G20 summit turns New Delhi into a fortress

A tight security blanket has been imposed on the Indian capital as it prepares to host world leaders. Major disruptions to travel and business are expected

The summit will be hosted at the state-of-the-art Bharat Mandapam convention center at Pragati Maidan (Photo: DW)
The summit will be hosted at the state-of-the-art Bharat Mandapam convention center at Pragati Maidan (Photo: DW)


As the G20 summit kicks off in New Delhi this weekend, Indian authorities are pulling out all the stops to ensure security.

The summit will be hosted at the state-of-the-art Bharat Mandapam convention center at Pragati Maidan in central Delhi.

With guests including US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Chinese Premier Li Qiang and other global leaders, authorities are not taking any chances.

Approximately 130,000 security personnel will be deployed during the summit, including an 80,000-strong contingent from the Delhi police.

The G20 summit venue and hotels where the leaders stay will be cordoned off.

Trained commandos of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police armed with long-range weapons will also be positioned in vantage points.

Delhi's daily life disrupted

Schools, banks, business establishments and all government departments will remain shut as enhanced security measures come into place. Even food and e-commerce delivery companies will not be allowed to operate in areas adjoining the summit's venue.

Over a thousand flights will encounter disruptions through cancellations or adjustments during this period as authorities intend to keep airspace and terminals free of congestion.

Nearly 300 Delhi-bound trains are also likely to be affected, with passengers asked to deboard ahead of their destinations.

A slew of restrictive curbs will kick in from midnight Friday to ensure a smooth flow of traffic in the national capital during the event that formally kicks off on Saturday.

Road closures and diversions have already led to longer travel times than usual for average citizens.

"No heavy or medium goods vehicles, except those classified as essential or emergency, will be permitted to travel on the expressway towards Delhi," said Virender Vij, a deputy commissioner of police.

Possibility of protest?

Security agencies are preparing for all contingencies as protests have been seen during previous G20 summits in London, Toronto and Hamburg.

It is for this reason that checking and surveillance have been beefed up at major streets, government buildings and security installations during the summit.

"The venue site and its surrounding areas will be under gridlock especially in the controlled zone. We have sanitized the area and 100 police control room vans with quick reaction teams will tackle any untoward incidents during the G20 summit," a senior security official told DW.

Ahead of the summit, several dry runs and rehearsals have been conducted to ensure that equipment, fountains, lighting, LED panels and all emergency vehicles function without a snag.

Key parts of Delhi have already got a facelift as fountains, sculptures and summit logos decorate roundabouts, while lights adorn iconic installations like India Gate and Qutab Minar.

Huge cutouts and billboards of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also been installed at traffic intersections.

According to one estimate, 700,000 plants have been installed along with elaborate floral arrangements put up near the summit venue, hotels and other areas with many visitors.

Nine government agencies, from civic bodies to departments under the Ministry of Defense, have spent large sums on work ranging from horticulture improvement to G20 branding.

The capital is not new to hosting large international conferences, and has hosted major summits in the past, including the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summits in 1983, and the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in 2015.

G20 summit India's big event

However, the G20, which comprises the world's wealthiest industrialized nations and the most important emerging economies, carries a different significance.

What is more, India has taken over the G20 presidency amid tough times, with the world confronting a raft of geopolitical and economic crises.

With the climate crisis and the conflict in Ukraine casting a long shadow on the grouping's consensus-building efforts, India is trying to broker tangible multilateral outcomes.

"All permanent members of the UN Security Council are there, and so are all G7 members. India is keen to put its best foot forward and wants to cement its role as a major global player," Anil Wadhwa, a former Indian diplomat, told DW.

In an interview to a news agency ahead of the summit, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said New Delhi was hopeful on delivering a consensus-based G20 statement.

"We are India. We know how to handle the world. Believe me, especially in the last ten years, we have shown how we can handle the world," Jaishankar told news agency ANI.

Despite the absence of Russian President Valdimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the summit is important for Modi ahead of the 2024 general election as he will be keen to showcase himself as a strong world leader.

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