By Dr Arun Mitra
The group of 20 countries, nick named as G20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. So far seven summits of the G20 have been held. The first one was hosted by the US in the year 2008. The presidency of the summit goes to each country by rotation. This year it is India’s turn to lead the G20.
The world is faced with several serious challenges at this juncture. However there are opportunities too if the group moves in a proper direction and honest commitment under India’s leadership. We have the history of initiating the Non-Aligned movement (NAM) led by Jawahar Lal Nehru, Marshal Tito and Gamal Abdel Nasser of India, Yugoslavia and Egypt respectively. The NAM had 120 Member States, 17 Observer Countries and 10 Observer organization. This was the biggest organization of the developing countries at one time.
Most of these countries had been liberated from the colonial yoke all of whom were deprived of even basic amenities for their population as a result of extreme exploitation by the colonial masters these countries. Collective development and inclusive growth was their necessity and common agenda. They could not afford war and waste resources at any cost. So they decided to remain away from the NATO or the Warsaw Pact.
Their main thrust was against nuclear arms race and for general disarmament besides economic cooperation. This group therefore posed a challenge to the imperialist powers who continued with their agenda of economic exploitation of the developing world. Even though the countries in the NAM were not global economic powers, but their collectiveness was always a concern to the developed world, particularly the erstwhile colonial powers and the NATO. The collective wisdom of the NAM helped in containing arms race and also promoting several treaties for peace and disarmament.
The times have however changed. With the global political changes newer types of blocks have come up. The G20 is a mix of highly developed and developing economies. The US, Russia, UK, France and China are big military powers. Six out of this group of twenty are nuclear weapons possessing countries. So in this heterogeneous group there are different aspirations, approaches and solutions to the problems faced by the world today. Under the circumstances India has big responsibility in promoting the concept of One Earth, One Family, One Future, as conceived by the Indian Prime Minister who is to lead the group this year.
The recently held COP27 could not take final decisions for effective steps to mitigate the climate change, even though there has been agreement on the raising funds for the developing countries so as to check carbon prints.
Global economic gaps are increasing day by day. We could see how even during the time of COVID Pandemic the rich grew richer while the low economic groups were deprived of basic needs like food, shelter, medicines and even vaccines. Vaccine inequity was glaring. African countries were at the receiving end while the big Pharma companies made billions and put stringent conditions for the supply of vaccines.
Against the expectations, the arms race has not abated during or when the Pandemic is receding. According to new data on global military spending published on 25th April 2022 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), total global military expenditure increased by 0.7 per cent in real terms in 2021, to reach $2113 billion. The five largest spenders in 2021 were the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom and Russia, together accounting for 62 per cent of expenditure. Therefore the G20 has the biggest challenge of disarmament as all the above countries are members of the group.
According to ICAN, “$82.4 billion, that’s how much the nine nuclear-armed states spent on their nuclear weapons in 2021 during a global pandemic, raising global food insecurity…..’ Nine countries have prioritized spending $156,841 per minute on nuclear weapons, as millions of their own citizens struggle to access healthcare, heat their homes, and even buy food. Spending on nuclear weapons is violence that costs lives.
The U.S. spent three times more than the next in line- a whopping $44.2 billion. China was the only other country crossing the ten billion mark, spending $11.7 billion. Russia had the third highest spending at $8.6 billion, though the U.K.’s $6.8 billion and the French $5.9 billion weren’t so far behind. India, Israel, Pakistan also each spent over a billion on their arsenals, while North Korea spent $642 million.
The peace groups have been demanding complete nuclear abolition. According to the IPPNW report Nuclear Famine, based on research conducted by climate scientists Alan Robock, Lili Xia, and their colleagues, a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan using 100 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs will put more than two billion people at risk of starvation because of the impact on global food supplies. Such a war would kill up to 20 million people outright as major cities of the subcontinent would be destroyed and it would blanket much of South Asia with radioactive fallout.
There is also a global demand for commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons by all the nuclear weapon states. But not all have agreed to this, not even Russia and NATO-US in the on-going war in Ukraine. Even though India is committed to the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, but recently, in August, 2022, the Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gave a hint that the policy can be changed depending upon the situations in future. US which spends maximum on the arms race is further updating its budget.
It is also a matter of concern that Indian government’s pursuit for becoming an arms exporter at a time when the country is faced with several problems like hunger, malnutrition, unemployment, inequity in health and education. In this connection the decision to export Brahmos missiles to Philippines is a dangerous trend that India is adopting. Already India has signed international agreements to manufacture arms with a purpose to export them and Israel is our major partner in this endeavour. There is also demand for nuclear weapons free zones particularly in the South Asia in the present juncture.
It is indeed a big challenge for India to raise the voice for nuclear disarmament and join the Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). It is testing time for the G20 if it wants to fulfil the desired goal of One Earth, One Family, One Future. All these countries have also to prove their commitment for inclusive growth, a harmonious society and respect of human rights of all sections in their own countries. (IPA Service)