India’s Unparalleled Global Outreach
By D.C. Pathak
The Preamble of G20 Delhi Declaration – singularly important for representing the unanimous voice of all the leaders participating in the Summit – goes beyond the motto ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’ as they pledged their commitment not only to ‘one earth, one family’ but to ‘one future’ as well and clearly recorded their endorsement of the ‘philosophy of living in harmony with our surrounding ecosystem’ and cooperation in determining the course for ‘global economic growth and stability’.
Announcing that ‘we will pursue development models that implement sustainable, inclusive and just transitions globally while leaving no one behind’, the joint statement is perhaps the best testimony that India’s G20 Presidency had become the anchor of the first-ever resolution of a world forum – cutting across the developed and developing countries – to work for universal welfare.
The global reach achieved by India through G20 for the fulfilment of a noble mission of humanity, is perhaps the biggest tribute to the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose credentials as the world counsel on issues of global peace and development, have been fully ratified at the Delhi Summit.
The Prime Minister was in direct touch with the Presidents of both the US and Russia on the eve of the Summit.
India’s rise as a global power in terms of its capacity to influence world opinion in the face of international and geopolitical differences on many issues stands vindicated and somewhere this is attributable to the ‘civilizational appeal’ of India so effectively garnered by Prime Minister Modi in the run-up to the G20 Summit.
The greatness of India’s ancient wisdom helped the process of all smaller concerns being subsumed by a higher humanitarian approach.
India must preserve this in the years ahead and be the thought leader in a world that had hitherto been preoccupied with material rivalries and the pursuit of political supremacy.
In keeping with its prime objective of promoting international economic cooperation, the Delhi Declaration predominantly devoted to measures that could, among other things, accelerate the full and effective implementation of the Agenda for Sustainable Development, urgently address climate challenges, promote steps that reduced the debt vulnerabilities in developing countries, work for digital transformation to facilitate inclusive growth and try to close gender gaps in all fields.
The G20 leaders explicitly declared that they would build a system that ‘better empowers countries to address global challenges, is human-centric and brings prosperity and well-being to humanity’.
A perusal of the Delhi Declaration draws attention to the brilliant drafting that produced it and the intellectual depth shown by the team that worked on it.
The profound character of the agenda for the future built on a strong humanitarian content – as indicated in the Declaration – left no scope for dissent as it created a win-win situation for all participants.
The test of the G20 Summit at Delhi was in the handling by India of current geopolitical issues arising out of the Ukraine-Russia military confrontation, impediments to trade and supply chains created by this conflict and the appearance of a new Cold War between the US and China in both economic and military spheres.
The Declaration recorded deep concerns of all participants over the immense ‘human suffering and the adverse impact’ of wars and conflicts around the world, acknowledged ‘national positions’ taken by the UN on the war in Ukraine, urged all states to abide by the Principles of the world body’s Charter, called for refraining from the threat or use of force to seek ‘territorial acquisition’ against the integrity, sovereignty or political independence of any state and declared that the threat of use of nuclear weapons was ‘in admissible’.
While reaffirming that the G20 was the premier forum for international economic cooperation and not the platform for resolving geopolitical and security issues it still made the point that the latter could have significant consequences for the global economy.
The Declaration highlighted the human suffering resulting from the war in Ukraine and its adverse impact on global food and energy security, supply chains and macro-financial stability and observed that it had ‘complicated the policy environment ‘for countries.
It however clearly acknowledged that ‘there were different views and assessments of the situation’.
The joint statement advocated for the peaceful resolution of conflicts through diplomacy and dialogue and gave an assurance that they would all unite to address the adverse impact of the Ukraine war on the global economy – favoring constructive initiatives for a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine.
The Declaration endorsed Prime Minister Modi’s stand that “today’s era must not be of war.’”
From India’s point of view, it was necessary that the Declaration made no mention of Russia in keeping with its policy on the Ukraine-Russia conflict and therefore a balanced treatment of the issue agreed upon by all participants of the Summit no doubt turned out to be a great success for India’s G20 Presidency.
India handled the geopolitical scene with strategic finesse.
The Declaration called on all states to follow the principles of international law including territorial integrity and sovereignty, adopt a humanitarian approach internationally and uphold the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability.
India’s belief in a multipolar world and its declared policy of building bilateral and multilateral relations based on mutual benefits without prejudicing the cause of world peace and universal economic growth found an expression and it also indirectly conveyed a message to China that India would be an active member of a forum like Quad to safeguard its interests in Indo-Pacific and derivatively in the Indian Ocean at large. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the joint statement of the Delhi Summit condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including those rooted in the name of religion or belief and warned that it constituted one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
It strongly condemned all terrorist acts against critical infrastructure and called for international cooperation to deny terrorist groups safe havens, freedom of operation and financial or political support. This clearly had the imprint of a hard-liner policy laid down by India’s National Security Advisor to counter cross-border terrorism and expose the proven role of Pakistan in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
The absence of President Putin and President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit – China and Russia were represented by the country’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister respectively – did not affect the integrity and impact of the unanimous Delhi Declaration backed as it was by the developed countries as well as the entire Global South.
India’s G20 Presidency acquired unprecedented weightage with the admission of the African Union as the new member of G20 on Prime Minister Modi’s initiative.
Russia was satisfied that it was not named in the context of the ‘war in Ukraine’ and that the Declaration acknowledged the differences of views that existed on the issue.
China had a similar stand and apparently wanted to be on the side of the South that had – according to the joint statement – been particularly impacted adversely by the economic fallout of the Ukraine-Russia military conflict and the Western sanctions imposed on Russia.
While maintaining its bilateral bonds with Russia, India has taken to further deepening its strategic friendship with the US – it is natural for the two largest democracies to be together in leading the democratic world against dictatorial regimes and for promoting their own economic advancement.
The Sino-Pak axis is active against India and its adjustment with Islamic radicals demonstrated by the give-and-take struck by these two countries with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, was further driving the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and UAE to the US camp.
A remarkable outcome of the G20 Presidency of India is the tripartite agreement between the US, Saudi Arabia, and India for building a transport corridor from India to Europe via West Asia that did somewhere counter the B&RI of China pursued by the latter to spread its political and economic hold in the world.
In a nutshell, India has under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi handled its Presidency of G20 on a note of strategic excellence and scored unprecedented geopolitical and economic gains for the country. Today, India stands tall in the comity of nations.
(Pathak is a former Director of India’s Intelligence Bureau.)