INTERVIEW | 'Two months of negotiations behind Delhi Declaration', says India's G20 sherpa
India remained steadfast in its commitment to make the NDLD inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented, says G20 sherpa Amitabh Kant.
India’s G20 sherpa Amitabh Kant spoke to Preetha Nair about how his team clinched the New Delhi Delhi Declaration and how the summit will chart a new path for the country.
Excerpts from the interview...
The joint communiqué is being hailed as a major diplomatic triumph of India. Please give us a sense of the hectic negotiations behind it.
The negotiations on the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration (NDLD) took more than two whole months of daily negotiations, spanning hours. During this time, we produced multiple drafts, taking into account the views of all G20 and invitee countries. We remained steadfast in our commitment to make the NDLD inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented. We negotiated line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph to come out with a document with 83 paragraphs and 100 per cent consensus. Nearly 200 bilateral meetings took place on the sidelines of these negotiations.
How did you derive a language that is acceptable to both sides—the West-led G7 grouping that supports Ukraine, and Russia, supported by Beijing?
The negotiations were intense. Our stance from the beginning was that a divided G20 was unacceptable. Consensus was the only way forward. Over 200+ hours of non-stop negotiations went into the geopolitical paragraphs themselves. Sherpas of developing countries such as Brazil, South Africa and later Indonesia worked closely with me in driving a consensus.
We produced nearly 15 drafts, starting afresh each time. Developing nations working together to devise consensus language was key. The Prime Minister’s global standing and credibility enabled us to be bold and courageous. We could achieve success due to the Prime Minister’s leadership.
What are your major takeaways from the summit?
There are several major takeaways for India. First, garnering consensus on the geopolitical paragraphs and inclusion of the African Union in the G20 are big diplomatic wins for India. This proves India is a strong multilateral negotiator, incorporating the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in our vision.
Second, we have taken to the world of India’s development story. Our successes in driving socio-economic transformation at the last mile informed our G20 priorities – and now our ideas have found global acceptance. LiFE, millets, digital public infrastructure, and women-led development are some key areas where India’s solutions have now gone global. Other benefits that can accrue to India are capitalising on global tourism and MICE industries while boosting the potential of our handicraft industries.
The inclusion of the African Union into the G20 grouping and the economic corridor has been one of the major outcomes of the summit. How will it position India on the global map?
This was the vision of the Prime Minister who is the Leader of the G20 year. The world was already looking at India before we took over the presidency. We were the fastest-growing large economy with the youngest workforce. Economic reforms, infrastructure investments and digitisation have transformed India, making it a more resilient and innovative economy.
At the beginning of our Presidency, Prime Minister Modi had promised that India’s G20 Presidency would amplify the voice and concerns of the Global South at international fora and called for the increased representation of the Global South. Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, we have delivered on both agendas. We have made the G20 more inclusive with the addition of AU.
We have positioned ourselves as a champion of the Global South – putting forward their needs at the forefront of the global agenda. With the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, one of the most ambitious in G20 history, the success of our presidency will only further solidify India’s standing in the world.
The reference to the Black Sea Grain Initiative was another milestone of the summit. What kind of negotiations went into that challenging paragraph?
Negotiations on the Black Sea Grain Initiative occurred as we were negotiating the geopolitical paragraph. We reiterated that while G20 was not the forum to resolve geopolitical and security issues. We acknowledged that geopolitical issues can have significant consequences for the global economy.
We highlighted the human suffering of the war in Ukraine, global food and energy security, and inflation and growth, especially in developing and least-developed countries. We have called for full, timely, and effective implementation of such initiatives to ensure unimpeded deliveries of grain, foodstuffs, and fertilizers/inputs from Russia and Ukraine.
Many countries were also not on the same page on Climate and energy. How did a consensus come about?
Given the diverse development trajectories of G20 nations, garnering consensus on issues of climate and energy was also a tough task. However, during our presidency, we have taken a holistic view of climate action. We have reaffirmed that no country should have to choose between fighting for their people or the planet – key for developing nations.
We have agreed on high-level principles of hydrogen, we have also launched the Global Biofuels Alliance, and agree that G20 countries will also pursue efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally. We have been ambitious and sent strong signals for the success of COP 28. Crucially, we have also matched ambition on climate action with ambition on climate finance.
We have also called for reformed MDBs to deliver on the world’s development and climate ambitions. Recognising the critical need to enhance ambition on climate action, while also keeping the interests of the developing world at the forefront was crucial in driving consensus.