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Transcript of Special Briefing by Foreign Secretary on the 2nd Voice of Global South Summit (November 17, 2023)

Posted on: November 18, 2023 | Back | Print

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to you all. Thank you for joining us at this late hour. As you are aware, we've just concluded the 2nd Voice of Global South Summit held in virtual mode. We have with us Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary, Sir, to give us a sense of what the deliberations were and how we look at this event. Also joining us on the dais, Sri P. Kumaran, OSD (ER & DPA) in the Ministry of External Affairs, as well as Shri Raghuram, Joint Secretary (Policy Planning and Research) in the Ministry. Sir, without further ado, I will hand over the floor to you, Sir, for your remarks.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much, Arindam, Kumaran, Raghu, JS, PP & R and friends from the media. Thank you very much and for coming at this late hour really in the evening, that too on Friday, for this briefing on the just concluded 2nd Voice of Global South Summit. In fact, I'm just coming back from the concluding session to share with you as to what happened at this day-long Summit today.

You would recall the first Summit, the 1st Voice of Global South Summit was held earlier this year in January 2023 and building on the momentum of the achievements of the 1st Global South Summit with the strong leadership of Honorable Prime Minister, it was decided to hold this 2nd Summit, Voice of Global South Summit today. The Summit, like last, the 1st Summit, had Leaders’ Sessions, the Inaugural and the Concluding Sessions, and also the eight Ministerial Sessions which included two Sessions of the Foreign Ministers, one devoted to the larger developments around the world and how they impact Global South, and second more on developmental agenda of the Global South. There were also one Ministerial Sessions each of Education, Finance, Environment, Energy, Health and Commerce. I would later be happy to share with you priorities of each of these Ministerial Sessions so that you get a sense of what was the nature of deliberations in the room for each of the Ministerial Sessions. Should you be interested in greater details on the specifics of individual Minister Session, I would be very happy to share them also with you.

In terms of the theme, the overarching theme of the 2nd Summit today was ‘Together, For Everyone's Growth, With Everyone's Trust’, which echoes essentially India's philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and is an extension of Honorable Prime Minister's vision of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’, also using it as the guiding principle for the progress of our cooperation within the framework of Global South.

Some specifics to share and you would have witnessed that through the live telecast of the Inaugural Session in the morning, the Prime Minister also inaugurated the Global South Center of Excellence, which will be called ‘DAKSHIN’, that stands for Development and Knowledge Sharing Initiative. You would recall, this was one of the decisions that the Honorable Prime Minister had announced at the Concluding Session of the 1st Summit. We have been working on its implementation for the last several months and Prime Minister inaugurated that session earlier today. The Global South Center of Excellence will work as a think tank, will also work as a repository of knowledge and development initiatives in order to interface with the Global South and seek out ways for forging stronger collaboration with its counterparts in the Global South countries, essentially ensuring that how our capacities and other capacities of Global South can be exchanged among the countries of the Global South. Besides that, Prime Minister also spoke about implementation of four other key decisions which he had announced at the 1st Summit. One was cooperation with the Global South through the Aarogya Maitri initiative, under which we have already commenced several initiatives of cooperation in the health field with the countries of the Global South. Similarly, under the platform of Global South Science and Technology Initiative, which was again announced at the last Summit, cooperation has advanced between India and other countries of the Global South. The Global South Scholarship Program has actually grown extensively since the announcement of this decision in the 1st Summit. Of course, it captures some of the existing programs of Government of India, but it is also expanded in a targeted way, looking at how to use this particular capacity for development cooperation with the countries of the Global South. And, Global South Young Diplomats Forum. This is again something which has already taken off in a very strong way and we hope to grow and progress on it further.

If I was to share with you briefly three things. One, to share with you broadly the sense of priorities of each Ministerial Session. Two, based on those thematic drive of individual sessions, what was seen as the shared priorities of the Global South based on the discussions and deliberations today. And then, broad sentiment in the room across the Ministerial Sessions and particularly during the Leaders Sessions, both the inaugural round and also the concluding session.

In terms of thematic focus of each of the Ministerial Sessions, I would say, for Education Ministers’ Session, the focus was on making human resources future ready. For the Finance Ministers’ Session, the focus was on financing people-centric development finance. For the Environment Ministers, the focus was on sustainable solutions for climate resilience and climate finance. Foreign Ministers, as I mentioned, there were two sessions of the Foreign Ministers, and focus; I am converging the two sessions here; was on Global South and one development thematically. Energy Ministers, they focused on affordable and inclusive energy transition for the Global South. The Health Ministers, they aimed at forging stronger cooperation and looking for solutions from the Global South for One Health. And Commerce Ministers, Global South and Resilient Supply Chains, was the focus area for the Commerce Ministers’ Session earlier today and Leaders’ Session, as I already spoke to you about.

