India’s Presidency of G-20  has given voice  to Global South

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The Delhi G-20 FMM hosts experienced some disappointment following the failure of G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to come out with a joint communiqué.  Sharp differences between the Western powers and Russia-China combine had sprung over the Ukrainian conflict. They were supposedly to discuss ways to deal with falling economic growth, increasing inflation, lower demands for goods and services as well as increasing prices of food, fuel and fertilizers.

Hectic efforts of Indian diplomats did not yield a desired result at the Delhi FMM two days later to offset the fallout of the failure of Bangalore meeting.

However, notwithstanding the absence of a consensual resolution, it has to be noted that foreign ministers of the US, UK, Russia, China and France sat together face to face to present respective views on crucial issues facing the contemporary world like global warming, multilateralism, food and energy crisis, terrorism, and above all the chilling impact of the war in Ukraine. There were other high profile representatives from member countries whose views added value to the significance of the Delhi meet.

Normally, summits do not produce expeditious results because agreements have the plethora of accompanying technicalities which need to be processed in normal course. Things have to go through the mill.

 In recent years, India has been playing her cards carefully which has resulted in her enhanced visibility on international fora. Several leaders expect India to play a constructive role in reducing the severity of challenges with which the world is beset. Post-pandemic reconstruction is a formidable task before G-20.  In its capacity as the host, India had appealed for all members of the fractured Group of 20 to reach consensus on issues of particular concern to poorer countries even if the broader East-West split over Ukraine could not be resolved.  “The US Secretary of State tried to highlight the role of the US in addressing world crisis, the divide was palpable,” wrote the Mint of March 7. He demanded that Russia withdraw from Ukraine without delay.

The Indian External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar was forthright in assessing the situation and said, “There were divergences on the issue of war in Ukraine which we could not reconcile as various parties held different views. If we had a perfect meeting of minds on all issues, it would have been a collective strengthening of multilateralism, promoting food and energy security, climate change, gender issues and counterterrorism.”

It has to be recalled that after the finance ministers’ inability to come out with a consensus resolution because China and Russia both objected to a joint communiqué that retained language on the war in Ukraine drawn directly from last year’s G-20 leaders summit declaration in Indonesia, the cloud of disappointment fell on the Delhi FMM.

AP reported that second day’s talks had begun with a video address to the audience by Prime Minister Modi. He had urged them not to allow current tensions to destroy agreements that might be reached on food and energy security, climate change and debts.  Modi said, “We all have our positions and our perspectives on how these tensions should be resolved. We should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can. In a nod to fears that the increasingly bitter rift between the US and its allies on one side and Russian and China on the other appears likely to widen further, multilateralism is in crisis,” Prime Minister Modi said.

Before we evaluate India’s presidency of G-20, it is in fitness of things that we run through the press interview of the Indian Minister for External Affairs which he gave after the G-20 meeting. It has to be remembered that speaking at the G-20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “It is high time to reform the UN Security Council. It is in the UN Charter that every state must adhere to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any other state. This invasion (of Ukraine as per the West) reflects to the reaction to the war the west was preparing for many years and that is why it was arming the Ukrainian regime.”

Combining his assessment of the situation in the light of divergent opinions of two main groups, the Indian Minister for External Affairs expressed that the G-20 delegations came to an agreement on a very large number of issues including climate action, biodiversity, gender issues, new emerging technologies etc.  He said, “I want to put a percentage on how many issues there was a consensus. If we had had a perfect meeting of minds, we would have a joint communiqué. But there were divergences and these concerned the Ukraine conflict.”

Referring to foreign ministers unequivocally condemnation of terrorism, Jaishankar said, “20 Foreign Ministers urged developed countries to fulfill their financial commitments and were able to come to a consensus on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.” This is a subtle way of saying that the G-20 meeting has shown a clear divide in which the haves and have-nots have taken divergent position.

Secretary of State Blinken demanded that Moscow renew a deal to allow export of Ukrainian grain.“Russia has deliberately and systematically slowed its pace of inspections, creating a backlog of ships that could be delivering food to the world today,” Blinken said during his speech. He added that it was imperative the G-20 speak up on behalf of extending and expanding the grain initiative to strengthen food security for the most vulnerable.

It is amusing that Blinken is concerned about food difficulties of vulnerable (Europeans) but he ignores the suffering of ordinary Russians made to bear the brunt of sanctions imposed on Russia. Does Blinken think that the people he is caring for are humans and those who live in Russia are not?

 The significant take away from the FMM is that the Group of leading economies meeting in New Delhi expected the host (India) promote itself as a rising superpower while leveraging its position on the global stage to bridge the gap between the West and Russia. Experts expect India to be at the center of bitter global divisions, particularly over Russia’s war in Ukraine. But it is also an opportunity for the South Asian nation to position itself as the voice of the Global South and as a potential mediator between the West and Moscow.

In his remarks as the host of the meeting Prime Minister Modi infused the audience with a strong hope for the development and peace through the concerted efforts of G-20. His message was loud and clear. “No group can claim global leadership without listening to those most affected by its decisions. India’s G-20 Presidency has tried to give a voice to the Global South. We should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can,” he concluded.

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