Is G7 overrated ETV Bharat 19 Jun 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Is G7 overrated ETV Bharat 19 Jun 2024

          The over hyped G7 meet has concluded. The organization, founded in 1975, claims to be an ‘informal bloc of industrialized democracies.’ Its members are the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Germany and Japan. It was earlier G8, including Russia, but post Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, it was suspended. The group meets annually to discuss global economic governance, international security, and other pressing issues. The G7 does not have a formal treaty as also a permanent secretariat or office. The host country is responsible to conduct the annual gathering. Italy is this year’s host, while Canada the next.

The European Union (EU), which represents the continent at large, is a ‘non-enumerated’ member of the G7 and does not hold a rotatory presidency. Other world bodies including the world bank and UN are invitees. India has been a permanent non-member invitee since 2019, though it had even attended several earlier summits. This implies that India participates in ‘outreach sessions’ of the group.

Amongst the invitees this year was the Ukrainian President, Vladimir Zelensky, implying that the Russo-Ukraine conflict figured extensively in deliberations. It was announced that members of the grouping will exploit frozen Russian assets to raise USD 50 billion for Ukraine. The other subjects discussed were options to curb illegal migration including by investing in Africa as also Artificial Intelligence. The forum also provides space for bilateral meetings amongst the attendees.   

Just as the G7 sat down to discuss Ukraine, President Putin laid down his terms for dialogue and a ceasefire. These include Ukraine withdrawing troops from area’s claimed by Russia, not joining NATO, its demilitarization and lifting of all sanctions against Moscow. While it did throw a spoke in the G7 deliberations but would definitely impact the peace summit in Switzerland. As expected, Putin’s terms were rejected but the messaging was clear. Russia will not succumb to pressure.

Is the G7 overrated? There was a time when the club comprised of leading global economies, thereby their decisions did carry weight. It no longer holds true. The G7’s share of the world’s GDP has been steadily declining since 2000. In 2000, it was 40 percent dropping to below 30 percent this year at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). This is because of the rise of China and India as also their own economic decline. However, a positive factor is that it remains a grouping of democracies.

Compare this with other global groupings. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) comprises of over 45% of the world’s population as against 10% of the G7. In 2022, BRICS possessed approximately 32% at PPP, which would increase to 36% with its upcoming expansion. The difference between the BRICS and G7 will only grow in the coming years.

The SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), akin to BRICS consists of eight member states, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It also has four observer nations and six dialogue partners. Its original grouping represents around 42% of the world population and 25% of the global GDP.

The G20, currently the G21, with the inclusion of the African Union, has all members of the G7 as part of it. It includes about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global GDP and 75% of global trade. Thus, decisions taken by the G21 have greater relevance than G7.  

As with other western groupings and organizations, the US tends to dominate the G7, hence nations with whom US relations are strained find mention in their discussions. Russia and China are invariably targets. In the current summit, China was warned for possible sanctions in case it continued supporting Russia. It was also called out for its aggressiveness against its neighbours.

On the Indo-Pacific, the G7 joint statement mentioned, ‘We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and reiterate our strong opposition to any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion. We continue opposing China’s dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia in the South China Sea and its repeated obstruction of countries’ high seas freedom of navigation.’

To hit Beijing where it hurts, the statement added, ‘We remain concerned by the human rights situation in China, including in Tibet and in Xinjiang where forced labour is a major concern to us.’  This will impact imports from China into the EU, especially China’s electric vehicles. No wonder, China remains amongst G7’s biggest critics and complains that it is unfairly targeted.    

A major difference is that while G7 comprises of democracies, BRICS, G20 and SCO include autocratic, democratic as also quasi democratic members. A second major difference is that nations comprising G7 have no internal conflicts, while other groupings involve countries in conflict. Hence, while working of other organizations can be impacted by political differences and conflicts between members, the same is not the case with G7.

This year, most G7 nations may undergo an internal change in government, which could have a bearing on its future functioning. The recently concluded EU elections indicated a shift to the far right, an aspect which will impact decision-making at future G7 summits.

In the US, upcoming elections may tilt in the favour of Donald Trump, whose views could be at variance with many G7 members. His relationships with few European leaders were strained in his previous tenure. In UK, the Labour party under Keir Starmer, is likely to replace Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives, as per multiple surveys.

In France, Emmanuel Macron was compelled to call snap elections after a drubbing in EU polls by Marine Le Pen’s far-right ‘Rassemblement National’ party. His chances of returning to power appear shaky. In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in an equally uncomfortable position, as the far-right, ‘Alternative for Germany,’ made significant gains. Trudeau is insecure in Canada. His ratings are sinking by the day. His own party is seeking a change in leadership before the polls next year.

The only two stable members of the G7 appear to be Italy and Japan. The Italian PM, Giorgia Meloni, is herself far-right and anti-immigrant.

The next gathering of the G7 club, under the Presidentship of Canada, could be with different representatives possessing differing ideologies. Trudeau did not comment on whether India would be invited for the G7 under their presidentship. It is likely that Canada would have little choice as others would insist on Indian attendance, without whose presence little can be achieved.

The reality is that the G7 is currently an institution of select western nations with near similar ideologies, however with a low global impact. Its joint statement conveys a combined western view, which could impact bilateral ties, as is the case with China and the EU. Its major advantage is that all its members are democracies with no internal conflicts amongst them.

 

   

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