Modi: Consensus-builder and Peacemaker

G20 Meeting New Delhi

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

We are India. We know how to handle the world.
– Dr Subramaniam Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India

The above quotation is the response by Dr S Jaishankar during one of the several interviews that he had given during the course of the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi held on 9/10 September. The question related to the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jingping, contrasting the latter’s absence to his attendance at the BRICS meeting in South Africa earlier.

G20 – Modi Seeks To Cement India’s Global Standing. Pic – Barron’s

Dr Jaishankar went on the explain that each country decided what would be its level of participation, and that in previous G20 meetings too top country leaders had not been present so this was not unusual. However, what was more important, he said, was that the countries were represented. Thus, at the New Delhi meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Premier Li Qiang participated fully after being welcomed with all the honours accorded to all the other leaders who came.

At this stage it is opportune to clear a much ventilated speculation prior to the Summit as to whether the absence of these two leaders would impact the outcome, especially in relation to the position that the Summit would take about the Ukraine conflict. Some members apparently wanted a specific mention of Russia. However,  in the end the Leaders’ Declaration reflected what had been aimed at: a consensus document in which they all participated actively and fully because, as Dr Jaishankar had pointed out repeatedly this was the result of more than 200 meetings held across 60 cities in Bharat, from Cochin in the south to Kashmir in the north, Mumbai in the west to Manipur in the east, involving over 20,000 participants from the member countries and mobilizing almost 100,000 people locally to welcome the participants by showcasing their respective states. And these meetings of Ministers and Working Groups had been held from the time that Bharat took over the presidency of G20 from Indonesia last year in Bali.

Further, as President Lula of Brazil pointed out in his address after the gavel was handed over to him by PM Modi, the G20 was primarily an economic forum, and all were agreed that they wouldn’t allow geopolitical issues, namely the Ukraine conflict, to come in the way of a consensus. And consensus there indeed was, as is evidenced in the final document, which has no footnotes whatsoever. Anyone who has participated at global level in working out such documents (e.g., at WHO) will appreciate how laborious and time consuming they can be, when deliberations over a comma, a mot juste, or a sentence can rack the diverse minds pouring over them till… consensus is reached!

There has been complete transparency at all stages leading to the Summit, and one has only to look at the list of 25 items and their sub-items in the ‘Documents Annexed to the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, 2023 Ministerial Meetings and Working Group Documents’ to gauge the swathe and depth of deliberations that engaged the wide-ranging expertise and efforts of the dedicated and conscientious domain specialists and supporting staff who toiled over nearly 200 hours to produce that Declaration. It is available online and covers 37 pages for anyone who would wish to dig deeper into the contents.

It is worth reproducing the following paragraphs in the conclusion of the declaration:


80. We thank India for successfully hosting the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi, for its warm welcome to delegates, and for its valuable contributions to the strengthening of the G20. We appreciate the successful conclusion of various G20 Working Groups and Ministerial meetings and welcome their outcomes as annexed. We also congratulate India on the successful landing on the moon on 23 August 2023.

81. We reiterate our commitment to the G20 as the premier forum for global economic cooperation and its continued operation in the spirit of multilateralism, on the basis of consensus, with all members participating on an equal footing in all its events including Summits. We look forward to meeting again in Brazil in 2024 and in South Africa in 2025, as well as in the United States in 2026 at the beginning of the next cycle. We welcome Saudi Arabia’s ambition to advance its turn for hosting the G20 Presidency in the next cycle. We also look forward to the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024 as a symbol of peace, dialogue amongst nations and inclusivity, with participation of all.

82. We thank international organizations for their participation and support. We thank the Engagement Groups of B20, S20, SAI20, Startup20, T20, U20, W20, Y20, C20, P20 and L20 and the Initiatives, namely, EMPOWER, Research Initiative, Space Economy Leaders Meeting (SELM), Chief Science Advisers’ Roundtable (CSAR) and the G20 Cybersecurity Conference for their valuable recommendations.’

Noteworthy is the fact that there were 9 countries attending the Summit as special invitees of the host country Bharat, including Mauritius, and which were represented by their respective leaders.

It is also worth underlining that the Declaration was presented on the very first day of the Summit, i.e., Saturday 9th   September, confirming again that consensus had been reached well ahead so as to have the document printed and distributed.

But there was another kind of consensus too, expressed by all the leaders and other analysts: that the G20 Summit in New Delhi has been a great success.

Already, following the closure of the Summit and the 15 bilaterals held between PM Modi and his counterparts, working groups have got down to work, signing agreements and MOUs in specific areas of concern.

To cite Dr Jaishankar again, G20 has emerged at the premier forum in the world, given that the UN is gridlocked and other groupings are non-functional. There is a north-south divide and an east-west polarization, and Bharat finds itself pitched in the central role of peacemaker and consensus builder, largely due to the leadership and charisma of PM Narendra Modi as the only global leader who can and has reached out to other leaders. The manner in which he personally received them one by one, and the warmth exchanged are testimony of his ability to bridge divides at global level, and this has been stamped at the G 20 Summit in New Delhi.

As Robert Wolf of the Financial Times remarked, India is an ‘important and dynamic country.’ Its global role is only going to increase to bring about peace and prosperity to people on the planet in line with the theme of the G20 Summit: ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future.’

Of the several takeaways from the Summit, perhaps the most significant one is the admission of the African Union (AU) as member of the G20. This has been a personal initiative and crowning achievement of PM Modi. He has materialized the pledge he made to the president of the AU when the latter made the request to him at the BRICS meeting in South Africa, and with this India has de facto assumed the role of voice of the Global South, acknowledged widely by those present. At the same time though, given the scope of the Declaration, India has shown that it has the ability to shape the global agenda, as pointed out by Dr Jaishankar, and this is evident through initiatives, amongst others, such as the Global Biofuels Alliance, the India-Middle East Economic Corridor which is going to involve rails, ports, investments deemed to be ‘bankable’ with  a potential of several trillion USD in a foreseeable future.

Development and prosperity for all peoples can only come when there is peace in the world, and that is why from Bharat as Vishwamitra – friend to the world – the parting message of Modi to the leaders and delegates was Swasti Astu Vishwa – May there be peace in the world.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 15 September 2023

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