“Build Back Better”, that is the theme the UK has chosen for the G7 summit getting underway at a seaside town on England’s southwest. In a world caught in a seemingly unending pandemic, it is a message that reflects both a desire to put behind the devastation caused by the novel coronavirus and the need to take urgent actions to quell any further waves of infection. India is an invitee at the meet and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending a few sessions virtually.
What’s in it for India?
Plenty. With the fight against COVID-19 being the central focus of the meet, it is expected that the wealthiest countries will talk about ways to aid the global response to the pandemic. First and foremost will be the question of vaccination and easing distribution for the developed world at a time when the most advanced nations all look to have turned a corner in the crisis, thanks to expeditiously conducted inoculation campaigns.
According to a statement by the Boris Johnson government ahead of the meet, the UK will donate at least 100 million surplus coronavirus vaccine doses within the next year, including 5 million beginning in the coming weeks. More significantly, the statement said that the “G7 leaders are expected to agree to provide 1 billion doses via dose sharing and financing to end the pandemic in 2022”.
As the world’s second-most populous country that is just coming out of the horrors of a punishing second wave of cases, India will be a natural destination for any extra shots that the world’s wealthiest nations commit to sharing. Further, there will be representatives of EU nations with whom India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, could pursue its proposal of intellectual property rights waiver on COVID-19 vaccines.
There are other matters, too, that India will be closely following. G7 finance ministers meet recently agreed to a global minimum 15 percent corporate tax to disincentivise companies from moving their profits to tax havens. India will have thoughts on how such an arrangement is promoted.
Also, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had last week flagged India’s concerns with so-called ‘vaccine passports’ at a G7 meeting of health ministers. So, that could be another point issue that India may want to take up with the G7 attendees. “At this stage of pandemic, it is pertinent to also discuss India’s concern over the idea of a vaccine passport, given the lower levels of vaccination of population in the developing countries in contrast to the developed, and given the unaddressed issues of equitable and affordable access, distribution and supply of safe and effective vaccines,” Dr Vardhan had said in a virtual address.
What’s on the agenda?
UK, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the G7, has identified four key talking points for the meet: 1. Leading the global recovery from coronavirus while strengthening resilience against future pandemics; 2. Promoting future prosperity by championing free and fair trade; 3. Tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity; 4. Championing shared values.
The sessions between the leaders are held behind closed doors though there are photo-ops and press interactions, so the entire range of discussions could cover more items than the immediate agenda. Commentators say that apart from the pandemic, Russia and China — the former was a member when the grouping was called G8 but was removed over its annexation of Crimea in 2014, while the latter has never been a part though it is the world’s second-largest economy — will be key talking points.
Who are the leaders attending?
Reports say that the UK summit will be the first in-person G7 meet in almost two years, so there will be a lot that the leaders of the seven-member countries would have to discuss. There will be US president Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. Also in attendance will be German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian premier Justin Trudeau. Italy prime minister Mario Draghi, Japan’s Yoshihide Suga and host country’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson round out the seven leaders of the core members. The European Union (EU) will be represented by Ursula von der Leyen, resident of the European Commission.
Among the non-member countries invited to this year’s meet are India, South Korea and Australia. India had been invited to last year’s aborted meet by the then US President Donald Trump while in 2019, host Prime Minister Modi had attended sessions during the summit hosted by France. This time, the Indian prime minister will be virtually attending outreach sessions at the summit on 12 and 13 June, the external affairs ministry has said.