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'An incredible chance to showcase India’: G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant on what the presidency means for the country

'An incredible chance to showcase India’: G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant on what the presidency means for the country

Amitabh Kant, India’s Sherpa to the G20, talks about the progress made in talks during India’s presidency and the major achievements

Amitabh Kant, India’s Sherpa to the G20, talks about the progress made in talks during India’s presidency and the major achievements Amitabh Kant, India’s Sherpa to the G20, talks about the progress made in talks during India’s presidency and the major achievements

The G20 Sherpa is a personal emissary of the leader of a country and has a key role in discussions and negotiations. The Sherpa’s role gets even more magnified for the country that holds the presidency. It is not surprising then that Amitabh Kant, India’s Sherpa to the G20, has been at the forefront of discussions and meetings. In an email interaction with Business Today, Kant sheds light on the key issues on India’s agenda, the status of the negotiations till now at the global platform, and the country’s major achievements at the forum. Edited excerpts:

India’s presidency of the G20 has helped cement its status as an emerging superpower. How do you see this transforming into economic benefits for India? 

This is an incredible chance to showcase India as an attractive investment and tourism destination. The ongoing transformation of city infrastructure will facilitate both ease of doing business and enhance quality of life in the near future. On a global scale, the tourism industry is valued at $5 trillion, with India currently holding a modest 1.5 per cent share. 

Similarly, the global MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) market is valued at $650 billion, with India currently having a relatively small portion. The G20 presidency presents a valuable opportunity to capture a larger share of these markets. For example, in Kerala, the state government built a fabulous meeting venue in Kumarakom before the Second G20 Sherpas Meeting. It is a great investment in building MICE infrastructure, which can be utilised in the future as well. 

Additionally, the promotion of local handicraft and handloom industries through G20 meetings is further boosting incomes of local artisans and craftsmen and showcasing their work to a global audience. We are embedding the India narrative of digital public infrastructure, climate action and LiFE (Lifestyle for the Environment campaign), global health, women-led development, millets, and showcasing to the world India as the Mother of Democracy. Our phenomenal soft power is being absorbed by the world.

India’s presidency of the G20 has been in the back drop of the Russia-Ukraine war. How far has it been possible to keep the discussions focussed on economic and development issues and away from the political agenda? 
It has not been necessary to offset any political agenda. The G20 is not a forum to discuss bilateral geopolitical issues. All members converge on developmental priorities that address concerns of a global nature.

The G20 priorities for 2023 include green development, climate finance and LiFE, accelerated inclusive and resilient growth, accelerating progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), technological transformation and digital public infrastructure, multilateral institutions for the 21st century and women-led development. How much progress has been made on these as part of the deliberations? 

Our presidency’s goal of bringing the G20 together as a problem-solver for cascading and interlinked crises for a resilient, sustainable and inclusive world are rooted in adopting a cross-cutting approach across working groups (WGs) in a whole-of-government approach. We will aim to drive a broader consensus on a majority of our outcomes during these meetings. Some of the areas where we have achieved a broader consensus are: On green development, elements such as the principles of LiFE were adopted by the Development Ministerial while others, including disaster risk reduction, green hydrogen ecosystem and alternate fuels, ambitious renewable energy targets and mobilisation of adequate climate finance are being discussed at the relevant WGs in both Finance and Sherpa tracks. On SDGs, India’s presidency has been vocal about the reversal of progress on SDGs and [we] are committed to getting the world to deliver on them. In line with our priority, the Development Ministerial has adopted the 2023 Action Plan on Accelerating Progress on SDGs, which is bound to pave the path for all our interconnected priorities.

On climate finance, we are also strongly deliberating on continuing to rapidly scale up global climate finance, considering the principle of CBDR-RC (Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities) and we will aim to scale up and balance climate finance towards both adaptation and mitigation measures. We have also called on to set a New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) of climate finance in 2024, from a floor of $100 billion a year.

On the tech transformation side, G20 outcomes of Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository (GDPIR) and ‘Global Initiative on Digital Health’ do enjoy a broader consensus and we will strive to drive a full consensus during the negotiations. As far as gender equality is concerned, the empowerment of women and girls has been a key priority for our presidency and has also been hailed very positively by all members of the G20. We have been able to push the issue of digital and economic empowerment of women and girls to the centre of G20 discussions. In fact, many G20 Sherpas were appreciative of the fact that India’s proposed text on gender equality is the strongest they have seen in years.

How far has the needle moved on other issues such as global cryptocurrency regulations, which has been a key priority for India? 

Regulation of stable crypto assets is an outcome of the Finance Track, and the ministry is leading the negotiation on that front.

