The G20 summit in Indonesia’s Bali came at a time where the world has multiple burning fires in the form of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its global fallout, a serious climate crisis, North Korea’s increasingly concerning nuclear programme, and China’s growing global ambitions.
However, the summit also had its spotlight on India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had made it clear that his three-day-visit would see discussions on issues pertinent to India, such as reviving global growth, food and energy security, health, environment, and digital transformation.
The summit's motto, and the final definition, mainly outlined three areas of recovery and developemnt that have remained on India's list of challenges.
What did PM Modi say at G20? What did India's participation achieve?
Here's the lowdown.
Echoes of Modi's Take on Russia-Ukraine Conflict
India’s position on Ukraine has remained consistent since the beginning of the conflict: Reject hostilities, but don't take sides.
Time and again, India has articulated its position as one that is against the war between Russia and Ukraine, but has not held Moscow responsible for the invasion, neither has it altered policy on importing cheap Russian oil and coal.
The leaders’ declaration from the G20, while not directly attributing to any single country or leader, said:
“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy - constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks.”
India has spoken out against the war, has asked for immediate cession of violence and hostilities, but the language of the declaration and India’s policy on Russia, according to experts, indicates that it was not a part of the group that “strongly condemned the war.”
China is in the same boat. Like Modi, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping also voiced concern about the war at the G20 summit, but neither strayed from their defense of Moscow.
“There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions,” the communique said.
The Modi touch? An interesting note from the leaders’ declaration was, “Today’s era must not be of war,” which echoed PM Modi’s comments to Russian President Vladimir Putin a few months ago.
In September 2022, during a bilateral meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Smarkand, Modi referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and told Putin, “Now is not the time for war.”
Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra had spoken of India’s role in the summit both with respect to PM Modi’s intervention during working sessions and the negotiations behind the final document.
“India played a key role in the successful negotiations of the outcome document,” he said.
Kwatra also said that India’s approach was “constructive, cooperative, and in that consensus building,” across a range of issues that were discussed.
India’s Success Against Food Security
During a working session on food and energy security, PM Modi had cautioned leaders that the fertilizer problem of today could turn into tomorrow’ food crisis and pitched for a “stable” supply chain for food grains as well as manure.
He also claimed, during the address, that India ensured food security for all of its 1.3 billion citizens during the COVID pandemic, while supplying food grains to several other countries.
India has been rather successful in its journey from moving to a food-deficit nation to one with a food-surplus, at least on paper, and also address the growing challenges related to food security by creating resilient food systems in India.
The National Food Security Act, 2013 brings together the public distribution system, the Integrated Child Development Services, and the mid-day meal scheme.
G20 leaders promised coordinated action to address challenges of food security and praised the Black Sea grains initiative.
The communique committed to “taking urgent actions to save lives, prevent hunger and malnutrition, particularly to address the vulnerabilities of developing countries, and call for an accelerated transformation towards sustainable and resilient agriculture and food systems and supply chains.”
Non-Committal Energy Security Promises
For India, despite being aggressive in its approach on green energy options as it aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, the geo-political conditions due to Russia's invasion has led to severe supply chain constraints, increased energy prices, and sky-high inflation.
The G20 Bali’s agenda promoted a transfer to a cleaner, greener energy source to assure a brighter future for global citizens. The conference also focussed on energy affordability, clean and smart energy technology.
However, while the final communique mentions energy and energy security close to 40 times, the summit, which was set to focus on energy and food security, majorly revolved around geopolitics, to the Indonesians’ irritation.
“We are experiencing volatility in energy prices and markets and shortage/disruptions to energy supply. We underline the urgency to rapidly transform and diversify energy systems… We stress the importance of ensuring that global energy demand is matched by affordable energy supplies.”
But the communique failed to go beyond non-committal platitudes.
Moreover, the British government led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak approved a new scheme that will benefit Indian professionals desiring to work in the United Kingdom, just hours after Sunak met PM Narendra Modi at the G20 Summit, which was also their first-ever meeting. The scheme entails 3,000 visas every year for young Indian professionals to live and work in the United Kingdom for two years.
Modi also met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the sidelines of the summit, and the pair engaged in discussions to boost economic ties, defense collaborations and other shared areas of interest.
The PM met French President Emmanuel Macron and talked about boosting cooperation in defence, nuclear energy, and food security, while also holding bilateral talks with Italian PM Giorgia Meloni, Australian PM Anthony Albanese and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo officially transferred the G20 presidency to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Bali summit. India has been preparing to preside over the 2023 summit, including launching a logo for India's G20 presidency.
As the next chair of the G20, India's agenda will include multiple issues on inclusive global economic governance. India will seek to leave behind a legacy within the G20, that is, to be remembered as a nation that pushed for inclusivity in global economic growth.
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