The G20 Summit: Balancing Economic, Political, and Religious Dynamics

The G20 Interfaith Forum was held in parallel with the G20 Summit in Tokyo, Japan in 2019

An annual gathering of the leaders of the largest economies in the world, the G20 Summit is a crucial platform for international economic collaboration and decision-making. The summit provides leaders with a chance to engage in dialogue and collaborate on matters such as commerce, monetary affairs, and growth. Expanding its mission, the G20 in recent times has also placed a growing emphasis on matters pertaining to climate change and sustainable development.

Although the G20 Summit primarily centres on economic and political concerns, religion has also been a topic of discussion during the meetings. Several G20 member countries possess robust religious customs and significant religious figures, and religious groups and movements have been actively promoting their interests on the international stage.

The G20 Interfaith Forum was held in parallel with the G20 Summit in Tokyo, Japan in 2019. The symposium convened individuals of diverse religious backgrounds, academic expertise, and practical experience from various global regions to deliberate on topics pertaining to the promotion of peace, protection of human rights, and mitigation of poverty. The forum also emphasized the significance of religion in advancing sustainable development and promoting environmental stewardship.

Furthermore, few member countries of the G20 have incorporated religious language and symbolism into their political rhetoric. For instance, Saudi Arabia which hosted the G20 Summit in 2020, has endeavoured to establish itself as a prominent figure in the Muslim community by highlighting its responsibility as the protector of Islam’s most sacred locations. Contemporary changes have been instituted to update the nation’s religious and societal customs.

The G20 Summit has the potential to generate both favourable and unfavourable religious implications. The forum provides a favourable platform for religious leaders and organisations to interact with political leaders regarding matters of shared interest. Enhanced mutual understanding and collaboration between the aforementioned spheres can ensue, accompanied by a heightened emphasis on religious viewpoints in the context of worldwide policy formulation.

The G20 Summit can exacerbate religious tensions and conflicts in a detrimental manner. The legitimization of human rights violations or discrimination against religious minorities can be interpreted through the inclusion of certain nations in the G20. Moreover, the prioritisation of economic growth and development by the G20 Summit may potentially undermine the protection of the environment and the promotion of social justice, both of which are significant issues for various religious communities.

The effects of the G20 Summit on religious communities may fluctuate depending on various factors, including the agenda items under consideration and the extent of involvement of religious organisations in the assembly. However, it is possible to identify certain overarching patterns. One of the outcomes of the G20 Summit for religious communities is an enhanced emphasis on concerns such as poverty mitigation, ecological conservation, and human rights. Several religious organisations have historically supported these matters, and the G20 can serve as a platform for amplifying these apprehensions. Furthermore, the G20 could contribute to the marginalisation of specific religious communities. Certain G20 nations exhibit policies or practises that result in discrimination against religious minorities or curtail their religious freedom. The prioritisation of economic growth and development by the G20 may at times result in the subordination of religious rights and social justice concerns.

The G20 Summit has the potential to impact religious communities by fostering interfaith dialogue and cooperation. The G20 Interfaith Forum and analogous endeavours offer a forum for religious leaders and organisations to identify shared perspectives on matters of worldwide import. Enhanced comprehension and collaboration among varied religious traditions can be facilitated, along with an increased recognition of religious diversity.

Despite the G20’s focus on economic and political matters, the importance of religion in individuals’ everyday existence may at times be overshadowed. The aforementioned phenomenon may lead to a discrepancy between religious groups and the overall global governance mechanism. Within a discourse primarily focused on economic and political matters, religious institutions and figures may encounter difficulties in effectively communicating their perspectives.

The summit could be a platform for certain factions to advance their political objectives, including issues related to national security, territorial disputes, and the situation of minority groups in India. One possible scenario could involve portraying India as a victim of terrorism and facing external pressures, potentially seeking international support for their stance.

