Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | G-20 Summit | The big wins and the takeaways

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | G-20 Summit | The big wins and the takeaways

In this episode of Worldview, we look at all that the G20 Summit in India was able to achieve- the big wins, the spotlight, the shade and the seven big takeaways.  

Let’s just tell you a bit about each 

1.     A joint declaration- this was the most important success of the Summit- with 83 paragraphs in all over 32 pages, with about 5 pages of annexures.  

Thus far there had been close to 200 G20 meetings in 60 cities across the country, and so far, not even one of those meetings had been able to put out a joint statement- ending instead with a Chair’s Summary or an outcome document. We will tell you in a bit how this was achieved. But what’s important to remember is that no G20 thus far has failed to put out a joint declaration, and India ensure that record is kept- and skilful negotiations by India’s Sherpa team and officials on this Summit, have actually made it much easier for the next summit in Brazil. Whats also significant is that the Summit statement was declared as a win by both sides 

2.     How was this achieved? 

 G-20 has been broadly divided on the Ukraine conflict with 

-G-7 countries, European Union and American Allies Australia and South Korea on one side- that wanted tough references to Russia as an aggressor, and no reference to sanctions 

-Russia and China combine on the other side- that was opposed to any references of Russia, and the war itself, and wanted references to western sanctions 

-The countries in the middle- India, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkiye- Significantly all members or observers of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)- that broadly criticise the war, but don’t join sanctions 

Most significant were the 8 paragraphs in the Joint statement on pages 5 and 6 that pertained to the Ukraine War. Significantly, and especially compared with the Bali Statement

1. The paragraph wasn’t titled Geopolitical Issues or Ukraine, but “For the Planet, People, Peace and Prosperity”

2 It didn’t directly refer to Russia as an aggressor in the Ukraine war, although it referenced the UNGA resolutions that did 

3 It recognised that the G20 is not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues, however that the conflict can have significant consequences for the global economy 

4. It adds that in line with the UN Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state

 5. It doesn’t refer directly to sanctions by the west, but to “negative added impacts” of the war

6.  The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. 

7. It also adds a paragraph on reviving the Black Sea Grain Initiative, that was lapsed in July this year- giving Russia more access to the SWIFT financial system despite Western sanctions, and Ukraine grain and oil exports to be sent out despite the Russian blockade. 

Let me just show you quickly what they did- talks went into an impasse a day before the G20 summit, this is the proposal that India Indonesia Brazil and South Africa gave in- we reported on it exclusively at The Hindu, and as you can see, it has been brought into the G20 declaration, word for word.

Moving on to the other achievements- where there wasn’t always agreement: 

3.     African Union membership: While this is a long pending demand of the 55 nation AU, India lead the push to bring in the AU, the second regional organisation that is a member of G20 after the EU. This will significantly alter the composition of the G20, and could pave the way for others like CELAC and ASEAN to join as well. 

4.     On Climate change, the outcomes were a mixed bag- while the statement committed to tripling renewable energy by 2030 and spelt out the need for nearly 10 trillion dollars in climate financing for the developing countries, it couldn’t record an agreement on phasing out coal or fossil fuels, and didn’t set new ambitious deadlines for net zero ambitions 

5.     Next was the launch of a bio-fuel alliance, something both India and Brazil have been working on, essentially to make ethanol and other bio fuels a mandatory part of the global fuel mix. The GBA is made up of India, the US, Brazil, Argentina, Bangladesh, Italy, Mauritius, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates, with Canada and Singapore as observers 

6.     On the sidelines of the meeting was what is called a game changer plan for an India-Middle East Infrastructure Corridor or (IMEC) of 8000 kms, that would see a shipping route from India to Dubai, a rail corridor across Middle eastern countries from Oman and UAE to Saudi and even possibly Israel, and then onto Europe and even UK, billed as an answer to the Chinese BRI. While the plan is ambitious, it is at present an MoU, and questions that remain to be answered are who will fund the rail line, whether the ship-rail-ship-rail route would prove as effective as current shipping routes through, and how long will the corridor take to build. 

7.     Finally- PM Modi has proposed a Review meeting of G20 objectives in November this year, before India formally hands over to Brazil. 

While diplomacy is never a zero-sum game of winners and losers, let’s just tell you who got the glory and stood in the spotlight, and took some shade: 

1. India- Indian diplomacy, including PM Modi’s outreach to leaders ensured that all G20 countries had a stake in the success of the Indian Presidency 

2. Russia- Russia has definitely gained from the Statement, that erases blame to Russia for the war, even though European leaders claimed Russia was isolated. 

3. Multilateralism- The fact that all countries were willing to compromise in order to forge a G20 declaration- given many feared the absence of a statement would have been the end of the G20 one of the only forums other than the UNSC where both sides of the geopolitical divide are represented. Some fear that if G20 disappears, groups like the now 11 member BRICS, and the G7, European Union and allies would divide the world further

 4. Global South- The voice of the Global South has been amplified in the G20 statement and outcomes, and need to give developing world issues a priority, especially with African Union inside the G20 now. 

5. G20 Process: India’s push to democratise and popularise the G20, take it to other cities, make it more about local culture and flavours will endure, although other countries have made it clear they will not spend the same amount that India has. 

On the shade side: 

1. China: By skipping the Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping missed being a major part of the proceedings, and China was absent from important initiatives like inducting the AU and the biofuel alliance 

2. Western alliance- Ukraine was the first to criticise the G20 declaration as “nothing to be proud of”, and each of the leaders, including Biden, Trudeau, Macron, Scholz etc took heat from their media on what papers called a  “climbdown” and even a “sellout” 

3. Mr. Trudeau himself came in for much unflattering commentary- as he skipped many of the G20 meetings, and the conversations with PM Modi showed both as quite uncomfortable- which ended with both sides airing their differences over Khalistan issue for India and the issue of foreign interference for Canada. Making matters worse, Mr. Trudeau plane developed technical issues and he was not able to take off from Delhi for 2 days.

 4. Visiting media was also critical of the fact that press access at the G20 was limited and they also commented on the fact that only PM Modi’s billboards dotted the roads and the G20 venue, without any photos of other leaders 

WV Take

There is no taking away from India’s G20 success, which has left an indelible mark on both the outcomes and the G20 process itself. What is important is that the world preserve this moment of consensus and build on it to bring the most pressing conflicts and resulting sanctions to an end at the earliest. India’s push for multilateralism and a multipolar world, and its adherence to a middle path that ultimately won it this major diplomatic moment. 

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