India Manages A Diplomatic Triumph
How G20 Managed to Forge Consensus Amidst Ukraine Crisis
The recent G20 summit held in New Delhi marked a significant diplomatic achievement for India, as it successfully brokered a joint declaration that navigated the complex and divisive issue of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The resulting declaration, which carefully avoided direct criticism of Russia, managed to gain unanimous support from all G20 member nations, a feat that seemed improbable just days before the summit. This diplomatic success highlights India’s growing role as a mediator on the global stage and sheds light on the intricate dynamics at play during the summit.
The Divisive Issue of Ukraine
At the heart of the G20 summit’s challenges was the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The previous G20 declaration, issued in Bali the year before, had explicitly referred to “aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.” This strong language had met with objections from some members, setting the stage for a contentious discussion during the New Delhi summit.
The West, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, was determined to maintain a stance condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Russia, in turn, signaled its reluctance to agree to a statement that placed blame squarely on its shoulders for the conflict. Bridging this divide required careful diplomacy and a willingness to find common ground.
India Takes Unique Position
India’s role as the host of the G20 summit and its relationships with both Moscow and Western capitals placed it in a unique position to facilitate consensus. Bharat’s foreign policy has long emphasized a multi-alignment approach, seeking to maintain cordial relations with a diverse range of nations. This approach served as a foundation for India’s mediation efforts at the summit.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other foreign dignitaries to the summit. This gesture underscored India’s commitment to fostering dialogue and cooperation among nations with differing perspectives on global issues.
The West’s Interest in India’s SuccessBeyond India’s diplomatic finesse, several geopolitical factors contributed to the West’s willingness to help India forge a consensus. One such factor was the expansion of the BRICS group, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. During the BRICS annual summit in August, these countries decided to include six new members: Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Notably, these new members have close ties with China, a development that raised concerns in the West.
The West has been vigilant about China’s growing influence, particularly in the developing world. Western powers are wary of China’s efforts to establish an alternative international order that may not align with Western interests. India, perceived as a counterweight to China’s influence, was seen as an essential partner for the West in maintaining global stability and balance.
Balancing Act for India
For India, orchestrating a successful G20 summit meant striking a delicate balance between the interests of various parties. The main sticking point was the language used to address the Ukraine conflict. The West sought strong language condemning Russia, while Russia insisted on a more neutral tone.
In the end, the declaration’s language managed to satisfy both Russia and Western nations. While it refrained from placing blame solely on Russia for the war, it acknowledged the “human suffering and adverse repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine on global food and energy security.” This nuanced approach allowed leaders from the UK, the US, and France to endorse the declaration, albeit with different interpretations.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted the declaration’s “strong language” regarding the impact of the war on food prices and food security, while Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov labeled the summit a “milestone.” However, Ukraine expressed disappointment with the G20’s failure to address its concerns, highlighting the challenging nature of diplomacy in the face of complex geopolitical issues.
The Debt Crisis and Developing Nations
Another pressing issue on the G20 agenda was the debt crisis facing many developing countries. These nations have consistently argued that affluent countries should increase their support to help their economies recover from the pandemic and cope with the added challenges posed by the Ukraine conflict. Notably, the World Bank had reported that the world’s poorest countries owed $62 billion in annual debt service to creditors, with a significant portion owed to China.
China’s lending practices had drawn criticism from Western officials, who characterized them as predatory. However, the declaration avoided direct or indirect references to China in the context of the debt crisis, given China’s alignment with Russia. Instead, it called upon G20 nations to intensify their implementation of the common framework established in 2020 to assist vulnerable nations.
Renewable Energy and Emission Goals
The G20 leaders did agree on tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, a significant step toward addressing climate change. However, the declaration did not set ambitious targets for emission reductions, despite the fact that G20 nations collectively account for nearly 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Crucially, the declaration did not mention specific targets for reducing crude oil use but focused on phasing out coal. This approach aimed to satisfy major crude oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia. It also resonated with India and China, which had expressed reservations about Western-imposed emission reduction targets they considered unrealistic.
The Inclusion of the African Union As Proposed By India
One topic that garnered unanimous support even before the summit was the inclusion of the African Union into the G20. This development aligned with India’s broader objective of providing greater representation to Global South developing nations on global platforms. The inclusion of new members and the integration of the African Union further bolstered India’s push to empower the developing world in international decision-making processes.
Challenges and Compromises
Delhi’s efforts to build consensus, while commendable, necessitated some compromises in the final declaration. Given that it had to be a consensus document, certain language used in the declaration was intentionally muted in specific areas to ensure unity among member nations. The complexity of the geopolitical landscape and varying national interests required a diplomatic balancing act.
In conclusion, the G20 summit in New Delhi showcased India’s diplomatic prowess in navigating complex global issues. By brokering a joint declaration that addressed the Ukraine crisis without alienating any party, India demonstrated its ability to mediate effectively on the world stage. While challenges persist, and compromises were made, the summit ultimately served as a platform for dialogue and cooperation among nations with divergent views, illustrating the potential for diplomatic solutions even in the most contentious of global issues. India’s role in this diplomatic triumph underscores its growing influence and significance in the international arena.