G-20 presidency is a big opportunity for India

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The G-20 summit at Bali in Indonesia has come to an end. On December 1, 2022 India took the presidency of the prestigious organization for a period of one year according to the rules.

History
The G-20, at the summit level, came into being after the western financial crisis of 2008 when the advanced economies led by the Group of 7 (G-7) had to be bailed out of a potential bankruptcy by the developing countries, particularly India and China. That gave these two emerging economies and some other key developing countries (Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia) a seat each in the decision-making councils on global economy and finance so far dominated by the advanced economies. It reflected the shift of a chunk of economic power and influence from the west and the north to the east and the south. It was an admission that developed countries by themselves were unable to resolve the global economic problems, and desperately needed the cooperation of countries such as India, China, Russia and Brazil among others, for this vital task.

This grouping has a rotating presidency and does not have a permanent secretariat. That role is played by the country which holds the presidency. It is assisted by the Troika, comprising the past, present, and future presidency countries, much like the Rotary Club. As a legacy of the era when the G7 ruled the roost, OECD continues to provide considerable intellectual and policy advisory support to the presidency, keeping the influence of the G7 intact.

India’s Presidency
G-20 summit at Bali has come to an end. India’s presidency of the G-20 comes at a critical time, both for India and the G-20 countries. Lasting for one year from 1 December 2022, it coincides with the 75th year of India’s Independence. The G-20 summit will be a major milestone for the country’s democracy and diplomacy, bestowing a key leadership role on India on the world stage. But the stage is strewn with thorns on both the economic and geopolitical fronts. The Bali summit, followed by the Delhi summit, will demonstrate if the world – and the two host countries – can tackle the immediate issues of war and conflict as well as focus attention on the need for financial stability, peace, and sustainable development.

Handling it with finesse and balance is particularly important as the G-20 has an unprecedented opportunity: It will be led by four developing countries in a row, starting with Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023, and Brazil and South Africa in 2024 and 2025 respectively. It is a chance to show whether the G-20, a forum of the North and the South, can do justice to the needs and expectations of the developed and developing countries both, as well as those outside the G20 family, in an equitable measure.

India will host the 18th summit of G-20 in New Delhi on 9 and 10 September 2023. Nine country guests have already been invited: Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain, and the UAE. In addition, the International Solar Alliance (ISA), the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are invited as Guest-International Organisations (IOs)

India is expected to host over 215 events at 55 different locations across the country. At most of these meetings, the G-20 world will be represented by 42 delegations of ministers and officials. The summit in September 2023 will bring nearly 12,000 international delegates, media, security, and associated personnel to Delhi.

The summit’s theme and priorities may be announced formally in December 2022. But the following media statement made by the Ministry of External Affairs on 13 September reflects the present official thinking.

Whilst our G-20 priorities are in the process of being firmed up, ongoing conversations inter alia revolve around inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth; LIFE (Lifestyle For Environment); women’s empowerment; digital public infrastructure and tech-enabled development in areas ranging from health, agriculture and education to commerce, skill-mapping, culture and tourism; climate financing; circular economy; global food security; energy security; green hydrogen; disaster risk reduction and resilience; developmental cooperation; fight against economic crime; and multilateral reforms.

While speaking at the UN General Assembly on 25 September, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar observed, “As we begin the G-20 presidency this December, we are sensitive to the challenges faced by developing countries. India will work with other G-20 members to address serious issues of debt, economic growth, food and energy security, and particularly, of the environment. The reform of the governance of multilateral financial institutions will continue to be one of our core priorities.”

India’s presidency will be stamped by its past contribution to the deliberations and decisions of the G-20. India’s leaders – finance ministers, Reserve Bank governors, former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi – have been proactive and influential in shaping the outcomes of the meetings and summits in the previous years. India has used the G-20 forum to address its concerns on terrorism financing as well. PM Modi addressed all the summits from 2014–21 and articulated the country’s concerns on black money and tax avoidance; countering international terrorism; effective measures against fugitive economic offenders; the need to maximize digital technology for social benefit; and the imperative to make available ample climate finance for developing countries.

Guided by a mix of motivations – to promote its national interest, leave a mark on the G-20, maintain the forum’s primacy as an effective instrument of global governance, and insulate it from rising geopolitical tensions, India has four choices:

  • First, it can be content with a unique branding opportunity offered by the presidency i.e., to project India’s success as a democracy that delivers on development.
  • Second, as part of a four-country chain (Indonesia, India, Brazil, and South Africa) that holds the presidency during 2021–25, India can consolidate their synergy and solidarity to advance the interests of the Global South.
  • Third, the three IBSA countries (India, Brazil, and South Africa) will chair the forum from 1 December 2022 to 30 November 2025, thereby giving this trinity, somewhat somnolent at present, a chance to promote the interests of democracies moving on the development path and fulfil the G-20 promises made by the advanced economies to developing countries.
  • Four, as the chair of the G-20, India can (and should) take a broader view of its global responsibilities and attempt to coordinate and synthesize diverging perspectives of different constituencies within the G-20 family and beyond.

A sober and balanced view suggests that these four choices are not mutually exclusive. “It is possible to weld them together to create a holistic and comprehensive approach for the Indian presidency.” India’s performance and ability to lead the G-20 will be judged, above all, on this specific score.

Finally, India must invest in the G-20 by putting more of its best resources into it, so that developing countries and advanced economies stand at the same level, making equal contributions. As Dr. Raghuram Rajan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, told Gateway House in 2015, “We must, across the emerging world, realise that some of the reasons why global governance seems to be sort of against us are because we are not putting enough resources into this… It makes a big difference that has the pen. Because what you write is very different” [from what industrial country markets do].

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