Murmurs of disapproval are now audible. As the Group of Twenty summit in India’s capital New Delhi drew to a close on September 10th, criticisms began to fly thick and fast. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, had focused more on event management and self-promotion. Now, peaceniks around the world are growing concerned over the divisions behind the façade of unity erected by the G20 leaders. https://poliphoon.com/elections-and-the-edifice-complex/
Hopes Prove to be a Mirage
One major division in the summit was over the wordings of the G20 joint statement, aka Leaders’ Declaration. So conflicting and unsatisfying was the declaration that the leaders finally settled for an Outcome Document. Though members of the European Union had wanted to script the statement themselves, universal quest for consensus by G20 leaders denied them that opportunity. Once again, it would have served the world well to remind the G20 member-nations that the basic idea of the summit was to seek lasting solutions for gnawing global ills and not to resort to verbal callisthenics.
However, the world keeps hoping that G20 summits deliver. Primarily because the bloc accounts for two-thirds of the global population, 85 percent of the global economic output and 75 percent of the global trade. Again, this year too, the high-riding hopes proved to be a mirage. How could the G20 nations guarantee global peace when they are unable to condemn Russia harshly for its war in Ukraine? Inescapably, G20’s quest for global peace proved to be at best a facade as the bloc refrained from naming expansionist Russia. https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/organisations/g20#:~:text=Its%20members%20represent%2085%25%20of,thirds%20of%20t he%20world’s%20population.
Video Courtesy: YouTube/DW News
Merely Making References
As expected, Ukraine lost no time in dismissing the wishy-washy joint declaration, saying “it was nothing to be proud of.” For underdog Ukraine, the forced joint declaration was a laboured publicity gesture of Mr Modi. It was disappointing that the joint declaration was delayed by differences over the Ukraine issue, all created by bullying biggies like Russia and China. The duo was not even prepared to accept anything critical about the war in Ukraine. This turned out to be the summit’s biggest challenge.
Taking care not to offend expansionist Russia, the summit decided to produce finally a watered-down joint statement that was so vague on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Merely making references to United Nations’ resolutions on Ukraine is not taking a firm stand on Russia’s illegal territorial violations. Just making some small noises over the need to respect territorial borders is not enough to serve the cause of global unity and peace, which need to be nurtured and nourished. Such an intent was missing from the joint statement. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2023/9/9/g20- summit-2023-live-news-world-leaders-gather-in-indias-new-delhi
No Qualms about Self-Promotion
By implication, an effete joint statement means the war in Ukraine has the tacit approval of the G20 bloc. Does this translate to say that the conflict can continue even as the G20 bloc keeps holding its rambling ‘talk shops’. So much for G20’s vision on global unity. However, after the laboured joint declaration from G20, Indian officials rushed to take credit for what they called ‘100 per cent consensus.’ They claimed all the 83 paragraphs in the declaration were unanimously endorsed.
Visibly happy, Mr Modi declared fears over disagreements have been allayed. In fact, he was the one making the most out of the gala two-day summit of G20, an otherwise fractious group. Mr Modi had no qualms about promoting himself as the champion of the Global South. As the world watched the G20 drama unfold, there was considerable dismay over how the group had handled the Ukraine issue with such insincerity and inexplicable mildness. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230910-modi- seeks-to-cement-india-s-global-standing-with-g20-summit
Really a No-Stand Approach
Handling Russia with kid gloves was insulting the cause of global peace. More outrageous was G20’s effort to obliterate all references to Russia and its Ukrainian aggression, made in the Bali summit last year. Instead, the New Delhi summit opted for a general joint statement, which says that “states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition and the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible”. At best, this was an escapist move.