Based on these thematic sessions, the shared priorities, if I was to just very briefly list out for your information would be, priority one…and you would have heard this in some detail in the concluding session when Prime Minister spoke about them. One, about ‘One Future’. The essential focus being that Global South will shape its future based on cooperation, of course, with the rest of the world, but also more strongly among the Global South countries, based on what I mentioned, the Prime Minister's philosophy of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’. Also another point of emphasis here was reduction in the East-West dichotomy in terms of specially the development agenda. Second, a shared priority which the Prime Minister highlighted was commitment to sustainable development and particularly with regard to climate action based upon a common but differentiated responsibility principle. Three, insofar as energy transition is concerned; inclusive, affordable and sustainable energy transition was something which was voiced and shared by almost all the member states in today's session. Four, people centric development finance. Of course, it was a theme of the finance ministers but something which came across very strongly across almost all the sessions and one of the underlying thrust areas of emphasis there was, a point from Global South to avoid situations where development initiatives and programs lead to debt trap for Global South. Five, Digital Public Infrastructure, aimed at delivery of public goods of governance, more effective delivery of governance, more efficient delivery of governance.

Six, this is something which was echoed very strongly, pretty much uniformly; need for reforming the multilateralism, reforming the multilateral institutions, particularly the Global Financial Institutions and the Security Council. Seven, women led development; a very, very strong area of priority and focus. Eight, something which came across not so sharply in the 1st Summit but came out very sharply this time, which is the need to prioritize investment flows among the Global South countries, linking and leading to increasing development space in those countries. Nine, strengthening cooperation on countering terrorism, spread of terrorism, growth of terrorism and its various manifestations. And tenth, the emphasis on timely and expeditious completion of the SDG 2030 Agenda. This was a kind of, I would say, collective sense of shared priorities that came out of the discussions.

In terms of broad sentiments which were layered on some of these priorities which were spoken about in the deliberations across the Leaders’ Session and the Ministerial segment was; one, universal sentiment, a sense of recognition, a sense of realization that India and Prime Minister Modi, they mean what they say. This came out in two very specific and express ways. One was, everybody spoke about India's and Prime Minister Modi's leadership in getting African Union to be a permanent member of the G20. But also equally importantly, in ensuring that the priorities and the interest of the Global South, the way they were voiced at the 1st Summit, were not only just tabled for discussions at the G20 meetings in the Summit, but they were also factored in the New Delhi Declaration. New Delhi Declaration actually is a matter of fact, if you see, good more than 50% of it focuses on items of priority to the Global South. So, there was a wide spread recognition of this that India and Prime Minister Modi's leadership has ensured this and this is essentially, walking the talk as External Affairs Minister spoke earlier today. For us, Prime Minister was very clear in articulating that India's G20 was anchored in the priorities of the Global South and that success of our G20, we see it as a success of Global South and this is something which in a way, you know, we found in a way, today's Summit, Global South kind of owned up in a way to the success of the G20 as one of their own, essentially through this.

There was one sentiment which was expressed that, insofar as the African Union permanent membership to the G20 is concerned, there was a sentiment which came across that yes, global groupings can be persuaded to respond to the changing global realities and respond in a more inclusive fashion. I think that's what African Union membership represented and that was echoed in the room while expressing gratitude to Prime Minister Modi's leadership here.

There was a thought which also was very widely shared across different sessions which was that the challenges that confront the Global South across the development space, across the political space, it is important that Global South should look for Global South answers to the challenges that confront them, but do it through cooperation, consultation and coordination, not through confrontation. So this was a vital sense of the room that Global South answers for the challenges that faced them.

There was also a recognition and this has been spoken about at the last Summit of the Global South also, the 1st one, wherein that given the nature of growing uncertainty, conflict, geopolitical tensions across the world, there is a need for Global South to speak more forcefully on these challenges and converge more extensively in searching as the world looks for solutions to these issues. And this is because these uncertainties, these tensions essentially impact the development space and specifics of the Global South and hence there is a need. It's not just a rhetorical need for them to speak, it is because those developments do impact on their economic growth and development.

And lastly, as I have also mentioned as one of the shared priorities, a very strong sentiment in the room that there is a need to urgently reform the multilateral institutions, in particular the Global Financial Institutions, the UN Security Council and the overall global financial architecture. We will be circulating at some stage, hopefully tomorrow, a structured capturing of these discussions in a certain form which would be available for you to look for more details but that will be sometime tomorrow morning because it's just concluded. So we need to just work through that. I think I would stop here and if there are questions we'd be happy to take that.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. Please introduce yourself and the organization that you represent.

Pia: Hi, Pia with The Print. Sir you had mentioned that debt burden was one of the topics of discussion. Could you expand on that and if there were any explicit concerns about China's role when it comes to this issue? Thank you.

Sidhant: Sir Sidhant from WION. Sir, how much was the focus on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas? We saw the comments by the Prime Minister but other leaders, what was the sense in the room when the leaders discussed about this issue?

Sahil: Sir, I'm Sahil from ANI. Sir, the India stack was also discussed during this Summit and how many countries showed interest in it?

Sudhi Ranjan: Sir, Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg Sir. On energy transition and finance being available for development, if you could give us a better sense or an expanded sense of what was the kind of discussion and any actionable points that you….

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sorry, on financing for development?

Sudhi Ranjan: Yes.

