Modi at G7

Express View on PM Modi at G7: A finer balance

Mody deftly used the G7 forum to recalibrate Delhi’s position and deliver important messages on Ukraine

More than a year after Russia launched a war against Ukraine, Delhi continues to calibrate its position keeping an eye on the evolving situation. This was once again in evidence at the meeting of the G7 in Hiroshima, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent out three strong messages.

The first, a call to the international community to “raise your voice against unilateral attempts to change the status quo”, was a clearer reiteration of earlier Indian statements, particularly at the UN, in support of the “contemporary global order […] built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”.

By calling on “all countries” to respect the global order, Modi appeared to be messaging not just Russia on its aggression in Ukraine, but also China, whose unilateral action to change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control with India in eastern Ladakh created military tensions that are yet to be resolved. That the PM said this after his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is significant. It may have thrilled western capitals as much as his “this is not an era for war” remark to Putin.

This was Modi’s first meeting with Zelenskyy since 2021 though they have spoken four times over the phone since the war began in February 2022. But Modi’s message to the Ukrainian leader, that his government would “make every possible effort to contribute, in whatever way India can, for resolving this situation”, has to be seen in the context of his second key message at Hiroshima as the voice of the “global south”.

India has said many times that the less developed and developing world has suffered immensely because of the war.

By reiterating this to the club of the world’s wealthiest nations, the torchbearers of the “status quo” in the global order, Modi was not just walking a tightrope, but articulating a normative underpinning for it — that the war has hurt developing countries the most by triggering a global fuel, food, and fertiliser crisis, which they do not have the resources to offset, and that the conflict needs to be brought to an end urgently through dialogue before more people die or are displaced and more destruction takes place.

Today the richest nations are driving Ukraine’s military response against Russia. If they are seeking a peaceful resolution to the war, it is not apparent by their actions.

When PM Modi pointed out the failure of the United Nations to prevent conflict — this was his third important message — he was hitting out at the wealthy status quoists assembled at Hiroshima, some of whom are dead set against reforming international institutions to reflect the voices of the developing and less developed world. Delhi has been pushing for such reforms for at least 25 years. In the midst of a war in Europe, the G7 forum at Hiroshima, where the US dropped the first of its two nuclear bombs on Japan — the only two times that these weapons have been used in war — was the appropriate place for India to deliver a wake-up call.

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