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India’s G20 presidency: Role, challenges & opportunities

A picture of prime minister Narendra Modi is shared as India commences its G20 presidency, on Thursday, December 1, 2022. (ANI Photo)

By: Prof. Dr. Prem Lal Joshi

During the Bali Summit in Indonesia in December last year, India took over the G20 presidency. Because it has elevated prime minister Narendra Modi to the rank of a preeminent global thinker and world leaders are looking to him to provide firm solutions in this time of war and rising international tension, the new development has significant implications for both India and the rest of the world.

It successfully shows that the voice of India can no longer be ignored. As India has evolved as a worldwide force in terms of its growing economic and military power, a balanced foreign policy, and growing manufacturing hub, PM Modi may develop his role as a global mediator. This piece tries to highlight the potential contributions India can make as well as the difficulties and opportunities it may encounter during its one-year G20 leadership.

Global Issues

As the two-day summit came to end, the main economies of the globe appeared to have supported India’s position on important world concerns, such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Accordingly, the G20 summit’s final statement supports Modi’s assertion that now is not a time for war.

This demonstrates the influence India has on the world stage. Additionally, by creating a pandemic fund to aid developing and underdeveloped countries in dealing with the effects of Covid-19, India also played a significant role in addressing the challenges of sustainable development, multilateral reforms, and international collaboration. Thus, it was included in the statement released by the international conference, to which India made a donation of $10 million (£8.29 million).

Geopolitical upheaval, a sluggish economy, rising food and energy costs, and the epidemic’s long-term harmful effects are all issues that the world is currently facing. Modi and other top world leaders had also held in-depth discussions about important issues like revitalising development, ensuring food and energy security, and addressing issues with health and digital transformation. As a result, it is anticipated that India’s G20 presidency will be objective, aspirational, clear, and useful.

The main goal of the G20 has always been to emphasise the value of inclusive cooperation and collective action among the world’s leading industrialised economies and emerging economies. Since its members account for roughly 85 per cent of the world’s GDP, 75 per cent of its trade, and 67 per cent of its population, it also plays a crucial strategic role in ensuring future prosperity and economic progress for everybody.

Establishment of G20

In an effort to widen the discussion of policies that are helpful for addressing the global economic and financial crisis, the G20 was first convened in 1999 as a meeting of the platform’s ministers of finance and governors of the central bank.

The G20 includes 19 nations (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK and US) in addition to the European Union. The international community was disappointed with the G7 countries’ inability to address issues with the world economy, which led to the formation of the G20.

For a year, the G20 presidency sets the agenda and hosts the summit. The Finance Track and the Sherpa Track are two concurrent tracks that make up the G20. While sherpas are in charge of the Sherpa Track, finance ministers and central bank governors are in charge of the Finance Track.

The sherpas of the participating nations, who serve as the leaders’ personal envoys, oversee the G20 process from the Sherpa Track.

The Research Innovation Initiative Gathering (RIIG) and G20 Empower are two initiatives that the Sherpa Track is in charge of, together with a number of engagement groups. The G20 countries’ civil society organisations, lawmakers, think tanks, women, young people, labour unions, corporations, and researchers are all represented in the engagement groups.

Why India is Important for G20

The forum is crucial in establishing and enhancing governance and institutional structure for all significant global economic concerns.

The theme captures the spirit of India’s G20 presidency based on ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.

In keeping with our human-centric approach to technology, India would like to stress how technology is helping development in industries like agriculture and education. India would work for a non-violent approach to achieving world peace in the G20 because it is the country of Mahatma Gandhi.

India has previously stood up for low-income countries, and it could now do so once more. Whether at climate talks, where it is negotiating for a fairer deal in terms of technological and financial support for developing countries; at the World Trade Organization, where it is working to lower tariff and non-tariff barriers for vulnerable economies; or at the World Health Organization, where it is requesting a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines, India has always championed the cause of low-income countries.

To help these countries with investments and liquidity, granting debt relief, and restructuring, we are this time working toward the adoption of a Sustainable Development Goals stimulus package.

Priority Areas:

India may set some of the following priority areas for the G20 during its presidency:

  • Climate action and funding
  • The transition to clean, sustainable, and inclusive energy
  • Accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and inspiring the globe to adopt a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle
  • Digital infrastructure and products used by the public
  • Technology partnerships
  • Empowerment of women and their involvement in development
  • Global reforms in businesses, like for example, rationalising international taxation, relieving debt burdens on countries
  • Combating terrorism

Challenges for India:

