Editorial 1. G20: India’s platform for global leadership


G20 or the Group of Twenty was born out of the Asian financial crisis 25 years ago. It was upgraded to convene heads of government after a global financial and economic crisis a decade later.

Status of G-20:

Today, however, the organisation that styles itself as the ‘premier forum of international economic cooperation’ appears to be descending into deadlock with the Foreign Ministers of Japan (currently chairing the G7) and South Korea declining to attend the Delhi meet and Russia, China and the EU publicly sticking to their differing positions on the war in Ukraine.

As leader of the G20 this year, India could watch this happen or strengthen the organisation. To do the latter, however, India would have to take a stance on Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. There can be no hiding behind Russia and China’s argument that war and politics are not the preserve of the G20. The war in Ukraine is affecting the global economy, climate change, nuclear stability and the Charter principles of the United Nations that underpin the rule of law in international relations. The first two are central to India’s agenda as chair this year; without the other two, the G20 cannot function.

Difficult road for India

At the G20 Finance Ministers’ meet last week, when for the first time ever, the group could not agree on an outcome document, India found itself in the uneasy situation of having to explain whether it supported its own Chair’s summary, which noted that the majority of states condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rejected the use or the threat of use of nuclear weapons. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman would not confirm whether India was part of this majority.

There is a time for leaving the door open for dialogue with both sides of a conflict, and there is a time for calling out fence-sitting as a wasted opportunity. That energy was expended in Bengaluru to overcome India’s reservations about calling Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine a war at all (India wanted the conflict to be referred to as a crisis) means that time was taken away from discussions on debt restructuring and cryptocurrency regulation, topics India has indicated it would like the grouping to focus on.

Condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not about supporting the United States or encouraging NATO expansion: it is about upholding the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the UN Charter, which Russian military action in Ukraine, with the avowed intention of regime change, has undermined. These are also the same principles that India has relied on for international support in the four wars that it has fought since independence. 

The concern is global: this is not just a European problem. The war has affected oil and gas prices, exacerbated inflation and disrupted global food supplies and prices, adding to the precarity of life for millions in parts of Africa and Asia. Further, it has escalated nuclear risks, not just in the form of threats of the use of nuclear weapons, but threats to Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, all five of which have come under direct shelling this past year.

Renewing commitments

The war in Ukraine could drag on, eventually petering out into a frozen conflict. The longer it continues, the weaker Russia — sanctioned and isolated by most developed economies — will become, and consequently, the more dependent it will be on China for markets, political cover and perhaps even weapons.

The irony of India not taking sides means that it is helping Russia become a client state of China. At the same time, India’s refusal to recognise Russian aggression for what it is means that even within the G20, the group that it leads this year, decisive action on how to rebuff Russian aggression as a precursor to regaining some global stability is moving into smaller coalitions of the willing within this larger group.

After India denied Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko an invitation to address the gathering in Bengaluru, Japan, as chair of the G7, invited him to a meeting on the sidelines at which the G7 renewed their financial commitments to Ukraine and discussed further sanctions on Russia. India has, thus, found itself in the odd position of hosting a group but staying away from the main party where all the action is taking place.


Ironically, India reportedly played a vital role last year in helping the Bali summit reach consensus, with the final document echoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark to President Putin that “now is not the time for war.” It would be a tragedy if India saved the Bali summit but lost the New Delhi one because it was unable to take a position on upholding the principles of another international organisation.

Editorial 2. Searing changes: On heatwaves predicted by the Met Office


February 2023, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) recently said, had been the warmest since 1901 with the average maximum temperature at nearly 29.54°C.

IMD Assessments:

While February — considered ‘spring’ and a ‘winter month’ by the IMD — usually posts temperatures in the low 20s, it is also apparent that there has been a gradual rise, with even minimum temperatures scaling new heights. Average maximum temperatures were 1.73°C above normal and minimum, 0.81°C above what is usual.

In its latest assessment, the IMD has said that these trends are likely to spill over into summer. Most of the north-east, eastern, central and northwest India are expected to post “above normal” temperatures. Heatwaves during March-May are likely over most parts of India, except for the north-east, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and coastal Karnataka.

Heat wave:

A heatwave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, a common phenomenon in India during the months of May-June and in some rare cases even extends till July.

India Meteorological Department (IMD) classifies heat waves according to regions and their temperature ranges.As per IMD, the number of heatwave days in India has increased from 413 over 1981-1990 to 600 over 2011-2020.

This sharp rise in the number of heatwave days has resulted due to the increasing impact of climate change.

Criteria for Declaring a Heatwave

The Heatwave is considered when the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least

1. 40°C for Plains

2. 37°C for coastal areas

3. 30°C for Hilly regions

If the normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40°C, then an increase of 5°C to 6°C from the normal temperature is considered to be heat wave condition.

Further, an increase of 7°C or more from the normal temperature is considered a severe heat wave condition.

If the normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40°C, then an increase of 4°C to 5°C from the normal temperature is considered to be heat wave condition. Further, an increase of 6°C or more is considered a severe heat wave condition.

Additionally, if the actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, a heat wave is declared.

In 2016, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) guidelines on heatwaves were issued to prepare national level key strategies for mitigating the impact of heatwaves.

Climate change impacts on crop:

Climate change, studies have reported, has exacerbated the impact of heatwaves in India. A Lancet study reported a 55% rise in deaths due to extreme heat and that excessive heat also led to a loss of 167.2 billion potential labour hours among Indians in 2021.

The searing temperatures over the years have impacted the yield of wheat. India produced 106.84 million tonnes of wheat in the 2021-22 crop season, less than the 109.59 million tonnes in 2020-21 season, due to a hotter than usual March that impacted the crop during its growth phase.

What these temperatures mean for this year’s monsoon are yet unclear as it is only after March that global forecast models are better able to analyse sea-surface conditions and credibly extrapolate. Three of the last four years saw above normal rainfall in India primarily due to a La Niña, or cooler than usual temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. While this is expected to subside, whether it will eventually swing to an El Niño and draw moisture away from India’s coasts remains to be seen.

El Niño

El Niño is the warming of sea waters in Central-east Equatorial Pacific that occurs every few years (Warm phase off the coast of Peru). During El Niño, surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific rise.

This weakens the trade winds — east-west winds that blow near the Equator. Due to El Niño, easterly trade winds that blow from the Americas towards Asia change direction to turn into westerlies. It thus brings warm water from the western Pacific towards America.

The El Nino event is not a regular cycle, they are not predictable and occur irregularly at 2 to 7 year intervals. El Nino occurs simultaneously with the Southern Oscillation. Together, they constitute the phenomenon called El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

In India, an El Nino event is strongly linked to suppressed rainfall in the monsoon season, leading to higher average temperatures as well as a drier than normal climate. It adversely affects crop production, and thus, agricultural GVA.


The interplay between local weather and climate is complex and while it is tempting to blame rising heatwave intensity as ‘climate change,’ the science continues to be uncertain. This, however, should be a wake-up call to buttress public health systems and make them more responsive to the challenges from rising temperatures.

Several States have action plans and early warning initiatives but inadequate outreach, particularly in rural India. Along with promoting newer crop varieties that mature early, there should be greater stress on aiding farmers to tweak soil and water management practices to adapt to these changes.


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