Dhairya: Sir, Dhairya Maheshwari from Sputnik India. Sir, Prime Minister Modi urged unity among the Global South countries on the conflict, as has been asked. I just wanted to know if there was an unequivocal condemnation of the Hamas attack, because counter-terrorism has been spelled out as one of the priorities by Prime Minister Modi. Thank you, Sir.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you. With regard to the debt burden, this came across very strongly in multiple sessions because financing is a kind of need which stretches across different areas of development cooperation and economic growth of a country. It also is very structural to some of the challenges that are being faced by many of the Global South countries. So, for example, it came in the Leaders’ Sessions, in both the Leaders’ Sessions. Some of them spoke about it. It definitely came up in the Finance section, in the Finance Ministers’ Session. It came up in the External Affairs Ministers’ Session that deals with the development priorities. And the thrust of most interventions was that, look, we are facing this very strong headwinds of economic challenges because of global uncertainties. Be that as it may, alongside, we also have very clear and strong developmental priorities across various sectors, and we have the strong challenge of climate, climate crisis, in fact; and this came across very strongly. Everybody's intervention essentially spoke of the need that when they access this financing for their development projects, for climate crisis or for energy transitions, for that matter, it should be in a manner and of a kind which does not impose debt burden on the structural parameters of the economy. It should be more sustainable. Why it should be sustainable? So that the development path that the country is pursuing is also sustainable. Development financing, which causes indebtedness of a country and puts that burden on the economy will obviously make the most part of economic ecosystem unsustainable going forward. So that was the central thrust of the countries. No, I think individual countries were not really referred to, because it was more of a conceptual thing. But everybody knows what kind of credit causes debt, what kind of credit is sustainable. I think underlying recognition is there. But as I said, the focus was more on that, how do I make my development sustainable, and for that sustainability, avoidance of debt burden is actually quite critical.

With regard to Israel, Hamas, yes, there was a fair number of leaders, spoke about their concern relating to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. And if I can just capture the query that came from Sputnik also on this, each leader spoke about their own perspective on how they look at the current situation there. So many leaders, almost all leaders, spoke about the challenge of terrorism, which comes from there, the need to provide humanitarian assistance there, horror at the civilian casualties because of the conflict. These three were kind of threads which were sort of common to almost all interventions. So it was discussed. Members, the leaders expressed strong concern at the deteriorating security situation, which has very clear implications of all kinds in many of the countries. Prime Minister himself, you heard him, he spoke about the challenge there. So yes, there was a discussion on this to that extent.

Insofar as India stack is concerned, the India stack issue or its relevance for the development of Global South, again, this is something which permeated almost, I would say, all segments of the 2nd Voice of Global South Summit, the Leaders’ Sessions and each of the Ministerial Sessions. I think the underlying driver for that is that the development public infrastructure, the digital stack of India has interface with pretty much all segments of economy. So if you are looking at digitizing health initiatives that leads to better pandemic preparedness, delivery of vaccines, mapping of vulnerable populations for communicable or non-communicable diseases, then that is important. If you are looking at financing space, then the transparency in the development financing, transparency leading to removal of corruption in the financing space, it was discussed there. Payment initiatives, which brings about strong efficiencies in the delivery of governance. It costs less to the government and to the user to use digital payment modality. So each of these elements were discussed at some length in each of the Ministerial Sessions. And the objective essentially was that from our perspective, from Prime Minister's perspective, that look, this is something which is a capacity that India has built as per its initiatives, and India would be very happy to share it with the countries of the Global South. Again, in a manner that is sustainable and non-debt causing really. And there was almost a universal appreciation that India was willing to consider offering not just other capacities, but particularly the digital space where the intellectual property for the digital stack, the investments and the initiatives that have been taken in India are essentially all Indian….. But we are very happy to see if our progress in the space also leads to the progress and development of other countries. This was the driving sentiment of Prime Minister, which he spoke about in both Sessions. And I think countries, the leaders appreciated it deeply.

On the energy transition and the financing, I mean, I can go into the specifics of what was talked about on energy transition. Two, three things were very particular to when the energy transition discussions took place. One, the nature for energy transition to be inclusive, affordable. And in a manner which makes the development sustainable. So, inclusive, affordable, just energy transition for sustainable development. That's a sort of broad parameter. But besides that, there was also a clear reference and the Indian Minister spoke about it very clearly; the need for…because for this, if you really want affordable and inclusive energy transition, you also need to have access to affordable finance & technology for achieving this energy transition across the Global South. This is not just a matter of India.

While talking of energy, there was also a sense of gratitude expressed for India and Prime Minister to expand the reach of solar energy through the International Solar Alliance to the countries of the Global South. Reach means both the capacities, the technologies, the innovations, the processes, the systems that you would build to make a harnessing of solar energy more efficient in their respective countries. Our Leader, our Minister, also invited countries of the Global South to join the Global Biofuel Alliance in the Session. These were the broad subheads within the energy. I can go into the details, but I think you will find many of those, some of those, when we bring out the structured capturing of it tomorrow.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, Sir. Thank you all for joining today evening. I want to thank also to Shri Kumaran and Shri Raghuram. Good evening.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much.