India - G7 relations

JUN 17

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IN NEWS:

  • The annual g7 summit was recently held and India attended the meeting virtually as a special invitee.

THE G7:

  • The G-7 or ‘Group of Seven’ is an intergovernmental organization formed in 1975, by the top economies of that time, as an informal forum to discuss pressing world issues.
  • At present, it consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • The G-7 was known as the ‘G-8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997. The Group returned to being called G-7 after Russia was expelled in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
  • The G-7 does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters.
  • The G-7 nations meet at annual summits that are presided over by leaders of member countries on a rotational basis. The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.

INDIA’S PAST ENGAGEMENTS WITH G7:

  • India has been intermittently attending the summit meetings since the early 2000s as an invitee.
  • In 2005, India was made part of the G8+5, which consisted of the G8 nations and five leading emerging economies (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa) in the world.
  • In 2019, in a first, Minister Narendra Modi attended the G7 Summit in France as a special guest.
  • Now, in 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has participated in the outreach sessions of the UK-hosted G7 virtual summit as a special invitee.

KEY OUTCOMES OF RECENT SUMMIT:   

  • Revival of multilateralism:
    • The US administration under President Biden has signaled its intention to revert from the Trump administration’s ‘America First’ policy. This will provide major impetus to the revival of multilateralism.  
  • Tackling climate change:
    • G7 leaders pledged to phase out coal-fired power generation at home and to end funding for new coal-burning power plants in the developing world.
    • The summit also promised to make good on a pledge to jointly mobilize USD 100 billion per year to developing countries to help them tackle the impact of climate change.
  • Countering China:
    • G7 has put forth the Build Back Better World (B3W) concept, where the members will catalyse new infrastructure partnerships across the world to counter China’s belt and road initiative. It also criticized China over human rights issues in Xinjiang, autonomy of Hong Kong and demanded thorough investigation of the origins of the coronavirus.
  • US realignment with Russia:
    • US and Russia met after the G7, indicating ease in the relationship between the two countries. This will be beneficial for India, as it has close ties with both nations.
  • Vaccination:
    • G7 countries committed to share at least 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines directly, with the aim to deliver at least half by the end of 2021, and reaffirmed their support for the COVAX program.
  • Tax on corporates:
    • The summit agreed measures to dissuade multinational companies from shifting profits to low tax havens. Leaders signed up to levy a minimum 15% corporate tax rate.

(NOTE: Direct questions on the outcomes of the summit are less likely to be asked. However, they can be used in questions related to addressing climate change, COVID-19 management and globalization.)

EXPANDING THE G7?

In 2020, then US President Donald Trump had called for the expansion of G7 to include India, Russia, South Korea and Australia. Experts pointed out several reasons for this call:

  • Reflect global realities:
    • The present configuration of G7 no longer reflects global realities, as emerging markets have grown to become growth centers and far more important to every significant issue that G7 deals with, such as climate change, clean energy, and health pandemics.
  • Countering China:
    • China has been alleged of gross misconduct in the global order, particularly after the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. Having India and?others in the G7 can help counter the rising influence of China on the world stage.
  • Post pandemic management:
    • The G7 consists of the world’s most important leaders who can play a vital role in rebuilding the world. Here, inclusion of major economies will help lay down the contours of a coordinated response in vaccination and economic recovery.
  • Strengthen the group’s profile:
    • The influence of the group has been declining in recent times, particularly due the rise of groups like the ASEAN and G20. Hence, expanding the group can certainly add more weight to the grouping's profile.

SHOULD INDIA PURSUE G7 MEMBERSHIP:

YES:

  • Recognition of India’s growth:
    • India, the world’s largest democracy, possesses the fastest GDP growth and has an economy much greater than many of the G7 members. Having a membership in the group will be recognition for India’s increasing international clout, importance and acceptability at the high table.
  • Rising Chinese aggression:
    • India and china have a complex relationship. China has been increasingly aggressive in dealing with border disputes with India. Hence, having strong relations with the proposed G11 can be strategically significant for India.
  • Support Post-pandemic revival:
    • G7 could turn out to be a useful platform for India to diversify its trade links to revive its economic growth after the COVID-19 pandemic and lessen economic dependence on China.
  • Secure national interests:
    • A seat at the G7 could help New Delhi further its security and foreign policy interests, especially at the nuclear club and UN Security Council reform as well as protecting its interests in the Indian Ocean.
  • Step towards global reforms:
    • The move supports India’s long-standing demand for revamping of global institutions to reflect current geopolitical realities. India can use membership to this platform to push for reforms in other areas such as the UN security council.
  • More voice in geopolitics:
    • Deliberations at the G-20 are confined to those concerning the global economy and financial markets, while the G7 discusses a broad range of issues such as security and energy. Hence, through the membership, India can have a better say in geopolitics.

NO:

  • Fear of losing strategic autonomy:
    • The G7 is regarded as a coalition of first world countries led by the US. Being a member in the group, especially in the wake of a brewing cold war 2.0, could possibly hinder a non-aligned country like India’s autonomy in taking strategic decisions.
  • Presence of more relevant groupings:
    • India is already a member of the more powerful G20, which is more inclusive with members from Africa and Latin America. Hence, India can do more by being in G20 than by joining the G7.
  • Internal conflicts:
    • There are deep differences among its members on issues including climate change, security contributions, Iran, etc. Hence, the G7’s effectiveness as a multilateral forum is questioned.
  • Symbolic move:
    • Canada and Britain have opposed Russia’s entry, while Russia has stated that it is hardly possible to implement serious global initiatives without China. Hence, the call for expansion may end up being symbolic than substantive.

CONCLUSION:

  • India is a natural ally for the G7 countries in defending the shared values from a host of threats stemming from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and economic coercion.
  • However, 20th century institutions of global governance have not reformed to reflect the established importance of emerging economies to the world. Hence, reviewing the structure of G7 to include India makes sense.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. Outcomes of the recent G7 summit align with India’s interests. Discuss?