The Group of 20 summit in New Delhi managed to defy expectations on Sunday and reach consensus on a joint declaration by world leaders, but not without compromises over the Ukraine conflict and action on climate change.
The consensus came as a surprise. In the weeks leading to the summit, sharply differing views on the war threatened to derail the meeting with Western nations demanding members call out Moscow for the invasion and Russia saying it would block any resolution that did not reflect its position.
The Global South’s position in the talks helped prevent the G20 agenda from being overshadowed by Ukraine, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “India has truly consolidated G20 members from the Global South.”
Here are five key takeaways from the two-day summit:
African Union joins G20
The G20 leading economies began the weekend’s proceedings by welcoming the African Union (AU), the newest member of a bloc that already represented 85 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has portrayed this weekend as India’s diplomatic coming of age and his country’s presidency as an opportunity to give a voice to the needs of the Global South.
Modi opened the summit’s formal proceedings by inviting AU President Azali Assoumani to take a seat alongside world leaders with the ceremonial bang of a gavel.
Before Saturday, the G20 comprised 19 countries and the European Union with South Africa its only member state from the continent.
The AU at full strength has 55 members, but six military-ruled nations are currently suspended. It has a collective GDP of $3 trillion with some 1.4 billion people.
‘Different views’ on Ukraine
G20 leaders have been deeply riven over the Ukraine war since Moscow’s invasion last year, with Russian President Vladimir Putin skipping the summit entirely to dodge political opprobrium.
Facing the prospect of a major diplomatic embarrassment, host India pressed members to agree on a common statement that watered down its earlier condemnation of the war.
The G20 denounced the use of force for territorial gain, but refrained from direct criticism of Russia by name.
“There were different views and assessments of the situation,” the leaders’ statement said.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Oleg Nikolenko criticised the statement, saying the G20 had “nothing to be proud of”.
Leaders failed to agree on a phase-out of fossil fuels despite a United Nations report a day earlier deeming the drawdown “indispensable” to achieving net-zero emissions.
G20 nations account for about 80 percent of global emissions and an inability to agree on the phase-out is a cloud over a key round of climate discussions to begin in November in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.
“We need stronger, bolder action from leaders,” said Madhura Joshi, senior associate at climate think tank E3G.
But for the first time, the G20 backed a target of tripling global renewable energy capacity and referenced the need for emissions to peak before 2025.
It also acknowledged limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) will require slashing greenhouse gases 43 percent by 2030 from 2019 levels.
‘Spice Routes’ and Israeli normalisation
A broad alliance – including the United States and Saudi Arabia – unveiled ambitious plans to create a modern-day Spice Route linking Europe, the Middle East and India.
If the initiative goes ahead, it would establish railways, ports, electricity and data networks and hydrogen pipelines across the Middle East in a counterbalance to lavish Chinese infrastructure spending, potentially speeding trade between India and Europe by up to 40 percent.
The plans are also being touted as a means of helping to normalise relations between Israel and Gulf Arab states.
India or Bharat?
For days, India has been abuzz with rumours that the official usage of the country’s English name would be dropped.
Modi gave the biggest signal yet of a potential change in his opening address to the summit, seated behind a country nameplate labelled “Bharat”, a word steeped in Hindu religious symbolism and dating back to ancient scripture.
India and Bharat are both official names for the country under its constitution.
Members of Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have campaigned against using the better-known moniker India, which has roots in Western antiquity and was imposed during the British conquest.