Modi Masters Diplomacy with Unanimous G20 Consensus Amid Ukraine Crisis

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In a triumph of diplomacy, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi secured a cohesive consensus among the G20 member nations, facilitating a joint declaration that shied away from directly criticizing Russia for its actions against Ukraine. This consensus, considered almost out of reach a few days prior owing to the deeply divided stance of the nations on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, represents a significant diplomatic victory for India.

The joint declaration accomplished unanimous agreement amongst G20 nations, leaving no room for any dissents. Despite being the locus of the discussion, Ukraine, which did not have a representation at the summit, voiced discontent over the outcome, in contrast to the positive reception by the U.S., U.K., Russia, and China.

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India’s successful orchestration of the consensus can be accredited to certain factors decipherable from the close examination of the declaration and a series of geopolitical developments weeks before the summit. For one, the five-nation Brics group, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, expanded their membership to include Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – each with closer ties to China.

While the new membership may not have directly influenced the G20 summit’s outcome, it is common knowledge that the developing world’s increasing affinity for China has led to some concern from the West. They view India’s global presence as a much-needed counterweight to China’s increasing influence, further contributing to their concerns over an alternative international order being carved out by China in opposition to Western power.

Primarily, the war in Ukraine proved to be a major contention point. Previous G20’s declaration had singled out the “aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine,” which certain members had objected to. Russia had implied its disagreement with any statement attributing blame for the war, and achieving agreement on weaker language than that previously used seemed far-fetched.

Both the West and Russia, however, were in favor of India scoring a diplomatic win. This led to a compromise reflected in the declaration’s carefully selected language, ensuring both sides’ satisfaction.

Interestingly, the Delhi declaration, while obliquely referencing the negative aftermath of the Ukraine conflict, stopped short of explicitly blaming Russia. This compromise was positively received by leaders from the U.K., the U.S., France, and Russia, who, despite interpreting the wording differently, saw the declaration as a productive summit outcome.

The troubling debt crisis was another issue at the forefront of the summit discussions. Developing nations, burdened further by the pandemic and the war, have made continued calls for wealthier nations to support their economies. With no explicit mention of China, a significant creditor, the paragraph regarding debt crisis avoided antagonizing any member country.

The group also did not set major targets on emission cuts or reducing crude oil usage, instead focusing on the gradual phase-out of coal use. Simultaneously, they made a commitment to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030.

In conclusion, Delhi’s efforts to build a united front, even though it necessitated considerable compromises, paid off. It successfully included the African Union into the G20, amplifying the voice of Global South developing nations at global platforms. A Russian negotiator referred to this as “one of the most difficult G20 summits,” with the declaration taking roughly 20 days and five on-the-spot days to reach completion. Yet, the G20’s potential to bridge the gap between the affluent and developing nations or further polarize the world remains to be seen.