India's G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant during the G20 curtain raiser press conference, in New Delhi.
It was India’s finest hour in international affairs as it brought the most economically powerful nations of the world together in a consensus on diverse and divisive issues ranging from the Ukraine war to green initiatives to try and save the planet from global warming caused by climate change. What seemed nearly impossible in the face of resistance from Russia and China swung into the realm of the possible by the softening of the tone on war and stressing on constructive areas in which cooperation could facilitate progress.
An ambitious set of goals has been documented and signed. The divisions may rear their heads again before the ink dries on the Delhi Declaration. But, in aiming for fundamental reforms in the way the world lives and consumes, this year’s G-20 summit has delivered a remarkable blueprint for renewable energy, especially innovation in green hydrogen as clean and clean energy, sustainable development, reforms in multilateral development banks and a digital public infrastructure to deliver services to large societies.
A just and durable peace in Ukraine may remain a pipe dream so long as the invader stays put even as the First World spends billions to prop up the defence of democracy effort. To leave it aside for the moment and concentrate on much else that could be deliberated upon saw India’s effective diplomacy at its best reconciling differences and divergent points of view.
The Delhi Leaders’ Declaration will symbolise India’s arrival as a global voice to be reckoned with even as G-20 expands into G-21 while including the African Union in a welcome play to increase inclusivity and diversity. The Global South will be obliged to India for promoting the expansion to bring into the fold a continent of natural riches while promising to address its development goals.
The US President, Joe Biden, and his team were content to sit back and let the Indian Prime Minister lead the way in shaping the summit’s approach towards a consensus. It was outside the formal G-20 meeting and through the hard negotiations behind the scenes that the US played its dynamic card towards proposing an alternative to China’s Belt & Road initiative in promising port and rail connectivity from India through the Middle East and on to Europe.
Notwithstanding all the contradictions, both internal in politically polarised India and outside in nations racked by war and civil strife, the world is a slightly better place for having agreed to act towards attempting to save itself, at least from a climate change disaster. The green agreements, including the biofuels initiative, can contribute to mitigating global warming, however difficult that task is going to be for humanity heading towards disaster with extreme weather events and natural calamities.
The role that India’s chief negotiators like the sherpa Amitabh Kant and G-20 coordinator Harsh Vardhan Shringla and their teams played was as important as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s contribution with his brand of active statecraft in winning over leaders for the consensus with his personal rapport helping shape the approach at a particularly difficult time. For once the noise of carping critics, most of all from India, could be entirely switched off as a genuine effort to bring so many powerful nations together was made and capped by the success of the consensus in the Delhi Declaration.