Toyako Summit

The Group of Eight (G-8) is facing a much grimmer energy crisis than any time after it became active in 1975. Amidst global energy and food crisis, leaders of advanced industrialised countries (G-8) met at Toyako town of Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido from July 7 to 9. The six-member (US, UK, France, West Germany, Italy, and Japan) industrialised group's regular summit interaction came into being in 1975 as a result of the 1973 oil shock to restructure the global economy. Canada joined the following year. Whilst Russia was admitted in 1997. On the other, restructuring of the global economy gave birth to new industrial powers amidst political insecurity, surging energy, and souring food prices. The Summit at Toyako confronted with critical issues, probably without solutions and half-hearted efforts as the energy and food prices seem beyond control and prescriptions by the industrialised nations. French President Sarkozy's proposal to convert G-8 into G-13 by including China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa to respond to global changes, worries Tokyo a lot at this point in time. Probably Japan is not yet ready to accept these countries as industrialised economies in Asia which could affect Japan's industrial might in Asia. There is also support from other members. For instance, British PM Brown supports G-8's expansion to reflect the growing influence of above mentioned countries. To discuss the issue of the enlargement of group, above mentioned countries were invited at the outreach sessions of the Summit. Besides these countries, Indonesia, and South Korea were also invited as big economies with attendance of the Heads of the UN, World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Energy Agency to discuss important political issues, global economy, rising oil prices, surging food prices, and development. Leaders of Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and the African Union were invited to devise ways and means for African development. Canadian PM Harper dismissed the notion of G-8 enlargement on the ground that such countries do not share the same values as the rest of the group members. As industrialised countries are responsible for the climate change, the leaders at Toyako reiterated their long-term commitment to halve carbon emission by 50 percent by 2050 by especially calling on China, India, and other developing countries to share this global responsibility for clean environment. Criticising the G-8 efforts toward carbon reduction, Washington Post termed it as "ho-hum" effort. China refused to endorse G-8's climate change stance. Apparently it seemed difficult for the G-8 leaders to quickly develop a strategy to reduce oil prices. They proposed of holding an energy forum involving oil producers and consumers in the future to focus on energy efficiency and new technologies. Some believed to increase the use of nuclear and renewable power to slash the growing oil prices. It is believed that surging demand in emerging economies for food created crisis especially food essentials such as wheat, edible oil, rice, sugar, and soybean together with increased bio-fuel production, unfavourable weather conditions, and by massive inflows of speculative money from hedge funds and other powerful investors. Political conflicts, and civil wars have also been hampering agriculture and agro-based industrial production in many parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, adding to global food shortage. Politically, G-8 seemed quite optimistic and sometime quite contradictory. In summarising the political outcome of the Summit, one would get the impression that how the advanced industrialised countries traditionally view world's political crises from their own point of view. They renewed their commitment to achieve the "verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula" and expressed concerns over what they called "Iran's failure to comply with its international obligations." The G-8 leaders also agreed to "strengthen assistance to the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan as an integral part of their strategy to combat terrorism." They reiterated their support for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with a view "to reaching an agreement by the end of 2008." They also showed their "deep concern about the deteriorating security and human rights situation in Sudan" and urged all parties "to commit to re-engaging with the peace process." In Myanmar, they want "to lift all remaining restrictions on international aid"' and called on the country "to foster a peaceful transition to a legitimate civilian government." Zimbabwe's political crisis and situation in the Delta region of Nigeria were also discussed at the Toyako's Summit. However, Zimbabwe has condemned the G-8 statement of targeted sanctions against its leadership. While, almost deep concerns were expressed with regard to the political situation in Asia and Africa, it seemed that global efforts toward the nuclear non-proliferation regime have been getting worse day by day particularly after the signing of the US-India nuclear deal in 2006. The G-8 did not show any concern about this matter. In line with the US policy toward nuclear discrimination, it seemed that G-8 is also trying to "promote nuclear discrimination" particularly in South Asia as was evident in the statement issued at Toyako, which encourages civil nuclear cooperation with India by asking all international institutions to facilitate that process. The statement issued at Toyako states, "We look forward to working with India, the IAEA, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other partners to advance India's non-proliferation commitments and progress so as to facilitate a more robust approach to civil nuclear cooperation with India to help it meet its growing energy needs in a manner that enhances and reinforces the global non-proliferation regime." G-8's soft posture toward nuclearised India by allowing it to finalise nuclear deal and creating room for its membership in the industrialised group, and at the same time, harsh statements toward North Korea and Iran would not help denuclearise the world as atomic fuel and technology could be supplied to India by many including Japan. Unfortunately, decisions on these vital issues have been taking place on Japan's soil, which has been a spokesman of non-nuclearisation since 1951. The Summit, on nuclear issue, turned out to be "India-specific" as "India does not anticipate any problem with any of the major player in the tightly controlled global nuclear trade and watchdog regime" as told by Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon after Sing's returning from Toyako. In a nutshell, it seems that all important global economic, environmental, political, security, and nuclear issues are so complex that the leaders from the G-8 countries could only make half-hearted and selective efforts by opening up a new Pandora box of disagreements rather than endeavouring a glowing success. The writer is a research fellow (East Asia), at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).

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