When Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia addressed the press in the final hours of the Group of 20 summit, they wore satisfied smiles. It’s not often two people get a chance to midwife a new global economic order.
But it didn’t take long for the issue of Pakistan and US moves to expand the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to remind them India still had a lot of lower-level strategic worries.
Singh said enough evidence had been given to Pakistan about its nationals’ role in the Mumbai terror attacks. “We hope they will bring the culprits to book. If that is done, we will walk an extra mile to normalise relations,” he said. “Pakistan needs to give up the use of terror as an instrument of state policy.”
Asked about the US-sponsored UN resolution calling for all nations to sign the NPT, he said, “We have been assured this move was not aimed at India.”
Singh would probably have wished more focus on the final G-20 communiqué, a 23-page document packed with potentially history-changing policies that had India’s fingerprints in several parts.
The issues India would have faced little dissension over were the call to not prematurely withdraw the economic stimulus package and a recommitment against raising trade barriers.
The bigger challenge was to get the West to commit to transferring votes in the IMF and the World Bank to the emerging economies in a gradual manner. Now, both international organisations will see such a shift after two-year review periods.
Despite a lot of Western NGO pressure for a strong climate change position, India also ensured a diluted G-20 statement on the coming Copenhagen climate change summit.
Singh accepted what, for an Indian leader, was a risky step of promising to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful expenditure”. But it was balanced by the promise of compensatory “cash handouts” for the poor.