In the realm of global politics, India has recently emerged as an effective mediator, managing to unite divergent perspectives on significant international conflicts, as evidenced by the recent G20 joint declaration. This diplomatic victory was no small feat, given the extreme discord within the group over Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine.
Initially, the prospect for agreement on a joint statement in Delhi seemed remote. However, the final declaration managed to receive unanimous approval from all the participants, despite their sharply contrasting views on the Ukraine situation. Crucially, this included major nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China.
To understand how this was achieved, it’s informative to scrutinize both the intricate wording of the declaration and certain geopolitical developments preceding the summit. Notably, a significant shift occurred during the Brics group’s annual summit, where the nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa elected to augment their ranks with six newcomers – Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – all of whom share close relations with China.
Though not directly influencing the outcome of the G20 summit, this expansion underscored the growing influence of China around the globe, predominantly within the developing world. Unsurprisingly, this expansion has engendered caution in the West.
Notwithstanding the differing views on global politics, there’s one common thread that knits the West and India– an intent to minimise the influence of China. Moreover, given the positioning of India as a counterbalance to China, the West would invariably like to prevent Delhi’s leadership from concluding without a unified declaration.
Due to this political need, the West was willing to support India in creating this consensus. An impasse did exist on the Ukraine conflict, which necessitated a breakthrough. Foreshadowing this outcome, India appears to have been the ideal negotiator, given its amicable ties with both Moscow and the West.
A point of contention had been the characterisation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Predictably, the West, particularly the United States, desired language that semi-confrontationally dubbed Russia’s behaviour as aggression against Ukraine. Conversely, Russia would not accept a joint declaration accusing it of instigating the war. A careful balancing act was maintained, with an ambiguous language choice that placated both sides.
Concerning the Ukrainian conflict, the Delhi declaration took a softer stance compared to previous positions, declining to directly accuse Russia of initiating the war. It instead emphasised the human suffering and the detrimental impact of the conflict on global food and energy security. This nuance allowed both the West and Russia to interpret the declaration to their satisfaction while still maintaining a united front.
However, not everyone was content with the agreement. Ukraine, notable for its absence at the summit, voiced its dissatisfaction with the agreement, arguing the G20 had little to celebrate.
The summit also addressed the repercussions felt by developing nations, primarily the lingering debt crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and the recent war. These nations appeal for affluent countries to further assist their economies. Interestingly, no direct mention was made of China, who has often been accused by the West of having predatory lending practices, an accusation that China vehemently refutes.
Despite the crisis and increasing debt issues, the G20 countries pledged to bolster their implementation of the common framework agreed in 2020 with the objective of assisting vulnerable nations.
Furthermore, the group set an ambitious goal to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, though fell short of defining new goals to curtail emissions. Instead of setting targets on reducing crude oil use, they opted to focus on phasing out coal – a move that would be welcomed by oil-producing nations such as Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Indeed, the success of this summit serves as a testament to Delhi’s tenacity in building a consensus, complemented by the necessary compromises. Experts claim it’s unsurprising that certain language within the declaration would be moderated to achieve this.
Upon reflection, including the African Union into the G20 was an achievement that was well-received by both the rich and the developing nations. It served to substantiate Delhi’s continuous efforts to amplify the voices of developing nations within global platforms.
A Russian negotiator dubbed this one of the “most challenging G20 summits” in its near quarter-century existence. Intriguingly, the final verdict on whether the summit has done more to unite or divide nations is yet to be unveiled.