‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam:’ Modi’s diplomacy wins hearts and minds at G20 in Rome
The G20 Summit in Rome brought to the fore Modi, the global statesman and international strategist
The visit to Italy by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the G20 Summit, brought to fore an India which is taking its rightful place in the global order. The Indian elephant has not disappointed and has now become the pivot of the western world in the Indo-Pacific.
Modi's visit to Rome was dominated by diplomacy-public and governmental. It included meetings with the public in Piazza Gandhi, meetings with academics, Indologists, friends of India as well as with heads of state from the world's most important economies.
Modi was already a politician to contend with, but this G20 brought to the fore Modi, the global statesman and international strategist.
A photo together with the various world leaders in the Trevi Fountain with the traditional toss of a coin into the fountain ended the first visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Italy.
The visit, formally for the meetings of the G20 heads of state, also served to strengthen India’s relations with Italy and the Vatican, both weakened over the past decade due to different reasons.
The Prime Minister brought with him the Minister of Foreign Affairs S. Jaishankar, Minister of Commerce and Industry as well as the Sherpa of G20 Piyush Goyal, Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval (who personally manages the dossier Afghanistan) and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, which shows the commitment of the Prime Minister to the trip.
There were many bilateral meetings during this G20, and, with the absence of Xi Jinping, the Chinese President and Vladimir Putin the Russian head of state, the spotlight was all on Modi, who once again did not disappoint.
The Indian “Charm-offensive” strengthened bonds with Ursula Van der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Charles Michael, President of the European Council during a meeting that was supposed to last 30 minutes, but which lasted for more than an hour and a half. Sources report that much progress was made on the EU-India connectivity and the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
MEETING BETWEEN ITALIAN PREMIER MARIO DRAGHI AND MODI AT PALAZZO CHIGI
Many important issues were discussed during the first bilateral in person meeting between the Indian and Italian Prime Ministers. Special priority was given to Afghanistan on which the leaders see eye to eye.
Modi has always appreciated Draghi's initiative to make Afghanistan an emergency issue to be discussed during the G20. The leaders talked about improving relations and investment between India and Italy, with a special focus on renewable energy, waste management, textiles and much more.
One of the priorities of the Italian Presidency of the G20 was getting a commitment on zero carbon emissions by 2050 from India. It would have been a huge victory for the Italian Presidency, as India today represents the voice of developing countries.
Unfortunately, according to some sources, it was not possible for Draghi to give guarantees on the investments necessary to achieve zero emissions from other donor countries, a cost that is estimated at around 100 billion dollars for the next few years, Modi did declare, now at the COP26 summit in Glasgow that India would commit to zero emissions by 2070, 10 years after China’s commitment.
Draghi would have scored a huge victory if he had managed to bridge the gap at G20.
In addition to the bilateral meeting with President Draghi, which ended with a lot of positivity and an invitation to the Italian Prime Minister to visit India, Modi was congratulated by almost all the heads of state for having achieved one billion vaccinations, a feat that until a few months ago seemed impossible.
India has also reiterated its position as the "pharmacy of the world", with the guarantee that it will produce 5 billion doses within the next year having already re-started exporting doses of vaccines to developing countries under the WHO COVAX program in November.
During the various panels of the G20, Modi also touched on the issues of the importance of supply chain resilience and the importance of the Indian outlook of "one planet, one vision", already demonstrated by the Indian vaccine maitri, India’s pharmaceutical diplomacy, that has been able to assist more than 150 countries during this pandemic and strongly believes in the need for a coordinated global response to the pandemics of the future.
On the issue of sustainable development and food security, India stressed that policies must protect the interests of marginalized small farmers and preserve local food cultures which in turn will significantly contribute to food security, a point jointly agreed with the Presidency Italian, Piyush Goyal, the Indian Sherpa told the press.
Goyal said on climate and environmental change, Modi's India spoke out loud about the need for critical enabling factors to galvanize global climate action that includes commensurate, long-term and subsidized climate finance, access to sustainable and affordable technologies, a commitment to sustainable lifestyles, responsible consumption and production patterns and the importance of achieving the SDG-12 goals, particularly by developed countries.
On the issue of gender and protection for women, Goyal said India strongly supported the inclusion of language against gender-based violence and supported the new G20 policy framework on "remote work agreements".
The Indian Prime Minister was heartened by the adoption of the minimum global tax adopted by the G20, to prevent tax evasion, especially by multinationals (which by taking unfair advantage of bilateral taxation agreements, have avoided paying taxes in any jurisdiction).
It is a battle started by Modi as early as 2014 during the G20 in Brisbane, Australia, which has seen its results only today with this G20. India's voice was strong, to represent not only developing countries, but also the most vulnerable.
The philosophy of "vasudhaiva kutumbakam", that is, the whole world is but one family, adopted by Modi as a strategy for international relations, was visible not only in his interaction with the various leaders but also with the various positions taken by the Indian delegation.
India spoke not only for herself, but for the entire free developing world. The friendly interaction with Biden and the warm meeting with Macron, during which France’s important role in the Indo-Pacific was discussed, also showed Modi-the peacemaker who managed to mediate relations between the USA, France and Australia which were ruined after the AUKUS announcement.
VISIT TO THE HOLY SEE
Perhaps one of the most important events of the visit was the "personal and unofficial" meeting between Pope Francis and Modi at the Holy See, Vatican City. The meeting was supposed to last 20 minutes, lasted more than an hour and was described as warm and friendly by sources.
The leader of the world's largest democracy had a personal conversation with the pontiff and was the third head of state to be received during the G20. The meeting ended with Modi’s invitation to the Pontiff to visit India, the second largest Catholic country in Asia, as soon as possible. Accepting the invitation, the Pope defined it as "the greatest gift he could have received".
India enters the G20 troika on December 1, 2022 and will hold the presidency by 2023.
(The writer is a senior journalist, based in Rome)