Delhi Declaration: A Triumph Amidst Geopolitical Crisis
Only the naïve expect a gathering of heads of government to produce breakthrough solutions to world problems every time it assembles. It takes a crisis such as the Global Financial Crisis to precipitate ponderous deliberations into precipitate, coordinated action.
A Different Crisis
The world does not face that kind of crisis. What it does face is a different, geopolitical crisis, of which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one facet, while intensifying American rivalry with China for global hegemony is another.
Joint Leaders’ Declaration
In the face of this crisis, many expected the New Delhi summit to be unable to come up with a joint leaders’ declaration. It is indeed a minor triumph that sustained negotiations by Indian diplomats with the help of those from EU, Brazil and Indonesia managed to come up with language on Ukraine that everyone could agree upon, to make the Delhi declaration possible.
Contentious lines on Ukraine have been averted by the Declaration’s tactic of locating these in references to UN resolutions that condemn Russia’s invasion and by letting leaders restate their national positions on the subject.
Survival of G20
The language on Ukraine, it was feared till the very last moment, would make it impossible to have a joint statement, which would have been a first in the history of the G20, raising doubts over its future. But by ensuring the summit produced a declaration against all odds, New Delhi secured its survival and the rotating presidency has been duly passed to Brazil.
India’s Diplomatic Moves
India has at the same time wooed countries in Africa, drawn by yet wary of Chinese overtures backed by truckloads of money, made available, alas, as loans, rather than as grants. The Delhi Declaration, thus, sustains the pressure on China to restructure, if not forgive, developing country debt under the common framework outlined at an earlier G20 summit.
Championing Indebted Countries
This scores twice, diplomatically: we champion indebted countries, and focus attention on Chinese inaction on this front. The formal induction of the African Union as a member of the G20, with India’s sponsorship, gives credence to India’s advocacy of the Global South in the G20 in which the European Union’s support proved of great help.
Addressing Climate Change
The Declaration keeps up the pressure – to the extent joint statements from multilateral platforms can – on the global community to address the collective risk to human life posed by accelerating climate change. Climate technology, finance and resilient infrastructure find their place, even if carbon dioxide removal does not.
Focus on Renewable Energy
The Declaration’s focus on digital public infrastructure and renewable energy, accompanied by green hydrogen as the solution to renewable energy’s intermittency problem, lays the ground for raising collective global welfare, with Indian enterprises potentially playing a lead role in these areas. The focus on small modular reactors is welcome, too, as nuclear energy should play a vital role in increasing the share of carbon-free energy generation.
Regulating Artificial Intelligence and Cryptocurrencies
The Delhi Declaration calls for coordinated regulation of artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies. This is essential, even if the US-China rivalry raises potential hurdles in the path of such regulation.
Concerns on Terror Financing and Human Rights
India’s concerns on terror financing and money laundering find reflection in the Declaration, too. It is welcome, too, that the Declaration lays stress on respecting the human rights of migrants, even illegal ones, and on accommodating the imperatives of human diversity.
Action is Key
Action, though, is a different matter altogether. It is vital that countries try and act on the urgings of the G20, instead of retaining them as perennial prescriptions.