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A hope for multilateralism | HT Editorial – Editorials


Governments belatedly begin to show unity in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual summit of the leaders of the Group of Twenty (G20) produced an outline of an international response to coronavirus disease. The joint statement called for expanding the mandate of the World Health Organization (WHO), coordinating work on vaccines and medical supplies, and agreeing on a $ 5 billion global economic stimulus.

Until now, a coherent multilateral response to the pandemic was lacking. Most governments have been isolating rather than coordinating. Regional groups such as the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations did not rise to the occasion. Even the WHO has been accused of modifying announcements at the behest of individual governments. The past few weeks of open hostility between the two superpowers, the United States (China) and China, have not helped at all. Geopolitics infected the recent Group of Seven summit to the point that it was unable to issue a joint statement. The United Nations Security Council has had trouble meeting due to opposition from Beijing and Moscow. Given the circumstances, it is reassuring that the virtual summit of the G20 leaders had no friction, and no government felt the need to score points. The G20 announcements provided a sense of common purpose but stopped there. Few concrete numbers and virtually no commitment at the national level emerged from the meeting. But the fact that all of these governments have agreed to provide funding and legitimacy for specific programs, especially a series of targeted coronavirus vaccine programs, is an important achievement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi should recognize that he is in a unique position to help turn these intentions into reality. India was among the few countries invited to the two previous conferences on virtual coronavirus held by China and the United States, reflecting New Delhi’s investments in relations with both governments. It has a good reputation with various world leaders. The G20 has called more ministerial-level meetings, with many more rounds of negotiations to follow in the coming months. New Delhi should ensure that it is involved in creating the multilateral linkage that is still needed, for the benefit of the world and the nation.

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