Amid an ongoing war, recessionary fears, persistent inflation, and a worsening climate crisis, India’s ability to clinch a communiqué agreed upon by all the Group of 20 (G20) countries has been widely applauded.
After 250 meetings across 60 Indian cities, the New Delhi G20 Summit, on September 9, adopted a joint statement that brought together the G7 nations, China, and Russia on the same page, along with the other member nations.
In an interview with Moneycontrol, G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant, who spearheaded the negotiations, spoke of the push and pull that eventually paved the way for the adoption of the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration.
Kant said the United Nations (UN) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have not been able to achieve what India has with regard to geopolitics.
“I think that's a great achievement, the ability to straddle the world of G7 nations, emerging markets, China, Russia, and others, and help bring about a consensus on very complex issues facing the world,” Kant said.
He added that with the successful adoption of the joint statement, India has laid down a roadmap that would make it easier for the UN to push for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), women-led development, and digital public infrastructure, among others.
The 37-page declaration addressed the most divisive issue among G20 members — the Russia-Ukraine war — in eight paragraphs, dropping an explicit condemnation of Moscow over the ongoing conflict, in what was a shift from the Bali statement.
According to Kant, it took 16 drafts, 250 bilateral meetings, and around 300 hours of non-stop negotiations to clinch an agreement on a single paragraph in the declaration, pertaining to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Not just China and Russia, India had to push back G7 nations as well to forge a consensus on the contentious issues regarding the Ukraine war, paving the way for a unanimous declaration.
“Everybody was a challenge. We had to push back everybody, other than emerging countries. We worked with Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, Argentina, Saudi, Turkey, etc., we took everybody along with us. But we had to push back G7 a lot. We had to push back Russia enormously. We also had to push back China, among others, and finally arrive at a good draft, which is what enables you to arrive at a consensus,” said the former chief executive officer of NITI Aayog.
Though many have termed the joint statement adopted under India’s presidency a watered down version of the communique adopted by its G20 predecessor Bali, Kant says there is clear denouncement of the use (or threat of use) of force for territorial gain.
“We have said that nobody should violate another country’s territory. We've said there should be political sovereignty, and political independence, there should be no use of nuclear force. All this is very, very strongly stated; those are very strong paragraphs. They recall the Bali Statement, they recall the UN resolution, and they're very strong in their own way. They send out a clear message,” he added.
Kant termed India’s ability to put forward the issues of the developing world, especially those of the Global South, through the declaration, a big win.
“I think the biggest win has been that this is a living, breathing document for the Global South. The issue of developing countries and emerging markets has never been brought centre stage like this. The (Indian) Prime Minister led from the front by arguing that the African Union must become a member of the G20,” Kant said.
Welcoming the African Union as a permanent member of the G20, the declaration stated that this inclusion will significantly contribute to addressing the current global challenges.
The joint statement saw G20 nations commit themselves to cooperating and working towards a range of economic and developmental goals, from sustainable growth, to improving access to digital services and digital public infrastructure.