At the invitation of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate virtually in the Outreach Sessions of the G7 Summit on June 12 and 13.
The G7 comprises the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. The UK currently holds the presidency and has invited India, along with Australia, South Korea and South Africa, as guest countries for the Summit, which will witness a hybrid of physical and virtual participation.
The theme is ‘Build Back Better’, and the UK has outlined four priority areas for its presidency: leading the global recovery from coronavirus while strengthening resilience against future pandemics; promoting future prosperity by championing free and fair trade; tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity; and championing shared values and open societies.
The leaders are expected to exchange views on the way forward on global recovery from the pandemic with a focus on health and climate change.
Since 2014, this is the second time the Prime Minister will be participating in a G7 meeting. India had been invited by the G7 French presidency in 2019 to the Biarritz Summit as a “Goodwill Partner” and Prime Minister Modi participated in the sessions on ‘Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans’ and ‘Digital Transformation’.
While the UK has invited India this year, the US under President Donald Trump had extended an invitation in May last year. Calling the G7 a “very outdated group”, Trump had said he would like to include India, Australia, South Korea and Russia in the grouping of the largest advanced economies.
Trump had suggested that G7 be called “G10 or G11”, and proposed that the grouping meet in September or November ‘2020. But, due to the pandemic and the US election outcome, that did not happen.
This year, after the UK’s invitation, Modi was expected to travel to the UK, but cancelled the visit due to the pandemic situation in the country.
This will be President Biden’s first visit to Europe, where he will signal his key message “America is back”. He met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Queen Elizabeth II and other allies at the Summit. He will continue on to a NATO conclave in Brussels on June 14, before his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva two days later.
Biden earlier held the first summit of leaders of the ” Quad” — Australia, India, Japan and the US. This was aimed at increasing vaccine production and aligning their positions toward Beijing.
Ahead of G7, Biden announced a major initiative to vaccinate the world against Covid-19: the US would donate 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, with “no strings attached.” The Summit is also expected to announce one billion doses of Covid vaccines to poor and middle-income countries on Friday as part of a campaign to “vaccinate the world” by the end of 2022.
“This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as we can,” President Biden said in a speech in England. US NSA Jake Sullivan said the G7 will make a further joint declaration on “a comprehensive plan to help end this pandemic as rapidly as possible”..
The two leaders signed a new version of the 80-year-old Atlantic Charter on Thursday, as they confront Russia and China. The new charter will focus on cyberattacks, Covid-19 and its impact on the global economy, and climate change. This signals the importance given to global partnerships, a shift from Trump’s America First policy.
US-Russia relations are going through a rough patch. Interestingly, the venue of the Biden-Putin meeting — Geneva — is where then US President Ronald Reagan held his first meeting with Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.
But today, the two sides don’t see eye to eye. While Washington’s intelligence apparatus believes that Putin authorised operations in 2020 directly aimed at manipulating the elections and hurting Biden’s chances of becoming the President, the Biden administration has put sanctions against Russia for a hack and jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The key element that is prompting Washington to engage with Moscow is to contain the damage in their bilateral ties, as the US wants to focus on its strategic rival, China.
India has long called for reforming global institutions and groupings to reflect modern-day geopolitical realities. Trump’s offer to expand G7 fitted into New Delhi’s idea of being part of the global high table. With an assertive China round the corner, the US is calling all like-minded countries to partner in dealing with Beijing. If Biden and Johnson want to work towards constituting a global alliance of 10-11 countries, it will be an important signal.
As India faces a massive shortage of vaccines, New Delhi will be watching the allocation to be announced by the US President.
Last week, the US had said that it will distribute vaccines to India as part of its “strategy for global vaccine sharing”, days after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met key officials in the administration in Washington DC.
While Biden made the announcement, Vice President Kamala Harris had called up Modi about Washington’s plans to make vaccines available to other countries, including India. A US statement said the Biden-Harris administration will begin sharing the “first 25 million doses” to the countries as part of the framework for sharing at least 80 million vaccines globally by the end of June.
This means India is likely to get vaccines from the US — both directly as well as through COVAX. Initial estimates suggest India will get about 2 to 3 million vaccines in the first tranche.
Washington’s rapprochement with Moscow will leave New Delhi extremely relieved as the US can then focus on China. While that is easier said than done, weaning Russia away from Beijing could be a game-changer in current geopolitics.