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G20 is an important forum that has lost its focus

The G20 has lost its focus in the last few years but is still an important forum where world leaders discuss and resolve urgent issues

analysis Updated: Sep 08, 2016 20:40 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (second from left) with world leaders at the G20 summit, Hangzhou, China
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (second from left) with world leaders at the G20 summit, Hangzhou, China(PTI)

The recently concluded G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended, is a forum in which the world’s major economies are represented. With the passage of time, the agenda of G20 summits has expanded so that in addition to macro aspects of trade, finance and economy, the forum also debates political and social issues including terrorism, health, water and several others. However, the record of implementing decisions taken has not been very inspiring.

The Hangzhou summit was the first G20 meet organised by China and also the first such high-level summit to take place in that country. In logistics, facilities and arrangements, China acquitted itself creditably barring the snafu at the airport when US President Barack Obama’s Air Force One was not provided a regular staircase on arrival. This was the last major international summit for Obama, barring the East Asia Summit in Vientiane, Laos, before he demits office in January 2017. The significance of the summit was enhanced as it was the first G20 gathering after the Brexit vote and took place just before the US presidential elections, both of which will have a significant impact on the international economy and trade. However very few concrete proposals emerged to meet the growing challenges to globalisation and free trade.

Read | Obama assures Modi he will remain India’s ‘strong partner’ after leaving office

Modi exhorted the G20 countries to isolate and sanction countries sponsoring terrorism. Without naming Pakistan he said that a single country in South Asia was spreading agents of terror in India and the region. He referred to the urgent need to curb black money; to forsake protectionism; to promote growth and demand; to safeguard climate justice; to curb reckless consumption; to promote a transparent, equitable, inclusive and rule-based global trading architecture; to ensure global and public health security; to eliminate “safe havens” for economic offenders and “full commitment” from global powers to act against the corrupt and to disrupt excessive banking secrecy.

Modi’s message on terror is a clear, cautionary advice to the international community that they should not expect any elasticity from India if Pakistan continues its nefarious activities in carrying out terror attacks in India. Modi’s message was also directed at China, which has continued to blindly support Pakistan. In his bilateral meeting with Xi Jinping also, Modi had said that terrorism should not be viewed through the prism of politics.

Read | Post-Brexit, India keen on free trade pact with UK: PM May

In his bilateral conversation with Xi, Modi underlined that both India and China need to be sensitive to each other’s strategic interests, concerns and aspirations to realise the full potential of their bilateral partnership. Xi reportedly responded that he looks forward to working to “maintain their hard-won sound relations and further advance cooperation’’.

In the first few years of its establishment, the G20 discussions had produced tangible results in coordinated policy-making and follow-up action but it has since meandered along and lost focus. Its significance has however continued to grow because of the opportunity it provides to world leaders to meet bilaterally with their major partners to discuss and resolve urgent issues of concern and interest.

Ashok Sajjanhar is a former ambassador and president, Institute of Global Studies

The views expressed are personal