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India’s G20 Presidency: Delhi’s opportunity

India's foreign policy can put its stamp on the global agenda. Delhi will need to put in place policies in line with the changing demographics.

G20 summit, India G20 Summit, India G20 2022, 2022 G20 Summit, India G20 Summit, Indian Express, Narendra ModiPM Modi has indicated that India's “ambitious, action-oriented and decisive” agenda for this G20 year will include promoting environment-friendly lifestyles, and “depoliticisation” of the global supply chain of food, fertilisers and medical products will remain priorities.

India’s presidency of the G20, which began December 1, comes in a fraught moment. At the Bali summit, the divisions in the world over the war in Ukraine were apparent. Indonesia’s leadership saved the day and made a joint declaration possible. It is now Delhi’s turn. The broad agenda of the G20 is to ensure the world’s financial stability and that the fruits of economic development, including technological advances, reach people across the globe. How to do this with a war raging in Europe that has disrupted economies by limiting access to fuel, foodgrain and fertiliser, just as the pandemic’s grip had loosened and countries had begun to chalk up recovery plans – is the question. India will need to navigate the divide in the grouping not just over the war, but its own problems with China, as well as the rivalry between China and the US, for any meaningful ideas to emerge at the end of the year. The presidency presents a unique opportunity for India’s foreign policy to put its stamp on the global agenda.

India’s position in the Ukrainian war — not aligned to either camp — will no doubt guide its presidency. Delhi has officially declared it will use it to “reflect on concerns of the global South”. As a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, India has a rich history of autonomy in foreign policy, and of using it to speak up for what was earlier known as the Third World. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated in an oped article (IE December 1), that he hopes to offer India’s models of governance as “possible templates” for global solutions. Indeed, India’s knowledge industry, one of the more consequential outcomes of the 1991 liberalisation of the economy, has enabled world class home-grown technological interventions in governance, such the Unified Payment Interface, and the digitisation of public goods delivery. Delhi is already in the process of sharing the technology for UPI and Aadhaar with some countries, and hopes to do that with more. At the same time, this may be the “fastest growing large economy” but there is no forgetting that it is a highly unequal one: The world’s largest number of poor people live here. India will soon overtake China to become the most populous country, and to ensure more people are not born into poverty or do not slip back into it, India will need to put in place policies in line with the changing demographics.

PM Modi has indicated that India’s “ambitious, action-oriented and decisive” agenda for this G20 year will include promoting environment-friendly lifestyles, and “depoliticisation” of the global supply chain of food, fertilisers and medical products will remain priorities. An intriguing appeal for an “honest conversation among the most powerful countries” on “mitigating risks posed by weapons of mass destruction and enhancing global security” could be a boiler plate reiteration of India’s traditional position on nuclear disarmament, but may also pertain to the Russia-Ukraine theatre where Moscow’s threat to use nuclear weapons has rattled the entire world. The role of a peace-maker is never easy and the G20, which includes diverse members with their own geopolitical choices, may not be the ideal setting. Any such project may only divert from the doable agenda.

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First published on: 02-12-2022 at 05:47 IST
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