The Delhi Declaration

Finally the Modi brigade heaved an audible sigh of relief as the G20 gathering in New Delhi produced a consensus declaration without duelling on the Russia-Ukraine war, notwithstanding the West’s insistence that it condemns Russia in the strongest terms. Some people were too eager to expel Russia from G20 for which, however, there is no provision. The G20 members expressed concern over the escalating Ukraine crisis without directly condemning Russia, called for a comprehensive, just and durable peace in the embattled nation. Last time they failed to reach a consensus in Bali. The ground reality in Ukraine cannot be changed by issuing vague statements. The contradiction between Russia and Ukraine is antagonistic and it cannot be resolved without using force. The notable absentees in the Delhi conclave were Russian president Putin and Chinese president Xi. For one thing Xi has attended every G20 summit since coming to power except one in Rome in 2021, amid Covid-19 pandemic, when he joined by video link. Xi’s G20 absence shows among other things, China ‘worried’ about India. The Russian side was represented by their foreign minister Lavrov. Ahead of Lavrov’s arrival in India which is now called Bharat at the official venue, the Russian foreign ministry released a statement saying that Moscow was working “with all G20 countries” to prevent attempts to explain the world’s humanitarian and economic problems solely through the conflict in Ukraine. For all practical purposes Ukraine didn’t stand in the way of an agreement signed by all participants. Svetlana Lukash, Russia’s Sherpa in the G20 said that the negotiations on the Ukraine issue were very complicated, but the collective position of the BRICS countries worked. The Declaration took note of the position Russia and China had adopted from the start of the negotiations for the New Delhi summit that the G20 grouping is not a platform for resolving geo-political and security problems. With the next two hosts, South Africa and Brazil, sharing a similar inclination and global perspective like India, the G20 summit might continue functioning smoothly, even if thornier international issues, including the Ukraine conflict remain beyond its capacity to address. After the conclusion of the summit Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov looked happy that there was no condemnation of Russia in the Declaration document. He dubbed it as a victory of the Global South.

Perhaps the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was the most disappointed person at the meet as he would cry himself hoarse about how ‘climate crisis is spiralling out of control’. He emphasised in no uncertain terms that ‘together, G20 countries are responsible for 80 percent of global emissions’. He proposed a deal to be called ‘Climate Security Pact’ that would see big emitters make more efforts to cut emissions and ‘wealthier countries support emerging economies to achieve this”. ‘Half Measures’ won’t avert climate disaster, UN chief warned. But G20 leaders had little time to listen to what the UN Secretary General was saying because all were busy to clinch business deals. Climate was not on their agenda. For one thing G20 accounts for 93 percent of global operating coal power plants and 88 percent of new unabated coal-fired plants. The Declaration couched in beautiful language is at worst a rhetoric, having very little practical application in practice when it is the question of climate catastrophe.

After assuming presidency of the bloc on December 1, 2022, India held around 200 meetings related to G20 across the country on a range of its priority areas. The G20 member countries represent around 85 percent of the global GDP, over 75 percent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population. So the participants were more interested in promoting their national business interests.

India, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the European Union announced a ‘historic’ agreement to launch a mega India-Middle East-Europe shipping and railway connectivity corridor. At a time when America is trying to curtail China’s dominance in global economy this might be an answer to China’s ambitious ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ project while Modi’s launch of Global Bio-fuel Alliance was interpreted as a counter measure to China’s electric car, rather battery industry. This way or that it was business that dominated the much publicised proceedings of G20.

African Union has been inducted as a new permanent member of the G20. The Union is headquartered in Ethiopia and collectively has a GDP of $3 trillion with some 1.4 billion people. The bloc has 55 members, although six have been suspended in light of military coups. Again business matters.       


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Vol 56, No. 13, Sep 24 - 30, 2023