian-held territories – from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety.

The disputed boundary has led to a three-year standoff between tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Ladakh area. A clash three years ago in the region killed 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese.

Last week, Mr. Modi informally spoke to China’s President Xi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, highlighting New Delhi’s concerns about their unresolved border issues. India’s foreign ministry said the two leaders agreed to intensify efforts to de-escalate tensions at the disputed border and bring home thousands of their troops deployed there.

Rohingya in India

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Rahima Kato, a Rohingya woman, displays identity cards of her family members at their makeshift camp on the outskirts of Jammu, India, on March 9, 2021.Channi Anand/The Canadian Press

Many members of the Rohingya community fled to India after the Myanmar military burned its way through the state of Rakhine in 2017, targeting the predominantly Muslim minority. Aid groups estimate there are some 40,000 Rohingya in India, but they lack protection as refugees or asylum seekers.

Rohingya in India face limits on their movement, access to education, health and legal services, and formal employment. But India, unlike most other countries in South Asia, is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which creates an obligation under international law to protect people seeking asylum. Many are calling on the G20 host country to do more, reports James Griffiths.

Why does it matter to Canada?

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India on February 23, 2018.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Mr. Trudeau is headed to Indonesia, Singapore and India as part of the tour involving the G20 leaders’ summit. The trip will have a focus on economic ties in the booming regions of Southeast Asia and on Ottawa’s Indo-Pacific strategy, as Canada seeks alternatives to a rising China.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy identifies New Delhi as a “critical partner,” promising to increase economic ties and security co-operation. But Mr. Modi’s relationship with Mr. Trudeau is said to be strained, part of wider diplomatic tensions between Ottawa and New Delhi.

Meanwhile, Canada currently accounts for 0.5 per cent of total foreign direct investment in India, according to government statistics. Canada’s Minister of International Trade Mary Ng has said the current level of trade is “just not good enough,” while Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said the relationship has been “one of lost opportunities.”

With files from James Griffiths, Reuters and The Canadian Press

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