At the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan on 20th-21st May, 2023. This is the fifth time in a row that PM Modi was invited to the G7 gathering. Prior to this, PM Modi attended the Summit in Biarritz, France in 2019. He was invited by the-then US President Donald Trump to Camp David, USA in 2020 but the Summit did not take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the US elections. In 2021, PM Modi participated virtually in the G7 deliberations organized by the British PM Boris Johnson in Cornwall due to the raging Omicron pandemic in India. Last year, PM Modi attended the G7 confabulations in Elmau, Germany at the invitation of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
India shares considerable comfort level with the G7 countries. The G7 members and India are democracies with pluralistic societies, open trading system, with market economies having robust media, independent judiciary etc. India also enjoys close and strategic partnerships with all the G7 member states.
India’s growing influence
The fifth invitation in a row to India for the G7 Summit is testimony to India’s growing confidence as well as clout and sway in global affairs. India has emerged as a partner of choice for most of the prominent members of the global community because of the highly competent and effective manner in which it dealt with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the health, economic and social sectors. In addition to manufacturing vaccines under license from AstraZeneca, it was also able to invent and manufacture its own vaccine Covaxin against the Covid-19 virus. Moreover, under its Vaccine Maitri Initiative, it went out of its way to supply vaccines, most of them on gratis basis, to its neighbours as well as the more vulnerable segments of the global community in Africa, Latin America and Asia.This earned it huge good will as the developing countries were being denied the vaccines in the initial months of the pandemic by the richer and more prosperous countries. Many developed countries tried to hoard the vaccines for their own population. Many thousands of vaccines got wasted in the developed nations because of their expiry on account of non-use in time. The first vaccines that reached a large number of countries in the developing world were from India.
Although India’s economy was hit very badly in the first year of the pandemic, it was able to effectively bounce back and reclaim its position as the fastest growing major economy in 2021 as also in the subsequent year. Today India has emerged as the 5th largest economy in the world and is likely to become the third largest by the end of this decade, if not earlier. Notwithstanding the adverse impact of the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict raging for the last 15 months, India is growing at a satisfactory clip of around 6.8% per annum and is likely to maintain a similar or higher rate in the coming years.
At the beginning of the pandemic, India had to face an incursion from China from across the Line of Actual Control. India stood firm putting in place a mirror deployment of 50,000 plus troops and sophisticated heavy armoury and equipment. India emerged as the only country in Asia which could stand up to the threat and belligerence of China.
On account of the above achievements in the face of unexpected and unanticipated adversities, India has emerged as an indispensable partner for global powers in finding solutions to some of the most critical challenges like climate change, terrorism, health, education, women empowerment, peace and security etc. confronting the world.
In addition to the above, India’s position as the Presidency of the G20 provides it with a bigger role and voice to speak authoritatively on the way forward in resolving the problems of the world. India has also emerged as the Voice of the Global South as, under its Presidency, for the first time, India organized the Voice of the Global South Summit in January, 2023 to take on board the concerns and aspirations of the developing world.
The G7 meet
Japan being the only Asian country of the G7 grouping was keen to ensure that all the focus of the deliberations would not be on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Although that was expected to be the principal theme of discussions, PM Kishida wanted adequate attention also paid to the expansionist and economically coercive policies of China in the East China Sea, South China Sea etc. It was successful in achieving this.
Another issue that Japan wanted to concentrate on was the subject of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. The choice of Hiroshima to host the summit was symbolic and well thought through. Hiroshima is not only the city from which PM Kishida hails but it also the city which suffered the horrific atom bomb attack on 6th August 1945 during the Second World War. PM Kishida wanted to get a strong statement from the G7 about the nuclear threats delivered by Russia even before the conflict with Ukraine began. He also wished to send out a strong message against the threats by North Korea to conduct missile and nuclear tests. The rapid increase in the nuclear arsenal by China and its likely change of the No First Use doctrine was also a matter of growing concern. The G7 Statement fully reflects all these issues and challenges.
PM Modi’s participation
PM Modi spoke in three Sessions under the G7 deliberations.
