The Irish Times view on the G20 summit: less than the sum of its parts

The summit’s consensus-based conclusions omitted any condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or its brutal conduct of the war

It was the intensive bilaterals and the side events, and the attendance and the significant non-attendance, which would make the G20 leaders forum what it was, an underwhelming expression of global resolve, always somewhat less than the sum of its parts. The US/EU announcement on the summit margins that they plan to build to build a rail and shipping corridor from India through the Middle East to Europe was undoubtedly the Delhi global economic gathering’s high, while the summit’s own anodyne and pious final declaration was its low.

The proposed corridor – in part to rival China’s plans to build its global infrastructure links through the giant Belt and Road Initiative – would stretch across the Arabian Sea from India to the United Arab Emirates, then cross Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel before linking up to Europe. The EU and US also committed to a trans-African corridor between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Angola, aimed at improving trade in raw materials.

The summit’s consensus-based conclusions omitted any condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or its brutal conduct of the war, instead simply lamenting the “suffering” of the Ukrainian people. The declaration pointed to past UN resolutions condemning the war and noted “the adverse impact of wars and conflicts around the world.” It did redeem itself partially by calling on Russia to allow the export of grain and fertiliser from Ukraine. It was, as Richard Haass, former president of the US Council on Foreign Relations, observed, putting the best gloss on the event, an example of “incremental diplomacy”.

For the western powers, notably the US, the summit was above all an occasion on which to woo the developing countries of the South to reclaim a global leadership role that China has increasingly sought to usurp. US president Joe Biden arrived, trumpeting initiatives like World Bank expansion and reform and debt relief, the Middle East corridor, and backing for the Indian presidency initiative to induct the African Union into full membership. All were approved.


The declaration also promises to “pursue and encourage efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally”, but China and Saudi Arabia successfully ensured that no language was agreed on deadlines for phasing out fossil fuels.

The absence of China’s president Xi Jinping, explained by some as reflecting tensions between Beijing and New Delhi, was an opportunity for western diplomats to build some bridges with developing countries at a time of global competition for influence. The summit was also milked by host prime minister Narendra Modi, seeking to rebrand India as a major power and champion of the South. All grandstanding grist to his domestic agenda, at a time when elections are looming.