Sources – PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas should not escalate into a regional conflict, condemned both terrorism and the death of civilians, welcomed the news of the release of Israeli and American hostages, and expressed the hope that all hostages will be released soon.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of G20 leaders, the final major event during India’s presidency of the grouping, Modi reiterated India’s careful and balanced position on the conflict, asserting that terrorism was “unacceptable”, and the death of civilians “anywhere” was “condemnable”.

“We welcome the news of the release of hostages today, and hope for the swift release of all hostages. Ensuring the timely and continuous delivery of humanitarian aid is imperative. It is also crucial to ensure that the conflict between Israel and Hamas does not take on any kind of regional form,” Modi said, drawing attention to the instability in West Asia.

His comments came on a day the two warring sides, with help from the US, Qatar and Egypt, agreed to a four-day ceasefire in Gaza as a part of a wider package deal that involved the release of a set of hostages in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. They also come in the backdrop of rising global outrage against Israel’s response to the Hamas terror attacks.

“It is important that humanitarian assistance reaches [Gaza] in a timely manner,” Modi said in his opening remarks at the virtual leaders’ summit, a follow up to the in-person summit held in New Delhi on September 9-10. India hands over the G20 presidency to Brazil on December 1.

The war erupted after Hamas militants launched an audacious assault against Israel on October 7 and Tel Aviv responded with a massive bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza. India has condemned the terror attack, but also highlighted the need to protect civilian lives in the Gaza strip, and reaffirmed its support for a two-state solution to resolve the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict and bring lasting peace to the troubled region.

“The clouds of crises that we are witnessing today, as One Family, we possess the strength to work towards peace. From the point of view of human welfare, we can strengthen our voice against terror and violence, and for humanity. Today, India is prepared to walk together shoulder to shoulder, to meet the expectations of the world and of humanity,” Modi said. ‘One Family, One Earth, One Future’ has been the theme of India’s G20 presidency.

In his address, Modi also touched upon the implementation of digital public infrastructure (DPI) in the countries of the Global South, the challenges posed by artificial intelligence (AI) and the need for its regulation, challenges related to environment and climate crisis, women empowerment, sustainable development goals and Africa’s inclusion in G20 under the Indian presidency.

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“To implement DPI in the Global South, I propose the creation of a social impact fund. India will make an initial contribution of $25 million to this fund. I hope you all will join this initiative,” the PM said.

The need to regulate AI was a key message in his address. Its negative application is a cause for concern for the world, Modi said, adding, “We need to work together towards AI regulation. Deepfake is dangerous for society and individuals. We want AI to reach the people and it must be safe for society.” India will host the Global AI Partnership Summit in December, he said, asking the G20 member-states to support the initiative. There is a major international push towards AI regulation, with the US administration unveiling an ambitious executive order to ensure the responsible use of the new technology, the UK hosting an international summit on AI which saw India’s participation, the US and China agreeing to discuss AI, and G7 drawing up a set of principles on AI in recent months.

Modi also said India’s aspirational district programme exemplified progress in sustainable developments goals at the local level. “I invite the G20 countries and the Global South to study the programme. You will see how this campaign has helped transform the lives of 25 crore people.” The programme seeks to transform 112 underdeveloped districts in the country by tapping into their strengths.

The PM also recounted India’s G20 journey.

“When I was handed over the gavel, I said we will together make G20 inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented and decisive. We made that happen and we have taken G20 to newer heights. In a climate of mistrust and challenges, it is mutual trust that has bound us together. It is a matter of pride that Africa got a voice under India’s presidency. It was a message of inclusivity to the world.”

The virtual summit was an opportunity to assess what has been done since the in-person summit in September, people tracking India’s G20 presidency said.

The joint leaders’ declaration unveiled at the G20 Summit in September was seen as a key diplomatic achievement for India given the differences over the Ukraine conflict, which previously held up joint statements at all ministerial meetings.

The declaration said that, in line with the UN Charter, all countries must refrain from the use of force to “seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty” of any state. Without naming Russia, it emphasised the importance of sustaining food and energy security and called for a cessation of military destruction or other attacks on infrastructure.

There have been past instances of a country holding the G20 presidency hosting more than one summit. Italy, which held the presidency in 2021, organised an extraordinary leaders’ summit on Afghanistan some months after the Taliban assumed power in Kabul.

Modi also extended his best wishes to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as Brazil takes over the G20 presidency. The PM hoped that G20 would move forward with a human-centric approach.