Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

Prime Minister Modi at the G-7: deft diplomacy in an uncertain world

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to accept Germany’s invitation to the G-7 meeting at the Alpine resort of Schloss Elmau from 26-27 June was vital in view of the existing uncertainties in the world where India needs to guard its national interests and follow an enlightened policy of strategic autonomy. India, led by PM Modi, brought a fresh perspective on the narrative of the global north on climate change, carbon pricing, pandemic prevention, issues related to Intellectual Property, and global food security. As an active participant in many other divergent, plurilateral groupings like the Quad, I2U2, and BRICS, the Summit further established the indispensability of India in any noticeable North, South, or North -South platforms when it comes to searching for solutions and their implementation.

For its Presidency, Germany had adopted the motto of “Progress towards an equitable world”. Germany wanted to send a strong signal in support of international responsibility, steps that G7 can take to strengthen multilateral cooperation and to develop specific responses to global challenges along with the five partner countries and seven invited International Organizations – ILO, IMF, OECD, WB, WHO, WTO and UN, besides the EU.  India, along with the other chosen invitees Argentina, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa was seen as key to contributing to the priorities for the German Presidency. Some important decisions of the G7 in the recent past with regard to Global Food Security, Supply Chain Resilience, Digital and Net Zero transitions will require substantial investments but also wide spread support and cooperation in implementation from countries like India.

Germany and USA proposed a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) of the G 7 with countries like India and Indonesia, on the lines of a partnership established with South Africa in 2021, which was focused on climate finance. India has expressed its interest in a tailor made JETP to be more focused on technology aspects – technology transfer and finance, information exchange as well as relevant investments covering proposals for ‘Make in India”. Prime Minister Modi was aware of the opportunities for forging closer partnerships to gain investment and technologies which will help in India’s “Atmanirbharta” as he played his effective part at this meeting.

Discussion Sessions focused on Climate, energy and health; as well as on advancing food security and gender equality, with particular focus on Global Alliance for Food security put forward by Germany. Prime Minister Modi spoke at both these Sessions and highlighted the contribution already made by India and India’s position as a major democracy and food supplier as well as a responsible member of the international community with climate action and transition plans towards net zero. Drawing attention to some erroneously held views he pointed out that it is believed that there is a fundamental collision between the development goals of the world and environmental protection; that poor countries and poor people cause more damage to the environment – but India’s history of over thousands of years completely refutes this view. He emphasized that India has seen a time of immense prosperity, then we also tolerated the centuries of slavery, and now independent India is the fastest – growing big economy in the whole world. During this whole period, he said, India did not let its commitment to the environment get diluted even a single bit. 17% of the world’s population resides in India but India’s contribution to the global carbon emissions is only 5 %. The main reason behind this, the Prime Minster said, is the Indian lifestyle, which is based on the theory of co-existence with nature. “India has achieved a target of 40 % energy – capacity from non- fossil sources nine years before time. The target of 10% ethanol blending in petrol has been achieved five months before time. India has the world’s first fully solar power operated airport” he said.

Prime Minister Modi deftly showcased India’s achievements in the economic sectors and proposed adoption of Indian traditional agricultural skills to all countries of the world. In this context, he dexterously pushed for G 7 countries to help boost fertilizer production in India. He emphasized that India’s approach towards women empowerment has been elevated to “women led development” from “women development” and underlined the fact that more that 50% of elected leaders in India are women. He informed the world’s wealthiest countries and their leaders how India had contributed to the resolution of food crises around the world by assisting countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in its neighborhood when this was most needed.  His interventions underscored the rise of India as a global player which is making its presence felt in the comity of nations in diverse fields like gender inequality, food crisis, and the Covid 19 pandemic and related challenges of vaccine supplies. He was careful to emphasize dialogue and diplomacy to solve the Ukraine crisis, adroitly avoiding taking sides between Russia and the US led group of NATO countries.

Prime Minister Modi was part of the agreement on the main document endorsed during the G -7 Summit related to “resilient democracies”. India needs a technology focused India – specific Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), and a meaningful development partnership with the G-7 in supply chain resilience and diversification, education and skill development, emerging technologies and digital transformation. The bilateral meetings of the Prime Minister were therefore aimed at forging and strengthening linkages which will result in strengthening existing partnerships in cutting edge technologies, investments, climate resilience, digital economy, electric mobility, and strengthening manufacturing in India. While he met with global leaders in what was a display of excellent chemistry he shares with them, his meetings with leaders of Argentina, South Africa, and Indonesia, in particular, was an attempt to strengthen South South Cooperation amid the geographical tensions.

PM Modi’s meetings included those with US President Joe Biden, France’s Emanuel Macron, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. His meeting with President Widodo saw discussions on connectivity and business linkages. With European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, productive discussions were held on India – EU cooperation in trade and investment, technology and climate action. With Chancellor Scholz, he discussed cooperation in key sectors like commerce and energy, and on furthering environmentally friendly growth for the planet. With South African president Cyril Ramphosa, talks covered economic cooperation, improving connectivity and deepening ties in food processing and fintech. Undoubtedly, Prime Minister Modi was a sought-after leader as he projected a sensible and balanced India on the move at this G-7 meeting.

(Anil Wadhwa has served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of Externa Affairs and was the Indian Ambassador to Poland, Oman, Thailand and Italy. Currently he is a Distinguished Fellow at the New Delhi based Vivekananda International Foundation and serves on diverse Corporate Boards. Views expressed are personal)