This is really a no-stand approach towards illegal territorial expansion. If G20 leaders had to slog over 200 hours to deliver such a wishy-washy declaration, it does not speak well either of them or the bloc or their intent. India’s prime minister Mr Modi seemed least bothered however. He was viewing the joint declaration as the crowning glory of his Hindu nationalist government, which got the mandate by rotation to host the G20 summit this year. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/09/g20- leaders-agree-joint-declaration-after-deal-on-ukraine-statement
Plum Target for Attack
Until the end of the day on the 8th, G20 leaders had not been able to come to a consensus on how to address the three major issues facing the world in the joint statement. The issues relate to the war in Ukraine, the climate change and the energy crisis. Internal conflicts were so pronounced within the group that member-nations differed not only on how harshly should G20 condemn Russia’s aggression, but also on whether the United States should be awarded G20 presidency in 2026.
Desperate for a consensus declaration, leaders of G20 nations had to finally author a half-way compromise statement vis-a-vis condemnation of Russia for its war in Ukraine. At once, the watered-down joint statement turned into a plum target for verbal attack by Ukraine. Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko was quick to call the New Delhi summit’s joint declaration as “nothing to be proud of”. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/09/world/asia/g20-biden- russia-ukraine-war.html
Too Late and Too Little
So prominent were its shortcomings, the joint declaration was an ineffective statement. Expectedly, it has failed to address crucial issues such as climate financing, world debt, reformation of the World Bank and striking a new ‘green development pact’ for members. Quite disappointingly, as a logical corollary, the summit failed to script a new approach for the switch from fossil fuels. This failure is so glaringly prominent that it sticks out like a sore thumb.
This is because the G20 nations own and operate as high as 93 percent of the world’s coal-driven power plants and account for 80 percent of the carbon emissions. Yet, the summit could not arrive at a consensus on the switchover. The G20 leaders could only agree for a gradual phasing-down of fossil fuels. This was too little and too late. Taken together, these failures mean the summit was a success only for the political career of Mr Modi. https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/g20-countries- agree-increase-clean-energy-reach-deal- 103054970#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20report%20by,t% 20have%20carbon%20capture%20technologies.
Primarily the Bloc is a Talk Shop
Lip services to global unity and peace apart, the G20 summit in New Delhi made a show of condemning religious hatred. The joint declaration calls for an end to all acts against “religious symbols and holy texts”. Again, this seems to be just for optics. How else could it be explained when in India, the G20 host, religious intolerance and violence against religious minorities go unchecked and tacitly encouraged with covert support from the State. https://poliphoon.com/is-this-a-state-sponsored-storm/
All these prove that the G20 summit in New Delhi was nothing more than an aimless talkathon. It was primarily a talk shop, as one politico put it. Regrettably, the summit has no historic moment to offer for geopolitical chroniclers. Mr Modi or no Mr Modi, the state of G20 affairs would have been the same whoever had hosted the G20 summit this year. The real malady is not the political personality, but the nature of today’s global diplomacy, which revolves more around optics, not around outcomes and permanent solutions. https://news.sky.com/story/g20-indias-modi-relishes-the- spotlight-amid-doubts-over-what-summit-achieves-12958495
Obsessed with Selfish Interests
This malady is also a consequence of the dominance of a few nations in G20. At the top of the member list are the United States, Russia, China and Russia, besides the European Union, who really call the shots. Inevitably, the G20 is seen as an elite club unabashedly obsessed with selfish interests. This is why, in the New Delhi summit, ministerial meetings related to critical areas, from global trade to world finance, did not end with the joint statements from member-nations. This makes the G20 bloc an elite monopoly club. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/energy/2023/09/0 9/2023-g20-new-delhi-summit-dates-agenda-countries-and- more/8fafd756-4ee5-11ee-bfca-04e0ac43f9e4_story.html
The Poliphoon’s Last Word
Despite all the summit shortcomings, Mr Modi could manage to make the most out of the two-day jamboree. Never to lose an opportunity for self-promotion, Mr Modi went onto assume the leadership of the so-called Global South, a geopoliticalese for developing and emerging economies in low and middle-income nations of the world. The real tragedy is that the G20 New Delhi summit and the Modi-centric publicity spun around it have been propped up as propaganda platforms for the fast-approaching 2024 general elections. The façade of global unity had to be erected and it was done in style.