Yearender 2023 | 5 big tests for global diplomacy

In this episode of Worldview, we look at  the 5 big tests for global diplomacy and how the P5 powers, India and the world community at the UN fared on them

Updated - December 15, 2023 09:39 pm IST

Published - December 15, 2023 09:12 pm IST

Let’s start with this week, and the end of the CoP 28, Climate Change summit held in Dubai, ended with a final document called the UAE consensus that agreed to a number of actions

The big takeaways: 

  1. Transition away from fossil fuel- oil, coal and gas in energy production, but no phase-out  Tripling of renewables by 2030 
  2. Methane: Accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030 
  3. NetZero by 2050- this is meant to push India that has put 2070 as its netzero date, and China by 2060, to earlier dates 
  4. Loss and Damage fund adopted with about $750 million committed by Developed countries- most notably UAE, France, Germany, and Italy towards the fund set up during CoP28  

However, critics described the final document as “weak tea”, “watered down” and a “litany of loopholes”, and some criticised the UAE COP president directly for not ensuring stronger language against fossil fuels 

Where is the world ? 

1. Of the P-5- Leaders of US and China skipped the summit, Russian President Putin flew into Abu Dhabi with much fanfare, but didn’t go to CoP, and signed a number of energy deals. Leaders of UK and France attended CoP28

2. Small Island States and Climate vulnerable countries that bear the brunt of global warming were the most critical

Where is India? 

  1. India spoke essentially for the developing world, that does not want to commit to ending fossil fuel use that would slow its growth- and pushed for terms like phase-out and coal-powered plants to be cut out of the text.
  2. India has some pride in the fact that it has exceeded goals for its NDCs, and now is updating them- but is making it clear that it isn’t part of the global problem- contributing very little to emissions, and it won’t be pushed into being the solution 
  3. India is not prepared to bring forward targets for Net Zero or for ending coal use 
  4. PM Modi has now pitched to host CoP33 in 2028 

Let’s turn to the 2nd and 3rd big challenges to global diplomacy- and they came from conflict. 

2. Russian war in Ukraine:

The war in Ukraine is heading to its 2 year mark 

  • In a 4-hour long Press Conference this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear the war in Ukraine will not end until Russian goals are met- of demilitarization and “denazification” of Ukraine- certainly looking more confident about the way the war is moving 
  • The OHCHR estimates civilian casualties in Ukraine since February 2022, including in territory now controlled by Ukraine, and Russia is more than 40,000, with conflicting figures that total 500,000 military casualties- which are contested 
  • As aid begins to dwindle to its lowest point since February 2022 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been travelling to the US, trying to raise support for more funds and arms 

How is the world faring? 

  1. The UN Security Council is frozen over the issue, with Russia vetoing any resolutions against it. 
  2. On the One Year anniversary of the Russian invasion the UNGA passed a resolution calling on Russia to “leave Ukraine”- 141 countries in favour, 32 abstentions including India, and 7 against 
  3. In March 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin, however, no country Mr. Putin has visited, including China, Central Asia, UAE, Saudi Arabia etc have enforced it 
  4. After a near breakdown in talks at the G20 in Delhi, India was able to forge a consensus document that brought the world together for a brief moment- the document didn’t criticize Russia but called for peace in Ukraine, something Kiev said it was disappointed by 


  1. India has continued to abstain at the UN, no criticism of Russia, and continued to buy increasing amounts of Russia oil that have increased a whopping 2,200% since the war began 
  2. India has also continued its weapons imports from Russia, although many shipments have been delayed due to Russian production and the payment mechanism problem 
  3. However, India has clearly reduced its engagement with Moscow- PM Modi will be skipping the annual India-Russia for the 2nd year now, and India dropped plans to host the SCO summit in person, making it virtual instead 

3. October 7 attacks and Israel Bombing of Gaza  

2023 is now known as the year of 2 conflicts- with many questioning whether the US can continue to funding its allies on both. 

-The current turn of the conflict began on October 7, as the Hamas group carried out a number of coordinated terror strikes in Israeli settlements along the border with Gaza- brutally killing 1,200, taking 240 hostages, with allegations of beheading and rape against the Hamas terrorists. 

- Israel’s retaliation, pounding Gaza residents for more than 2 months in an effort to finish Hamas and rescue the hostages has been devastating- with 29,000 munitions dropped, more than 18,000 killed, more than 7,000 of them children and as every kind of infrastructure in North and South is being flattened, more than 1.8 million people, 80% of the population is homeless 

Where is the world? 

- The UNSC is again paralysed, with the US vetoing every resolution against Israel 

- The UNGA has passed 2 resolutions with overwhelming support in October 120 countries, or 2/3rds present voted in favour of a ceasefire, in December 153 countries, 4/5ths of those present voted in favour, with severe criticism of Israel’s actions 

- Several countries have withdrawn their diplomats from Tel Aviv, but Arab states who have held several conferences have not so far cut off their ties with Israel 

- Netanyahu has rejected the UN calls, said the bombing wont stop until Hamas is eliminated 

- The global south has voted almost as a bloc, criticizing Israel for its disproportionate response and indiscriminate bombing 

Where is India? 

