The G-20 Summit in New Delhi, India – whose main theme was “One Earth, One Family, One Future” – was the focal point of diplomacy last week. Notably missing Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Summit could not have produced a joint declaration for the first time.
Such a development would have been a huge failure for India, which strives to become the voice of the Global South, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As a journalist covering President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s trip, I witnessed how the Indian leader turned the G-20 Summit into a part of his re-election campaign. Specifically, his pictures were on billboards everywhere.
In addition to facilitating international economic cooperation, G-20 Summits witness geopolitical competition. That’s why the United States and other Western nations did not let India, which they support to contain China, fail to produce a joint declaration. Obviously, Indian diplomats did a good job as well.
Ultimately, the African Union (AU) became a permanent member – just like the European Union. The joint declaration did not openly condemn Russia for invading Ukraine but made a reference to U.N. resolutions. In addition to stressing the importance of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, it criticized Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons. Moreover, the G-20 thanked Türkiye for its work on the Black Sea grain corridor and urged Russia and Ukraine to facilitate the delivery of grains, foodstuff and fertilizers without further delay.
BRI takes center stage
Another major takeaway from the New Delhi Summit was the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). Widely viewed as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the maritime and land corridor reflects an effort by the West, starting with the U.S., to contain Beijing. It remains unclear, however, which country will invest how much in the project.
On the flight back from New Delhi, President Erdoğan outlined his administration’s take on IMEC as follows: “We closely monitor developments regarding all corridors worldwide due to our geostrategic location. China made progress vis-a-vis the BRI and it continues to make progress. As you know, we have made some progress over China’s steps. Many things, including the Marmaray, fit into that project. There can be no corridor without Türkiye. Türkiye is a major production and trade hub. The most suitable path from the East to the West must go through Türkiye. In this sense, we attach great importance to the steps that the Gulf has taken with us. We are talking about a corridor that leads to Europe via Iraq, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Türkiye.”
The Turkish president’s remarks show Ankara’s position amid great power competition. Türkiye sees multipolarity as a fact. It criticizes the existing international system and passionately advocates U.N. reform. At the same time, the country disapproves of tensions between the “Global North” and the “Global South” – just like great power competition. Preserving its strategic autonomy, Türkiye cooperates with large and middle-sized countries based on the win-win principle. That’s why Erdoğan’s leader-to-leader diplomacy successfully facilitated the grain deal.
Erdoğan, el-Sissi meeting
President Erdoğan notably pointed out that many leaders had asked him to keep working on the grain corridor at the G-20 Summit and added that he was already working on increasing the amount of grain to be shipped to African nations. It was also noteworthy that he discussed the possibility of building Türkiye’s third nuclear power plant with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol – just like his comments on the country’s ambition to become an energy hub.
Last but not least, the Turkish leader’s remarks on his meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, attested to his commitment to elevating the normalization process between Ankara and Cairo to the level of close cooperation by doubling the trade volume, reviving the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council and working together on regional issues.
It is entirely possible for normalization with Egypt to lead to a strategic partnership. The cases of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia immediately come to mind. As the international balance of power shifts at an increasing pace, I would argue that Cairo needs to act fast.