In the Session titled ‘’Toward a Peaceful, Stable and Prosperous World’’ PM Modi referred to this as ‘’our common objective.’’ He said that in today’s inter-connected world, ‘’crises in any one region affect all the countries. And, the developing countries, which have limited resources, are the worst affected. In the current global situation, these countries are facing the maximum and most profound impact of the food, fuel, and fertilizer crisis.’’ He asked why the world should be discussing the issue of global peace and security in different fora. The reason, he said, is because the United Nations which was established with the very purpose of establishing peace has failed to do so. He declared that the institutions created in the last century did not represent the reality of the twenty-first century. It is hence imperative that institutions like the UN are reformed. He further stipulated that ‘’all countries respect the UN Charter, International Law and sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.’’ In an indirect reference to China, he said that countries should raise their voices ‘’together against unilateral attempts to change the status quo.’’ He asserted that India has always held that any tension or dispute should be resolved through peaceful means, through dialogue.’’ Again indirectly referring to China’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea, PM Modi said that it was ‘’in this spirit, that India resolved its land and maritime boundary dispute with Bangladesh.’’
In the Session on ‘’Common Endeavor for a Sustainable Planet (including Climate, Energy, Environment),’’ PM Modi identified climate change, environmental protection and energy security as among the biggest challenges today. He recounted the steps taken by India like Mission Life, International Solar Alliance, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, Mission Hydrogen, Biofuel Alliance, Big Cat Alliance etc. to deal with these threats. He declared that India is moving swiftly towards its goal of Net Zero by 2070. India’s vast railway network has decided to become Net Zero by 2030. Currently, the installed capacity of renewable energy in India is about 175 Megawatts. In 2030 it will reach around 500 Megawatts. He declared that ‘’environmental commitments are not a hindrance but a catalyst in India’s development journey.’’ He also argued for transfer of technology and adequate financing to developing countries to enable them to take appropriate steps in this direction. It is also necessary to make ‘’the Green and Clean Technology supply chains resilient.’’
In the Session on ‘’Working Together to Address Multiple Crises (including Food, Health, Development, Gender),’’ PM Modi advanced several suggestions for the consideration of the participants. He said that it was necessary to build ‘’an inclusive food system that focuses on the world’s most vulnerable people, especially marginal farmers. Global fertilizer supply chains must be strengthened.’’ Political obstacles should be removed. And the expansionist mindset (read China) that is taking over the fertilizer resources should be stopped. He suggested that a new model of natural farming be created as an alternative to use of fertilizers. He said that we should try and ‘’separate organic food from fashion statement and commerce and connect it with nutrition and health.’’ At India’s initiative, the ‘’UN has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. Millets address the challenges of nutrition, climate change, water conservation and food security at the same time. ’’He argued that awareness should be created on this. On the future form of health security, PM Modi made several suggestions. He argued that ‘’holistic healthcare should be our motto.’’ All countries should cooperate for the ‘’dissemination, expansion and joint research of traditional medicine.’’ The development model inspired by consumerism needs to be changed. It is necessary to focus on development, technology and democracy together. Technology could be the bridge between development and democracy. On the issue of women development, PM Modi said that India is a pioneer in women-led development.‘’ The President of India is a woman, who is from a tribal area. 33 percent seats are reserved for women at the grassroots level. To ensure the rights of transgender persons, India has made a law.
On the sidelines of the G7 Meeting in Hiroshima, PM Modi held bilateral discussions with the host Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, with US President Joe Biden, British PM Rishi Sunak, Ukrainian President VolodymyrZelensky, South Korean President Yoon, Brazilian President Lula and others.
In the bilateral with PM Kishida, the two leaders discussed the whole range of bilateral areas of cooperation including priorities of the two groupings they are chairing – G20 and G7. Besides this, Ukraine, developments and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, bilateral engagement in the fields of education, skill development, tourism, lifestyle for environment, (Mission LiFE), green hydrogen, cooperation in high technology including semiconductors, digital public infrastructure, training and capacity building engagement etc.