One of the topics enunciated as India’s focus area has been the debt management situation for vulnerable and developing economies after the pandemic exacerbated their public debt levels. We have seen such crises unfold in countries like Sri Lanka. Do you expect some relief measures to be agreed upon by the G20 on this front? 

The G20 is working on putting together a note on the global debt landscape as part of the Finance Track outcomes. India has already set an example by helping Sri Lanka through its extended line of credit which helped them secure the IMF bailout and put them on track to restructure their debt. G20’s Common Framework has also helped in paving the path for Zambia’s debt restructuring. We are committed to make this framework more inclusive and effective at the G20.

The climate crisis is an urgent issue that needs global co-operation. The floods in north India have once again highlighted this issue. To what ex tent have the G20 talks focussed on this and what key takeaways are expected? 
India’s G20 presidency constituted a specific working group to address disaster risk, the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Working Group. Floods in north India are devastating news for all of us, and we hope our DRR working group’s outcomes related to early warning systems, disaster response mechanisms in coordination with Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) are discussed in the G20 meetings and key outcomes within this regard are delivered successfully.

India took over the G20 presidency from Indonesia. What has been the progress made in the last one year on issues that remained unresolved in Bali? 

Over the past year, we have been engaged in ensuring that the G20 is committed to the 1.5°C pathway while meeting the climate finance goal. Following the New Global Financing Pact Summit in Paris this year, along with our deliberations across the Sherpa and Finance tracks, we are pushing for commitments on development and climate finance, particularly around leveraging private capital. The sheer size of investments required in developing countries for climate and SDG goals means that public sources of funding will not be enough. We must also leverage private capital. Now, with the report of the Independent Expert Group (IEG) on reforming multilateral development banks (MDBs), we are taking steps at the G20 to reform the MDBs and improve climate and development finance for the developing world.

Building on our efforts of including MSMEs and people into the digital economy, we have been focussing our efforts towards making the digital economy inclusive for all by deliberating on a suggested common framework to build, deploy and operate digital public infrastructure (DPI) along with consensus on initiatives like GDPIR, which will host various DPIs on open-source platforms. The Trade and Investment working group is also negotiating on various aspects of digitalisation such as trade documents and platforms for MSMEs and start-ups.

Any other issues you would like to highlight?

A major achievement has been pushing for the inclusion of the African Union as a permanent member of the G20. Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi is at the forefront of ensuring that the concerns of the Global South are well represented under India’s presidency. The inclusion of the African Union will be a phenomenal step in this direction and it has already received an overwhelming response from many G20 countries.

Showcasing millets as a modern diet superfood has also been an achievement for India’s presidency. What is your take? 

It was PM Modi’s vision to introduce millets to global palates and this has received a phenomenal response. The presidency also coincides with the International Year of Millets and this has helped us highlight the value addition of these supergrains even more. The millet counters at all G20 meetings across the country have been greatly appreciated by the visiting guests. Indian chefs have whipped up delicious preparations of local as well global cuisines using millets. We have also been able to gather global consensus on the International Millets and Other Ancient Grains Research Initiative within the agriculture working group.

The G20 presidency has also given India a chance to showcase its cultural heritage as well as tourist destinations, such as at the meeting in Hampi. It has also given a chance to Tier II cities to host meetings of this stature. Could you throw some light on how this was planned and implemented? 

The credit for this lies completely with our PM. It was his vision to adopt a whole-of-India approach and move beyond the usual metropolitan cities as meeting venues. We have hosted over 140 meetings, welcoming more than 18,000 delegates hailing from over 115 different nationalities to G20 meetings and associated events. All states and union territories have had an experience of the G20 fervour. The visiting delegates have witnessed India’s rich cultural and natural diversity and heritage across the length and breadth of the country. There are many places that would not have otherwise been on the itinerary of visitors from abroad but thanks to the G20 presidency, we have put so many of these locations on the global map now. I am confident that the experiences delegates have taken back with them will boost tourism in these pockets of India.

What has been your personal journey as India’s Sherpa to the G20? You have travelled across the country, held innumerable meetings, and managed multiple issues. How did you tackle so many things? 

All G20 members, invitee countries and international organisations have been greatly collaborative. We are all on the same page when it comes to accelerating developmental priorities and ensuring resilient and sustainable economic growth for the world. Listening to multiple perspectives and country positions on the most pressing issues of our times has been a steep but rewarding learning curve for me.

Published on: Aug 28, 2023, 3:52 PM IST
Posted by: Arnav Das Sharma, Aug 28, 2023, 3:46 PM IST