Photo credit: ANI - Photo: 2023

India Steers G20 Towards Supporting Global South’s SDG Push

By Kalinga Seneviratne

SINGAPORE. 13 September 2023 (IDN) — In a rare demonstration of consensus, Russia and the US welcomed the New Delhi Declaration of the G20 summit on 10 September that did not condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Instead, they focused on the development challenges facing the global community.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who led his country’s delegation to the summit, praised India for achieving a consensus that focused on the core role of global development instead of indulging in making political statements.

Last year, the G20 summit in Bali (Indonesia) was hijacked by the US and Europeans, who invited Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to address the summit, and the Bali declaration explicitly condemned Russia for starting the war and the resulting global economic crisis. But, this year, India refused to let Zelenskyy attend the summit and also made sure the Westerners will not hijack the agenda to focus on Ukraine.

The New Delhi Declaration, which goes into 30 pages and 83 clauses, includes only three short clauses on the Ukraine war, and these, too, emphasize the importance of stopping human suffering and mitigating the negative economic impacts of the war.

At a press conference in New Delhi on 10 September, Lavrov praised India for the summit’s success in “awakening” the countries of the Global South, who pushed back against attempts to “Ukrainise” the agenda of the G20 by Western countries. “India has truly consolidated G20 members from the Global South,” he said, while also acknowledging the role played by Brazil, China and South Africa in steering the agenda towards development goals.

But Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed disappointment with the G20 “consensus” declaration. “If it was just up to me, the leaders’ declaration would have been much stronger, particularly on Ukraine,” he told a press briefing in the India’s capital city.

French President Emmanuel Macron was more pragmatic. He told the media at the end of the summit that the G20 was founded to solve international economic issues, and it was not necessarily the place to expect diplomatic progress on the war in Ukraine. However, he refused to concede that Russia won a diplomatic victory in Delhi.

In a pre-summit interview with the Press Trust of India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he was determined to steer the G20 grouping towards a “human-centric model of development.” Modi argued that this vision needs to be adopted by G20 as a road map for the future.

“The shift to a human-centric approach has begun globally, and we are playing the role of a catalyst,” Modi said, pointing out some of India’s development achievements, especially during and after the pandemic.

“The effort towards greater inclusion for the Global South, especially Africa in global affairs, has gained momentum. India’s G20 Presidency has also sowed the seeds of confidence in the countries of the so-called ‘Third World’. They are gaining greater confidence to shape the direction of the world in the coming years on many issues such as climate change and global institutional reforms.”

Paths to achieve the SDGs were spelled out in sections B and C of the declaration, which ran into 13 pages. Pointing out that at the halfway stage, the “global progress on SDGs is off-track with only 12 percent of the targets on track”, it calls upon the member states to help accelerate the progress toward the SDGs.

Among the measures addressed to do this are to recognize the role of digital transformation, AI, data advances, and the need to address digital divides. It also called for commitment towards the mobilization of affordable, adequate, and accessible financing from all sources to support developing countries in their domestic efforts to address bottlenecks for implementation of the 2030 SDG agenda.

The declaration also highlighted the crucial role of tourism and culture as a means for sustainable socio-economic development and economic prosperity. It also took note of the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to address the SDG financing gap through an SDG stimulus and committed to provide full support to the UN’s SDG Summit later this month.

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi on 8 September ahead of the G20 summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the global family as a “dysfunctional one” and called upon India to help drive the “transformational change that our world desperately needs” via G20.

Guterres warned that there is no time to waste as wars and conflicts are intensifying, the global financial architecture is outdated and unfair, and it “requires deep structural reforms.” With poverty, hunger, and inequality growing, he appealed to G20 leaders to build solidarity. “This fracturing world would be deeply concerning at the best of times, but in our times, it spells catastrophe,” he said.

While the New Delhi declaration reiterates G20’s commitment to take action to scale up sustainable finance, in line with the G20 Sustainable Finance Roadmap, in the area of food security and elimination of hunger, the statement committed to enhancing global food security by encouraging efforts to strengthen research cooperation on climate-resilient and nutritious grains such as millets, quinoa, sorghum, and other traditional crops including rice, wheat, and maize.

Though the G20 declaration for the first time reflected the concerns of the Global South, the post-summit action will make a difference to the world and would avoid the catastrophe Guterres warned about.

At the end of the summit, Modi recommended that the group’s leaders hold a virtual meeting in November to review progress on policy suggestions and goals announced at the weekend. “It is our responsibility to look at the suggestions that have been made to see how progress can be accelerated,” he said.

The G-20 presidency will be assumed by Brazil in 2024 and South Africa in 2025.

In a column for RT channel, retired Indian diplomat M.K Bhadrakumar who has served in the Indian diplomatic service for over three decades argues that the G20 statement was possible because of a perceived climbdown by the US and the European bloc, basically “throwing Ukraine under the bus”.

“In the run-up to the Delhi summit as well as during the event, there was nothing of the Russia-bashing or contrived emotional outbursts by Western leaders that they are wont to,” notes Bhadrakumar. “Even the EU’s super bureaucrat, Ursula von der Leyen, was patience personified—as if on cue from Washington.”

He argues that Biden and the US wanted the Delhi conference to be a “grand success” to empower Modi as their preferred leader to mobilize the Global South. “Make no mistake, the US is taking an audacious course correction in its approach to the Global South, especially Africa, anchored in the geopolitical reality of the mounting challenge that China and Russia are posing by striving to monopolize that geopolitical space,” Bhadrakumar argues.

He points out the announcement, within 48–72 hours on the weekend, of the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor to build a railway (similar to China’s BRI projects) announced by Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit; the US-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for sustainable development announced the day after the summit in Hanoi; support for Modi’s push to bring African Union into G20;  and the new G20 initiative to reshape the scale up the World Bank lending structures as the West’s “sense of urgency” to engage with the Global South.

“The message couldn’t be any louder: the US is seeking a leadership role in the engagement with the Global South. In this paradigm shift, Biden envisages Modi as a key ally,” argues Bhadrakumar. “Of course, this has only become possible thanks to the nascent signals from Delhi in recent months of a willingness to accelerate and cement its strategic partnership with the US as a global ally.”

“The U.S. is courting India ferociously. Paradoxically, the best comparison to make of this courtship is with the ferocious courtship of China by the U.S. to counterbalance the Soviet Union in the 1970s,” noted Kishore Mahbubani, former Singaporean diplomat and author in a pre-summit interview with Responsible Statecraft, an online magazine of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “Today, to counterbalance China, the U.S. is courting India. This is why President Biden is attending the G20 summit in India and skipping the East Asia Summit in Indonesia.”

“India has firmly positioned itself at the centre of the new global order and decision-making with astute diplomacy and strategy, which culminated in the New Delhi Declaration during its G20 presidency,” argues NDTV international affairs columnist Bharti Mishra Nath.

“Throughout the negotiations, India emphasized unity over division. This G20 presidency marked a historic moment for India, elevating its role in the emerging global order. Today, the world views India as a trustworthy, robust power and an advocate for the underserved and marginalised nations.” [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo credit: ANI

This article was produced as a part of the joint media project between The Non-profit International Press Syndicate Group and Soka Gakkai International in Consultative Status with ECOSOC on 13 September 2023.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top