  1. When the October 7 attacks took place, India seemed to change its stance, issuing strong statements on terrorism, calling for a zero tolerance approach. In UNGA vote in September ,India abstained, a major shift from its past policy 
  2. However, as the death toll from Israel’s bombardment has risen, and the global mood has shifted, India moved closer to its original position, expressing concern for Palestinian victims and sending aid, and then this week, voting for the UNGA resolution, which marked the first time India has called for a ceasefire. 
  3. The shifts and hedging in position has left India without a leadership role in the conflict, away from both the global south and South Asia itself 

4. Afghanistan – Taliban and Women 

  • This is an area where the world has scored a big F for failure. 2 and a half years after the Taliban took over Kabul, there is little hope for loosening its grip on the country. 
  • The interim government of the Taliban, which includes many members on the UN terrorist lists remains in place, and no women with no talks about an inclusive or democratic, more representative government taking place  With the economy in shambles, sanctions in place and aid depleted, 15 million Afghans face acute food insecurity, and nearly 3 million people face severe malnourishment or starvation. An earthquake this year compounded problems Adding to the misery, 500,000 Afghan refugees have been sent back from Pakistan, and they lack food clothing or shelter. 
  • Girls are not allowed to go to school in most parts of the country, female students can’t pursue higher studies, and women are not allowed to hold most jobs, or use public places, parks, gyms etc 
  • While the UN doesn’t recognize the Taliban, nearly 20 countries, including India now run embassies in Kabul, and most countries treat the Taliban as the official regime 
  • No country today supports or gives more than lip service to the armed resistance or even democratic exiles in different parts of the world 

Where is India? 

  • India has reopened its mission in Kabul and as of last month, the Embassy of the old democratic regime in Delhi was forced to shut down due to lack of funds and staff- it has now been reopened by Afghan consuls in Mumbai and Hyderabad, who engage the Taliban regime, although they still bear the old democratic regime’s flag. 
  • India has sent food and material aid to Afghanistan- first through Pakistan, and then via Chabahar, and Indian officials regularly engage the Taliban leadership in Kabul 
  • Unlike its policy from 1996-01 towards the Taliban, India has not taken any Afghan refugees, rejected visas for students, businesspersons and even spouses of Indian citizens 
  • India does not support the armed resistance or any democratic exiles, and is not taking a leadership role on the crisis, yielding space to China and Russia instead 

5. Artificial Intelligence 

Finally to the global diplomacy challenge the world is just waking up to- AI 

  • For the past few decades, military powers have been developing AI to use in robotic warfare and more and more sophisticated drone technology as well as other areas
  •  Industry has also worked for long on different AI applications in machine intelligence from communication, r&d, to machine manufacture and 
  • However, the use of AI in information warfare has now become a cause for concerns about everything from job losses to cyber-attacks and the control that humans actually have over the systems and the world is looking for ways to find common ground on regulating it 
  • Last month the UK hosted the first Global AI summit- with PM Rishi Sunak bringing in US VP Harris, EU Chief Von Der Leyen and UNSG chief Guterres and others to look at ways –countries agreed on an AI panel resembling the Inter
  • Governmental Panel on Climate Change to chart the course for the world 
  • India hosted this year’s version of the Global Partnership on AI session in Delhi this month, comprising 28 countries and EU that look at “trustworthy development, deployment, and use of AI” - also at the Modi-Biden meeting in Washington this year, India and the US have embarked upon a whole new tech partnership 

Clearly the AI problem and its potential is a work in progress, and we hope to do a full show on geopolitical developments in AI when we return with WorldView next year. 

WV Take: What’s WV take on the year gone by? Simply put, this has been a year that has seen global consensus and global action weaker than ever before. As anti-globalisation forces turn countries more protectionist and anti-immigration, as less countries are willing to follow the international rule of law, humanitarian principles, the entire system of global governance has gone into decline. India’s path into such a future is three fold- to strengthen the global commons as much as possible, to seek global consensus on futuristic challenges and to understand the necessity for smaller, regional groupings for both security and prosperity alternatives. 

WV Yearender Reading recommendations: 

  1. India’s Moment: Changing Power Equations around The World by Mohan Kumar, former diplomat, now an academic and economic expert- this is an easy read that will make a lot of sense 
  2. Unequal: Why India Lags Behind its Neighbours- by Swati Narayan. This is a startling work of research, with a compelling argument on the need to pay more attention to Human Development Indices 
  3. India’s National Security Challenges: Edited by NN Vohra, with some superb essays on the need for a national security policy and defence reforms 
  4. The Age of AI: And Our Human Future by Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher  Conflict: A Military History of the Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine by Andrew Roberts and Retd Gen David Petraeus 
  5.  The Power of Geography: Ten Maps that Reveal the Future of Our World by Tim Marshall and Future of Geography : How Power and Politics in Space will Change Our World

Script and Presentation: Suhasini Haidar

Production: Kanishkaa Balachandran & Gayatri Menon

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