As the three-day G7 summit begins in the United Kingdom, India’s engagement with the Group of Seven developed countries assumes special significance at this juncture amid the devastating coronavirus pandemic. Nothing could provide more compelling proof of the need for global cooperation than the pandemic, which has claimed over 3.7 million lives so far. Despite not being a member of the industrialised group, India has been a regular participant at these meetings since 2003. The summit, which will see the digital participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi this time, marks an important step towards a new global compact between India and the West. At a time when India is facing vaccine shortages, the summit has laid out a clear objective to strive for providing a billion vaccine doses to the developing world by next year. The summit provides a crucial platform to strengthen the collective ability of the nations to prevent another pandemic and provide early warning of future threats by creating a network of surveillance centres — Global Pandemic Radar. The United States and the UK are building a larger coalition of democracies, including India, Australia and South Korea, referred to in diplomatic circles as the D10. If this emerges, it would be a geographical expansion of the G7 ambit, bringing in the Indo-Pacific. This augurs well for the India-G7 engagement. India can work with the G7 on getting China to abide by international rules on value chains and a robust international economic order.
The G7 is now at an inflection point, with the US getting back to the mainstream of international relations while the post-Brexit UK is set to play a larger role. Together, they appear keen on countering an aggressive China. It is for this reason that India’s engagement with the G7 becomes especially important. The summit is being held after a gap of one year as the last meeting could not be held due to the pandemic. India has the potential to become a valuable partner of the G7, on critical issues like trade, e-commerce and digital economy. There is a growing convergence between India and the West in the wake of challenges from an increasingly bullish China, the urgency of mitigating climate change, and the need for building a post-pandemic international order. Moreover, the West is more empathetic than China towards India’s international campaign to contain Pakistan’s support for cross-border terrorism. The summit comes against the backdrop of India’s strong bilateral strategic cooperation with the US, France, the UK as well as the Quadrilateral Cooperation. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the meeting, wants to build a coalition of leading democracies to create a greener and more prosperous future. India is very much part of this vision.