In recent years, religious tourism has played a significant role in India’s economic expansion. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the Golden Temple, the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, and the Haji Ali Dargah are just a few of the notable religious landmarks in this region, which is home to followers of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Sikhism. The Swadesh Darshan and PRASAD programmes are only two of the many programmes the Indian government has put in place to encourage the growth of religious tourism. Religious tourism has a significant impact on the economy of India. As per the data provided by the Ministry of Tourism, India witnessed an influx of around 10 million international tourists in the year 2019, out of which nearly 30 percent of the visitors were observed to be undertaking a religious pilgrimage. Furthermore, India’s domestic religious tourism is widely favoured, as approximately 800 million domestic trips were undertaken in 2019. The aforementioned phenomenon has led to a noteworthy influx of income for the nation, as religious tourism constitutes roughly 30% of the overall tourism earnings.

The revival of the Chota Amarnath Yatra in the Bandipora area of Jammu and Kashmir stands as a remarkable and heartening development—a welcome step towards reuniting displaced Kashmiri Pandits with their ancestral homeland. This yatra, held on 31 August 2023, marks a historic milestone that has not only rekindled the sacred tradition but has also demonstrated the profound essence of religious harmony and the enduring spirit of Kashmiriyat.

The Chota Amarnath Yatra witnessed a heartwarming display of communal unity as local Muslims extended a warm and sincere welcome to the yatris on this historic occasion. This gesture of goodwill and hospitality transcends religious boundaries, illustrating the age-old bond between different communities in the region. It serves as a powerful testament to the fact that the fabric of Kashmiri society remains tightly woven together, driven by shared values and a deep-rooted sense of brotherhood.

The journey through the picturesque landscapes of Kashmir during the Chota Amarnath Yatra on this significant date presented a captivating panorama of the region’s natural beauty. The serene Wular Lake, lush greenery, and the majestic Himalayan backdrop formed a breathtaking backdrop for the spiritual pilgrimage. This harmonious blend of nature’s grandeur and religious devotion created a deeply spiritual and blessed atmosphere.

The revival of the Chota Amarnath Yatra on 31 August 2023 not only symbolizes the return of a cherished tradition but also signifies the resurgence of peaceful coexistence and interfaith understanding in the region. It highlights India’s commitment to fostering religious harmony and underscores the nation’s rich tapestry of diversity and unity. As a shining example of communal amity and the revival of a sacred tradition, the Chota Amarnath Yatra serves as a compelling narrative that India can proudly showcase at the G20 summit, portraying the country’s dedication to promoting peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance.

The G20 summit has both positive and negative effects for India’s religious tourism sector. The summit offers India a good opportunity to promote its rich cultural and religious heritage to a worldwide audience, possibly causing a rise in tourism. The summit’s results, however, may result in tighter security measures, which would make it harder for people to visit particular holy sites and raise costs for products and services. Furthermore, the government has made investments towards improving the infrastructure and connectivity of said locations, thereby increasing their accessibility to tourists.

The G20 Interfaith Forum, for instance, may be widened to include a wider spectrum of participants, such civil society organisations, human rights activists, and academic institutions. The event might concentrate on subjects including the defence of minority rights, the significance of interfaith collaboration and discussion, and the role of religion in promoting peace and resolving disputes. The G20 Summit in 2023 might also encourage social and religious transformation in India by using its economic and political clout. The G20 countries have the capacity to affect other countries’ policies and practises since they together represent a sizeable portion of the world’s economic production and commerce.

The G20 Summit in 2023 has the potential to make a substantial contribution to advancing social justice and human rights in India and beyond, as well as tolerance, respect, and understanding among various religious and cultural groups. The G20 can help create a more inclusive and equitable world where all people and communities are valued and respected through fostering awareness, conversation, collaboration, and reform. Achieving a more inclusive and equitable global community necessitates the attainment of a delicate equilibrium among economic and political considerations, religious viewpoints, and matters of social justice by the G20.

Peerzada Muneer, Researcher, Comparative Religions and Civilizations

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