India's leadership has already committed itself to exploiting the linkages between economic growth, gender equality, peace, and security and the use of technological innovations for universal benefit. India has championed the cause of low-income nations in the past — and it could now do so again.
The G20 summit that concluded in Bali, Indonesia in November 2022 provided the world’s leading economies with a platform to hear and be heard on global issues. Amidst the ongoing chaos in the global world order, the Bali Summit came as a ray of hope as it provided a platform where the principal economies of the world came together to try and find common ground in an increasingly divergent world.
The core purpose of the G20 has always been to recognize the importance of collective action and inclusive collaboration among major developed countries and emerging economies around the world. As a leading multilateral platform, it holds a strategic role in securing future global economic growth and prosperity, as its members represent over 85 percent of global GDP, 75 percent of global trade and two-thirds of the world’s population.
Initially, the G20 Summits focused only on matters of macroeconomics; however, over the years, it has expanded its horizons beyond the economic sphere towards other aspects encompassing issues related to trade, sustainable development, climate change, energy, agriculture, anti-corruption, environment, health, and so on. India takes the mantle of G-20 leadership from Indonesia; it will be followed by Brazil and then South Africa in 2024 and 2025 respectively. This period of leadership presents an opportunity for the countries of the Global South at a time when tensions between great powers threaten to undermine the G-20. But the outcome may also depend on the G-7 group of developed economies, led this year by India’s new friend Japan.
The G-20 has become an important forum for India, which remains marginal to the decision-making systems of most multilateral organizations, including the United Nations Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. Last year, India’s leaders watched as Indonesia had to work hard to ensure that the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine did not derail the annual summit. This year, New Delhi aims to take the G-20 in a new direction, as well as to cement its status as the leader of the Global South, as it saw itself doing so previously. India’s presidency has been regarded by experts across the world as an exceptional and unprecedented opportunity with immense scope and potential.
Scope for India's presidency
For the presidency, India's leadership has already committed itself to exploiting the linkages between economic growth, gender equality, peace, and security and the use of technological innovations for universal benefit. The agenda of inclusive growth is well-manifested in the priorities set by India's presidency. Priorities include Green Development, Climate Finance & LiFE, Accelerated, Inclusive & Resilient Growth, Technological Transformation & Digital Public Infrastructure, Multilateral Institutions for the 21st century, and Women-led Development. These priorities target inclusive development of infrastructure, challenge the mechanism of WTO, make individuals an important part of the environment, and conservation (through LiFE) and ensure not only women's participation but essentially women-led growth, among others. G20 is a platform for inculcating the culture of collective action, coordination and consensus building while strengthening multilateralism. Therefore, democratizing the international institutions by bringing reforms in the WTO, WHO, and other UN bodies is one of the top priorities for achieving multilateralism.
There is no contention on the contextual relevance and urgency of these goals, but the rationale for the agenda goes beyond that. Priorities set by India's presidency are the reflection of the past and present of India's culture as well as of the pluralistic traditions of the nation. India, since independence, has envisioned a pluralistic and democratic world sans imperialist superpowers. It has imagined a world where countries collectively engage in coordinated efforts to ensure world peace and the development of the entire world. There is something unique and fundamental to the goals set by India's presidency. The fundamentals lie in the good economics and philosophy India attaches to G20. The principles of social welfare and equitable distribution are reflected in the commitment to achieving the end goal of ubiquitous improvement in the living standards of the masses and making the world a more equitable place. In the same spirit, India's advocacy for the emergence of the Global South is not an agenda to attain dominance, rather it is an act of raising its voice against discriminatory practices and for equitable distribution of resources, a democratic world order, and better living conditions for all.
The call for South-South cooperation is for bringing countries with common problems and aspirations together, to ensure economies of scale in achieving the goal of a better quality of life. India's stance on peace is clear with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's words that "today's era must not be of war.” Whether at climate talks, negotiating for a fairer deal in terms of technological and financial support for developing countries; or at the World Trade Organization, India’s presence on the table is proof of the growing influence it exerts in the global world order. India's leadership has already committed itself to exploiting the linkages between economic growth, gender equality, peace, and security and the use of technological innovations for universal benefit. India has championed the cause of low-income nations in the past — and it could now do so again. This time, working toward adopting a Sustainable Development Goals stimulus package to provide these governments with investments and liquidity, offering debt relief and restructuring. Prime Minister Modi also suggested that “data for development” will be an integral part of India’s presidency. Digital transformation shouldn’t be confined to a small part of humanity, and its greater benefits will be realized only when digital access becomes truly inclusive. India’s own experience in the past few years has shown that if digital architecture is made widely accessible, it can bring about socioeconomic transformation.
Need to maintain balance
Thus, under its presidency, India will have to navigate a delicate balance, overcoming partisan pressures from both sides to bridge the East-West divide. And it will have to do so while carefully wading through issues central to its own strategic self-interests as well as those of the global community.
Championing the virtue of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” — the world is one family — as its G20 theme, India needs to skillfully manage this disorderly family going ahead. And through this leadership role, it must give priority to a developmental agenda, while creating a blueprint for a faster, more resilient and inclusive global economic recovery. The G20 presidency gives India an unprecedented opportunity to test its clout and credibility in tackling the fragmented global order — and the world to embrace it.
(The writer is a political science graduate from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India and a commentator on contemporary issues. Views are personal. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)