Amidst many fault lines, India has pulled off a superb G20 Summit

Amidst many fault lines, India has pulled off a superb G20 Summit (ANI) (HT_PRINT)
Amidst many fault lines, India has pulled off a superb G20 Summit (ANI) (HT_PRINT)


  • India has at the same time wooed countries in Africa, drawn by yet wary of Chinese overtures backed by truckloads of money, made available, alas, as loans, rather than as grants

The 2023 New Delhi Summit of the G20 has been a splendid success. India demonstrated to visiting heads of state and other dignitaries that the country can organise a global event of such significance with the pomp, ceremony and attention to detail it deserves. But has substance matched style?

Only the naïve expect a gathering of heads of government to produce breakthrough solutions to world problems every time it assembles. It takes a crisis such as the Global Financial Crisis to precipitate ponderous deliberations into precipitate, coordinated action, such as infusion of liquidity, provision of swap lines to provide emergency access to foreign currency, institution of elevated capital adequacy norms for banks and extra, loss-absorbing buffers of capital for globally systemically important financial institutions, accompanied by periodic stress tests by banking regulators.

The world does not face that kind of a crisis. What it does face is a different, geopolitical crisis, of which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one facet, while intensifying American rivalry with China for global hegemony is another. In the face of this crisis, many expected the New Delhi summit to be unable to come up with a joint leaders’ declaration. It is indeed a minor triumph that sustained negotiations by Indian diplomats with the help of those from EU, Brazil and Indonesia managed to come up with language on Ukraine that everyone — including representatives of Russia and China, whose heads of state stayed away — could agree upon, to make the Delhi declaration possible, thus averting the confusion that followed the preceding Bali Summit of G20 in 2022 when the two countries later dissociated from the lines agreed, rendering that joint statement fraught.

Contentious lines on Ukraine have been averted by the Declaration’s tactic of locating these in references to UN resolutions that condemn Russia’s invasion and by letting leaders restate their national positions on the subject, thereby accommodating all shades of opinion on the matter.

The language on Ukraine, it was feared till the very last moment, would make it impossible to have a joint statement, which would have been a first in the history of the G20, raising doubts over its future. But by ensuring the summit produced a declaration against all odds, New Delhi secured its survival and the rotating presidency has been duly passed to Brazil.

India has at the same time wooed countries in Africa, drawn by yet wary of Chinese overtures backed by truckloads of money, made available, alas, as loans, rather than as grants. Those loans have now landed many countries in Africa and elsewhere in a debt trap. The Delhi Declaration, thus, sustains the pressure on China to restructure, if not forgive, developing country debt under the common framework outlined at an earlier G20 summit. China has been dragging its feet on the subject.

This scores twice, diplomatically: we champion indebted countries, and focus attention on Chinese inaction on this front. The formal induction of the African Union as a member of the G20, with India’s sponsorship, gives credence to India’s advocacy of the Global South in the G20 in which the European Union’s support proved of great help.  

The Declaration keeps up the pressure – to the extent joint statements from multilateral platforms can – on the global community to address the collective risk to human life posed by accelerating climate change. Climate technology, finance and resilient infrastructure find their place, even if carbon dioxide removal does not. A biofuel initiative has, however, to be tempered by the need to keep subsidised fertilizer and water out of its ambit, to prevent biofuels from consuming more energy than it supplies.

The Declaration’s focus on digital public infrastructure and renewable energy, accompanied by green hydrogen as the solution to renewable energy’s intermittency problem, lays the ground for raising collective global welfare, with Indian enterprises potentially playing a lead role in these areas. The focus on small modular reactors is welcome, too, as nuclear energy should play a vital role in increasing the share of carbon-free energy generation.

The Delhi Declaration calls for coordinated regulation of artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies. This is essential, even if the US-China rivalry raises potential hurdles in the path of such regulation.

India’s concerns on terror financing and money laundering find reflection in the Declaration, too. It is welcome, too, that the Declaration lays stress on respecting the human rights of migrants, even illegal ones, and on accommodating the imperatives of human diversity.

Action, though, is a different matter altogether. It is vital that countries try and act on the urgings of the G20, instead of retaining them as perennial prescriptions, as in the case of the 2009 Pittsburgh summit’s call to end fossil fuel subsidies, which has been repeated in the Delhi Declaration as well. 


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