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G20's New Delhi Declaration: Serving the Interest of the Global Landlords

The Delhi declaration’s achievement is preservation of the interest of the global elite (including the Indian elite). The global landlords enabled it while paying lip service to global good.
Heads of state of G20 grouping paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat in Delhi on Sunday, September 10. Photo: X (formerly Twitter)/@g20org

The G20 summit in India ended on a high note with a New Delhi Declaration. This is a matter of immense satisfaction for the prime minister personally and for his entire team which had to struggle to arrive at a consensus among the warring elements of the grouping. It highlights India’s present pole position in the global order. Other nations are trying to draw it into their sphere of influence, or at least trying to prevent it from getting closer to the other side.

India’s advantage is a result of the continuing Ukraine war and the aggravating Cold War between the G7 and China-Russia combine. It has required deft manoeuvring, more so because of India’s political problems with China which resulted in its president giving the meeting a miss. This caused considerable consternation, given China’s economic and political clout.

Ambiguity not action

The G20 declaration’s political message is ambiguous at best, enabling both sides in the Cold War to read what they want and pronounce victory – and good diplomacy is all about this. So what does the declaration mean? Real progress would have been if the G20 leaders could have announced an end to the disastrous war in Ukraine. Lakhs have died and been injured in the last year and a half.

Arms and ammunition are being spent at a phenomenal rate which only benefits the armament industry and the military industrial complex of the world. The marginalised of the world continue to suffer the consequences of supply bottlenecks and may face more adversity if high inflation persists and/or a global recession begins. A worker asked me, what is G20 and what does it give me?

Also read: Civil Society Calls Out G20 Declaration’s Omission of Civic Space Erosion, Democracy Decline

G20 nations are the landlords of the world. They represent the economic and political interests of their elites. They have decided to fight to the finish. The marginalised people are incidental to their considerations. India, as the poorest of the G20 countries, has the largest number of the marginalised in the world. These are the workers, the farmers, the women and the youth. Is their precarious condition exposed by the pandemic going to be addressed by the declaration in the coming years?

Lofty slogans no substitute

Global declarations and agreements are cloaked in progressive language to hide the real intent of the landlords. Climate negotiations or the Sustainable Development Goals agreements are high sounding, but extreme weather events are only increasing in numbers annually and that is aggravating the poverty and distress of the marginalised.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoted the Prakrit inscription on an Ashokan pillar close to the venue of the summit, ‘Hevam loksa hitmukhe ti, atha iyam natisu hevam’. He translated it as ‘the welfare and happiness of humanity should always be ensured’. Without agreeing to address the consumerism of the well-off in the world, this happiness cannot be ensured, forget ‘always’. If the situation is as grim as in 2022-23, when the temperature has only risen 1.2 degrees above the pre-industrial average temperature, what would it be at 1.5 degrees above? Not a day can be wasted, yet the declaration talks of goals over the coming years. There is no clarion call to the elite to curb consumption. The landlords do not want to sacrifice their lifestyle or their profits.

The Summit slogan, ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ enlarged to ‘One Family, One Earth and One Future’, is evocative. But are these meant for the global compact and not to be applied within each nation? Can there be ‘welfare and happiness’ where not only is there extreme deprivation and poverty, but it persists? Can there be one global or national family with extreme and rising inequality? There is only One Earth which is becoming increasingly unliveable. So, the One Future that we are moving towards looks bleak for the marginalised. The Bezzos and Musks, considering colonising space, will find life on the Moon and Mars even tougher than here.

So, the noble words in the declaration come nowhere close to the deeds of the global landlords. This applies with even greater force in India from where the slogans emanate.

Issue of resources

Is raising these concerns churlish or nitpicking when the world leaders are full of praise for India’s presidency? The proponents point to the major paragraphs/chapters in the New Delhi Declaration which are not just regarding the Ukraine war but also express concern about the marginalised. Everything is there – inclusive growth, gender equality, climate change, financial markets, energy and food security, global debt vulnerabilities, health and education, digital public infrastructure, international taxation, etc.. These are crucial global concerns, especially for the developing world.

The landlords who decide are adept at making tall promises to create a façade behind which they carry forward their real agenda. In India we see this in the budgets which are cloaked in tall promises to end poverty, illiteracy, etc. but these persist 75 years after independence. The ruling elite feel the poor escaping extreme poverty ought to be grateful even if they lead an uncivilised existence. They should not look at their marginalisation.

Also read: The G20 Has Summarily Failed to Address Agrarian Distress in its Member Countries

Are adequate funds raised to implement the tall promises in the Indian budget or in the Delhi declaration? Who is to raise the funds and how will they be shared among nations? The chapter on global taxation is the briefest of all – one para. No goal is set as to how resources will be raised and how will they be distributed.

Multilateral funding for development has been available from global financial institutions like the World Bank. Rather than helping development, in many cases it pushed nations into a debt trap. China has also been advancing loans under the One Belt, One Road initiative with similar results. So, more multilateral development banks can hardly be the solution.

The international financial architecture enables flight of capital from the developing world. They have lost more than they have received. London and New York are tax havens just as much as Delaware or Switzerland or Jersey Island and Cayman Island. The landlords of the developed nations can prevent this bleeding of the developing world resources but for obvious reasons, they do not do so. The elites of the developing countries who resort to flight of capital too benefit from it. So, implicitly there is consensus among the global landlords to persist with this system by not resorting to any tough action on this issue.

This situation is aggravated by the ‘race to the bottom’ and base erosion and profit shifting. The result is inadequate resources for public goods and forced privatisation. The declaration states, “We recognize the critical role of private enterprise in accelerating growth and driving sustainable economic transformations.” So, the global landlords are washing their hands off their responsibility to the marginalised.

Cryptocurrencies and, since November 2022, AI based on Large Language Models pose a major global challenge. They threaten to marginalise the marginals like never before. The urgent global action called for is missing. Perhaps the global landlords want it that way.


There were also side shows like the announcement of the road and rail connectivity from India to Europe via West Asia. It seems to be the result of long term thinking. That is why Adani had acquired the Haifa port in Israel through which the connectivity would be established. Indeed, it is not to help the marginalised. Till now, India has lost out in the Free Trade Agreements it has entered into due to its technological lag. So, for whose benefit is it?

The visit to Gandhi Samadhi demonstrates the gap between the show and the intent. It did not strengthen the resolve to enforce Gandhi’s ‘last person first’. In India, currently the Gandhian institutions and ideas are under attack. Recently one of the institutions in the prime minister’s constituency was demolished on the pretext of development. It is empty rhetoric when the Preamble says, “We meet at a defining moment in history where the decisions we make now will determine the future of our people and our planet.”

The Delhi declaration’s achievement is preservation of the interest of the global elite (including the Indian elite). The global landlords enabled it while paying lip service to global good. The Indian government through its deft handling has been able to serve the interest of big business at the expense of the marginalised and this coincides with the global objective of the other landlords.

Arun Kumar retired as Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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