India formally took over the baton of G20 Presidency from Indonesia which started for one year from December 1, 2022. At the time of acceptance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that “The world is looking at the G-20 with hope. Today, I want to assure that India’s G-20 presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented. Over the next one year, we will strive to ensure that the G-20 acts as a global prime mover to envision new ideas and accelerate collective action.” This was extremely important and flagged a dismal reality of a transitional global order and a severe global challenges implicit in prevailing fragmentation, protectionism and unilateralism in international discourse.
Consequent upon the ongoing Covid pandemic and Eurasian War and the weaponization of financial instruments, fuel, food and fertilizer by the super powers the whole world has been suffering. And economies have gone under tremendous stress with recession knocking on the doors of the West and penury and economic stress in the East and South -that ipso facto had become the raison d’etre for the G20 . But the mantle for that course correction has fallen on four successive developing countries – Indonesia, India, South Africa and Brazil. As of now India appears to be the only beacon of hope with the fastest growing major economy with the largest population base and market only recently surpassed U K to secure the 5th place. More importantly India and the Indian Prime Minister have often shown to many that provision of global goods and global commons for the largest people even at your expense is desirable . India showed to the world through the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ and supplies of medicines and relief assistance to scores of countries during the pandemic.
India’s G20 tourney is likely to be so very different in terms of its geographical expanse and truly globalised focus and engagement . Of the 200 or so events planned across India some have already happened in big style and substance with participation of delegations from G20 member countries and dozen or so special invitees including some of our strategic partners. The impact of the pandemic and the Russia -Ukraine war have exposed the global structural vulnerabilities since the geo-political contestations and wars have not lost their sheen. US-China and Russia and the West competition are threatening to take the world back to the stone age of stupidity. In such a scenario India’s voice is the only rational, reasonable and principled that seeks the larger good of the largest people and the whole of humanity approach.
No wonder, when India unveiled its G-20 logo the underlying dictum and theme was ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam “– One Earth, One family, One future. Earlier PM Modi had spoken of “One earth One Grid” for energy and “One Earth, One Health’ for coping with the pandemic and future challenges where India is taking the lead. This is India’s civilizational heritage and this is how India thinks and behaves. The urgent assistance to over 150 countries by way of medicines and vaccines during the pandemic is integral to that behavioural philosophy. Likewise, during the food crisis due to Russia-Ukraine war India provided wheat and food assistance to several needy countries. India’s belief that the global goods and global commons are truly for the whole humanity is the driving force behind it. For promoting harmony within the human family, we will seek to depoliticise the global supply of food, fertilisers and medical products, so that geopolitical tensions do not lead to humanitarian crises, he clearly set out to do. As in our own families, those whose needs are the greatest must always be our first concern. No wonder, PM Modi underscored that the need today is that the benefits of development are universal and all-inclusive. ‘We have to extend the benefits of development to all human beings with compassion and solidarity. Global development is not possible without women’s participation. We have to maintain priority on women led development even in our G-20 agenda.’
In an editorial on the day India assumed Presidency, PM Modi asked a highly relevant question ‘Can we catalyse a fundamental mindset shift, to benefit humanity as a whole?’ as we remain trapped in the zero sum mindset which is indeed myopic and selfish. Urging a unison of thought and action he added that ‘Today, the greatest challenges we face — climate change, terrorism, and pandemics — can be solved not by fighting each other, but only by acting together.’ And for this he banks a great deal on the assimilating dimension and positive role of technologies saying that today’s technology also gives us the means to address problems on a humanity-wide scale. The massive virtual worlds that we inhabit today demonstrate the scalability of digital technologies. In this he also referred to India’s own experiences ‘We have leveraged technology to create digital public goods that are open, inclusive and interoperable. These have delivered revolutionary progress in fields as varied as social protection, financial inclusion, and electronic payments.’
Since climate change is possibly the biggest challenge for humanity India’s presidency will have a special focus on this given her own example of energy transition and diversification. Above all India’s modus vivendi with nature is implicit in PM Modi’s call for a balanced LiFE model -Live for Environment. To heal our planet, we will encourage sustainable and environment-friendly lifestyles, based on India’s tradition of trusteeship towards nature, he assured. India has already launched International Solar alliance (ISA), Coalition for Disaster resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) as she is set to secure 40% of energy from renewable resources by 2030. India may as well reach her carbon neutrality goals well before 2070 committed at Glasgow. But India also stands for the developing world and their critical and crucial interests hence common but differentiated approach is the preferred one so that equitable access to green finance and technologies be available to the disadvantaged countries of the Global South.
India has virtually become an important part of the G7 and uses the platform to flag major challenges including fight against the pandemic through the global health governance via the principles of “One Earth , One Health’ as underlined by PM Modi . It also continues to fight against the vaccine apartheid by forcing the powerful countries to agree to the waiver of Intellectual property rights (IPRs) on vaccines for access to the developing world.
Since India , as always in the past, wants to avail this opportunity to advance and secure the interests of the global south and be their legitimate voice at the G20 deliberations it was an imperative that their views, opinions and priorities are ascertained and not presumed. Therefore, early on convening the “Voice of Global South Summit”, PM Modi invited leaders from over 120 developing countries to virtually confer and come up with an agenda that best suits their interests and could not be shoved under the carpet yet again. PM Modi reiterated that the global south that represents 3/4th of the world must be able to shape the global order. As most of the global challenges were not created by the Global south but impact them the most it must take charge. He also came out with a 4Rs agenda approach in his intervention which includes: Respect, Recognise, Respect and Reform. “People of Global South should no longer be excluded from the fruits of development. Together we must attempt to redesign global political and financial governance. This can remove inequities, enlarge opportunities, support growth and spread progress and prosperity,” the Prime Minister said.
India intends to be the bridge between East and West and North and South with a resounding magic of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam as a trend setter and shaper of the choices world makes henceforth. ‘Our time is coming’ as PM Modi spoke with conviction and is a reality and must be seized together.
(Amb Anil Trigunayat is a former Indian Ambassador to Libya, Jordan and Malta and is a regular commentator on foreign and security policy issues in Indian and international media)