As expected PM Modi’s meeting with the Ukrainian President attracted much media attention and comment. Both diplomatically and politically, it was befitting that PM Modi had a structured official exchange with President Zelensky. PM Modi informed Zelensky that he considered the conflict not as a matter of politics or economy but of humanity and human values. He assured Zelensky that he will do everything possible to bring an end to the conflict. PM confirmed that India will continue to extend humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine. While there might be an assessment in Delhi that this is not the right time to make any major move towards a cease-fire, it is likely that PM Modi might initiate some discussions at mid-level so as to be ready to step in when the time appears opportune. It is becoming increasingly clear that both Russia and Ukraine are getting increasingly fatigued and would like a face saving opportunity to move towards a cease fire in the not too distant a future.
With President of Republic of Korea and Prime Minister of Vietnam, discussions focused on the whole range of bilateral issues as also developments in the region. During his meeting with the President of France, both leaders spoke about their commitment to the India-France Strategic Partnership, particularly in this 25th year of their partnership. PM Modi conveyed to President Macron that he’s eagerly looking forward to his visit to France for the Bastille Day celebrations on 14th of July.
For the outreach Summit part, the G7 and guest countries issued a communique called the Hiroshima Action Statement for Resilient Global Food Security. The statement very prominently contains India’s global initiatives which have been launched by Prime Minister Modi. These include International year of millet in particular, India’s G20 Research Initiative which it has launched on millets and other ancient grains. Several other initiatives like LiFE launched by India are also covered in the Statement.
On the sidelines of his engagements, PM Modi also unveiled the bust of Mahatma Gandhi, which is a gift from the Government of India to the city of Hiroshima.
The 3-day visit by PM Modi to Hiroshima, Japan to participate in the G7 and Quad Summits was a huge success. It demonstrated the close bonhomie and rapport that PM Modi enjoys with the other members of the G7 like President Biden, PMs Kishida and Albanese, President Macron and other leaders. The opportunity was used by PM Modi to brief the leaders present on the priorities and progress in the G20 deliberations. In addition to the G7 countries, all of which are members of the G20, there were 5 other members of the G20 including India amongst the invited guests like the PM of Australia and Presidents of ROK, Brazil and Indonesia.
PM Modi was able to articulate the views of the Global South in his interventions in the G7 Sessions. This would lend greater credibility amongst the developing countries to India becoming a voice of the Global South. The relevance of G7 has been declining over the years. If the G7 represented about 80% of the global GDP in the 1980s, today it accounts for only around 43% of the world economy. If it wishes to retain its salience it will have to pay increasing attention to the concerns of the developing countries. To the credit of PM Kishida, he spoke extensively about taking the difficulties of developing countries on board in the discussions and decisions in the G7. It is essential for the G7 to make their deliberations focus on the anxieties of the developing countries as the recent churn in geopolitics like the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have led to distress in shortages of food, energy, fertilizers, supply chain disruptions, inflation, debt etc which have hit the developing countries particularly hard.
In addition to its ‘’support of Ukraine for as long as it takes in the face of Russia’s illegal war of aggression,’’ and for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, the G7 also decided to coordinate their ‘’approach to economic resilience and economic security that is based on diversifying and deepening partnerships and de-risking, not de-coupling; drive the transition to clean energy economies of the future through cooperation within and beyond the G7; and deliver its goal of mobilizing up to $600 billion in financing for quality infrastructure through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII).’’ The G7 leaders inter alia ‘’pledged to support a free and open Indo-Pacific and oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion; promote the evolution of the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs); strengthen partnerships with African countries and support greater African representation in multilateral fora; preserve the planet by accelerating the decarbonization of their energy sector and the deployment of renewables, end plastic pollution and protect the oceans’’ etc. The leaders pledged to uphold and reinforce the international principles and shared values of the ‘’free and open international order based on the rule of law, respecting the UN Charter to the benefit of countries, large and small; strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the peacefully established status of territories by force or coercion anywhere in the world and reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is prohibited.’’
It is evident that barring Ukraine considerable synergy exists between the positions of India and the G7 countries. This is only growing and expanding with the passage of time. India Narrative