  • The G20 will need to try and address the rising problems that the globe is currently facing as quickly as possible. India has a lot of work ahead of it as it attempts to navigate the turbulent waters of the ongoing conflict, which provides it with a number of challenges. The following may be the likely changes India may face during its G20 presidency:
    • According to Prime Minister Modi, terrorism, pandemics, and climate change are the world’s three largest challenges right now. These can only be dealt with through collaboration, not conflict.
    • How should the Russia-Ukraine crisis be handled? Nobody wants this battle to escalate into a larger war. For both the West and Russia to leave the flashpoint of Ukraine, Modi needs to think imaginatively and delicately. The million-dollar question is how PM Modi may use his influence on Russia, Ukraine, NATO, and the USA to end this conflict through dialogue.
    • How will India handle this in order to keep the focus of world powers on long-term economic problems brought on by pandemics, food and energy shortages, climate change, and recession rather than the more fleeting focus on conflicts and global competition?
    • The world is looking forward some novel solutions to the problems the globe is currently facing. How would India lead the G20 members along this path, for instance, to re-establish globalisation, which has been progressively displaced by nationalism in each country going its own way?
    • Inflation is a dilemma across Europe, Africa, and some Asian nations (such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh), and the way that countries are trying to solve the issue is complicated by rising food and energy prices. High prices can contribute to political unrest in democracies.
    • Mohit Anand and Rajesh Mehta posit that although it is acknowledged that the G20 is not the appropriate platform for resolving security challenges, these issues nonetheless have substantial effects on the global economy.
    • There are emerging threats to trade in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as concerns for the environment and incomparable multidimensional crises.

Opportunities for India:

  • India now needs to seize the opportunity presented by the G20 presidency to demonstrate its influence and credibility in addressing the fragmented global order. Some of them may be as follows:• India’s essential values, which include dedication to the concepts of peace, development, dialogue, and diplomacy, may show the world how a benign power like India may address the problems plaguing it.• According to PM Modi, the G20 must convey a clear message of “peace and unity.” Therefore, the significant concepts that will guide India’s chairmanship of the G20 organisation of the world’s most developed and emerging nations include harmony, peace, hope, and stability.• Ensuring that everyone benefits from the digital revolution, as it is thought that more than 40% of transactions in India have already been carried out on digital platforms. It’s known as “data for development.” Digital architecture has the potential to alter society and the economy if technology is made widely available. India would like to promote the significance of digital architecture among developing and low-income countries.

    • Colonel Balwan Singh spells out that the G20 will offer a chance to showcase India, the biggest democracy in the world, and all of its splendour and diversity. It will also get the chance to show the other members how excellent it has become in a variety of areas, including start-ups, economic development, science and technology, and space exploration. Furthermore, it has been announced that over 200 meetings will be held throughout India in over 50 places for 32 different work streams.

    • The G20, according to a number of commentators, is crucial for India since it brings together the G7, the BRICS, and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Through this forum, India may showcase its development and present its models as workable solutions to the rest of the globe.

    • The G20 presidency is an opportunity for India to showcase its democratic government model and drive for self-reliance through various models such as Aatma Nirbhar, Make in India, vaccine diplomacy, etc. to a global audience.

    • India has established a Developmental Working Group (DWG) to address developmental concerns in developing (DC), least-developed (LD), and island (Small Island Developing States/SIDS) nations. Together, the G20 members will prioritise multilateralism, exchange growth-enhancing solutions, restructure development strategies, and meet the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). According to reports, the G20 has the knowledge, skills, and financial resources needed to change course once it has veered off course.

    • An opportunity for India to pressurise the G20 political leaders to carefully address the root cause of the food, fuel, and fertiliser crises, the Ukraine conflict, and related sanctions, etc.

    In the opinion of Savinderpal Singh VSM (Retd), India must not only lead in fortifying the G20 and bridging the gaps that have emerged as a result of the geopolitical environment, but also set the tone for future multilateral collaboration in a number of areas of the group’s multifaceted agenda.

    • Another golden opportunity for India is to work hard in order to elevate the African Union from perennial observer status to G20 member status, bringing it on par with the EU, in order to stop the marginalisation of African countries.

    • Can India develop closer relationships with international organisations like the World Bank, World Trade Organanisation, Financial Stability Board and IMF in improving global financial instability and also to impose stringent rules against funding money-laundering for terrorism around the world?

    • India has a fantastic chance to involve its young people in the G20 presidency’s exploration of cutting-edge approaches to sustainable economic recovery, energy transition, and climate change mitigation.

    • China will soon be surpassed by India in terms of population, and India has the most poor people per capita in the entire world. India’s responsibility as the G20 Presidency will be to make sure that no more people are born into poverty. As such, India will need to develop policies in consultation with other G20 members to help achieve this goal.

India’s G20 presidency is not without its challenges. How well PM Modi is able to find ways to unite people, put an end to disputes, and reconstruct damaged supply lines will determine how well India leads the G20, in addition to other pressing difficulties and opportunities. Will the Russia-Ukraine conflict be resolved while India holds the G20 presidency? If it does, it will be a huge victory for India’s attempts to clear up the international conflict and restore harmony and peace.

The opinion expressed here is the author’s own.

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