Commentary: India’s priorities as the New Chair of G-20

PM Narendra Modi being felicitated as India takes over presidency of G20 Nov. 16, 2022. Photo: Twitter @narendramodi

As India took over G20 Presidency for the year 2023 from Indonesia, all eyes are set on India as New Delhi would set the agenda that would create an environment of better cooperation between the global south and advanced nations as it stands non-partisan and enjoys the trust of both, Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated.

The agenda will likely be cooperation for sustainable and equitable development for shared global peace and prosperity and capacity building to face emerging global challenges. Prosperity and peace in the global South will be the focus of India’s presidency of the G20.

This was the clear import of Prime Minister Modi’s address while unveiling the logo, website, and agenda of the presidency under the theme Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or one earth, one family, one future.

As one of the biggest multilateral platforms commanding 85 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and two-thirds of its population, the G20 wields significant influence, especially among the developed countries in North America and Europe. The Global South refers to the developing and less developed countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

PM Modi holding up the gavel symbolizing India’s takeover as president of G20 in Bali summit Nov. 16, 2022. Photo Twitter @narendramodi

There is great hope from India in the developing world which is facing the repercussions of the Great Power conflict in the present geopolitical uncertainty, economic headwinds, and adverse impacts of the climate crisis. India would focus on ensuring cooperation among the G-20 countries to help build reliable supply chains for basic goods as well as energy security.
Modi said the presidency of India was beginning at a time of crisis and chaos in a world disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, prolonged conflict, and economic uncertainty.

He underlined the uniqueness of India’s position as a country that understood the priorities of the developed countries and appreciated the challenges and ambitions of the developing world, thereby allowing it to act as a bridge to meet expectations. In fact, India could afford this as it is not part of any camp competing for dominance and hegemony.

Rather than steering ahead skewed agenda favouring one country or one group, India would direct its efforts to secure a more prosperous and harmonious world. India realizes well that the world is moving towards multipolarity and rebalancing as articulated by Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in Moscow during his meeting with his Russian counterpart.

This indicates India’s preference for pragmatism/realism and flexibility to address global problems.

The G-20 under India’s presidency would leverage its unique position in the geo-political order. India’s decades-long championing of the causes of the global South and poorer nations allowed it to become a leader of developing countries.

And its new brand of interest-based engagement, free from ideological or dogmatic fetters, has allowed it to leverage its strengths in an uncertain world.

The indications are already coming clear what India thinks is the priority for the global community- both the rich and poor, the mighty and the weak. Prime Minister Modi had conveyed to President Putin in Samarkand in September that this is not an era of war.

Reiterating the same position, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during his discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on November 15 noted that the global economy is too inter-dependent not to be impacted by a significant conflict and the Global South is feeling “this pain very acutely” especially after two years of the pandemic.
India has been consistently working to make a fair and human global order. Speaking after the bilateral talks with his Russian counterpart, Jaishankar noted that India “strongly advocates a return to dialogue and diplomacy” and is on the side of “peace, respect for international law and support for the UN Charter”. He even offered help in issues including food grains, fertilizer shipments, and support for any initiative that de-risks the global economy. These are remarkable signals of how India is ready to see its responsibility for the resolution of global political and economic crises.

India’s position on Ukraine is well understood by both Russia and the US. So far New Delhi has indicated that dialogue and negotiation is important to understand the views of different countries on the international situation and their particular perspectives and interests so as to find a convergence for peaceful and amicable settlement of global and bilateral problems. India, despite being a very strong nation, believes that cooperation and not conflict is needed to make a better world. Having a long track record of partnership with Russia and the U.S. as well as China, today India is well placed to be an acceptable arbiter in case of differences on global and bilateral issues.

The promotion of inter-regional cooperation has been a key priority in India’s vision of a more livable world where free trade and investment takes place and people-to-people engagement is promoted through joint cultural activities, student and teacher exchanges, tourism, trade fairs, sports and R&D collaboration.

There is much more to India’s G-20 Presidency which would be revealed with time after it assumes the Presidency.

But the motto of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is a family) and the idea of Surve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Surve Santu Niramayah (All become happy and all become healthy) would remain the guiding principles. This is in line with the philosophy embedded in one of the great traditional prayers in India: “Na Twevavaham Kamaye Rajyam, Na Sawargam, Na Punarbhavam; Kamaye dukha Tapatanam Praninam Artanashanam (O god I do not want you to grant me a state, heaven or rebirth; I pray that you may end the cycle of sorrows of all the living beings).”



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