Although they were ensconced for two days (June 26-27) at the picturesque Schloss Elmau set in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, the leaders of the seven rich nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, the US) and the European Union had very little time to relax. They had assembled to reflect on pressing global challenges and craft common positions that guide their governments and important multilateral institutions. The G7 invited “guests”, top leaders from five countries — Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal, and South Africa — in a studied nod to the global south. Its adversaries and competitors — Russia and China — were not present
What has the G7 achieved over a long series of deliberations that have taken place this year since Germany took over the presidency for 2022? Quite a lot, according to its 28-page, 12,000-word communiqué. The G7 has issued four other statements as well — on democracy (together with the guest countries), Ukraine, global food security, and the creation of a climate club. Taken together, this summit outcome looks weighty, even impressive. But what do the statements of the mighty amount to? How will it affect, if at all, the lives of ordinary citizens around the world?
The shadow of the war in Ukraine was visible at the summit. Perhaps to expose the powerlessness of the powerful nations, as the summit opened, Russia chose to launch missile attacks on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. The G7 leaders responded with strong words, reiterating their condemnation of Russia’s aggression. “We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” they asserted, backing their words with concrete action, pledging 28 billion euros in budget aid, in addition to 2.6 billion euros in humanitarian aid. They also committed to supporting post-war reconstruction through an international conference.
The dignitaries pledged to continue the imposition of severe and enduring sanctions on Russia to help end the war and work towards “unprecedented coordination” amongst themselves. As to the West’s assistance of weapons to Ukraine, they chose to let the latest position be presented at the NATO summit that followed immediately after in Madrid.
Anti-Russian formulations were expected, but it was the extensive reference to China that drew attention. A total of six paragraphs were devoted to presenting the G7’s demands on Beijing. First, the need for peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits was emphasised, as also a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues. Then, China was reminded of the UN Charter on peaceful settlement of disputes and “to abstain from threat, coercion, intimidation measures or use of force.” G7 called on China to “fully comply” with the 2016 arbitral award concerning the South China Sea, which Beijing had rejected completely. Another interesting demand on China is “to press Russia” to comply with the order of the International Court of Justice, adhere to the relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, and stop its military aggression. Hong Kong and the human rights situation in Tibet and Xinjiang figured in this section. Yet, recognising the G7’s imperative to cooperate with the largest economies of the world and because of the possibility of a summit between the presidents of the US and China, it conceded that “it is necessary to cooperate with China on shared global challenges.” Of course, Beijing has its own demands. The G7 projected internal coherence, a development the Chinese could not be happy about.
The world’s challenges relating to climate, energy, environment, health, and food security consumed much of the leaders’ time. They committed to taking immediate action to secure energy supplies and reduce price increases, such as capping the price of Russia’s energy supplies, and banning Russian gold imports — even though Europeans face serious energy-related difficulties. In line with their earlier positions, the G7 supported the goals of the climate club, which include accelerating the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and ambitious action to align with 1.5 degree Celsius pathways.
The announcement of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) drew considerable attention, even as critics recall how the Build Back Better World (B3W) call, given by the US at the 2021 G7 summit, has produced little result. The goal now is to rustle up $600 billion in the next five years through public and private resources of the G7 countries, narrow the global investment gap in infrastructure and compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, especially in the cordon from West Africa to the Indo-Pacific via South Asia. Finally, there was a clear indication that following the successful model of cooperation with South Africa, the G7 plans to build new Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETP) with several other countries like Indonesia, India, Senegal, and Vietnam.
India’s presence at the G7 was proactive. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with passion at the two plenary sessions, one on climate, energy, and health, and the other on food security and gender equality. Energy access should not be the privilege of the rich as everyone has the same rights on energy, he said. As Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra observed, “India has an important role to play in finding solutions to the challenges of today’s world.”
The leaders have done their bit for the present. It is now for the G7 governments to deliver, to be taken seriously.
This article was first published in The Indian Express.
Rajiv Bhatia is Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme, Gateway House, and a former Ambassador.