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G20 should not restrict itself to just resolutions, and tough decisions are necessary

G20 should not restrict itself to just resolutions, and tough decisions are necessary

India has taken some noteworthy initiatives during its G20 presidency and has not shied away from tough discussions

Janmejaya Sinha, Chairman of BCG India Janmejaya Sinha, Chairman of BCG India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked the Sanskrit term “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the world is one family) as India took over the presidency of the G20 (group of 20 nations). That is why India has stated that the theme of its presidency will be “One Earth, One Family, One Future”. Addressing the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in India, Prime Minister Modi asserted that the post-World War II multilateral order is in crisis. The two main objectives of post-WWII multilateralism—to prevent wars by balancing diverging interests and to engender international cooperation on issues of common global interest—have not been achieved. If we were to study the experience of the last few years, we have been witness to a global financial crisis, rapid global warming, a devastating pandemic, all forms of terrorism, and a war in mainland Europe. The G20 platform needs to take leadership in facing up to such challenges. The G20’s approach should be to find ways to build on our shared agreements, rather than focus all our energies on the differences between some of us on some issues. At this time, as a planet, we are falling behind in our commitment to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that all nations agreed to at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. So, in a sense India’s cry, as a voice for the Global South, is to use the more broad-based G20 platform to advance the world on the most critical global issues facing it. It is in this vein that India has also made an unequivocal push to include the African Union as a permanent member of the G20.

Yet it is important to take a step back and reflect on what the G20 platform is. G20 is a body that can influence and urge, but cannot assert—after all, the resolutions taken by this group are, in fact, non-binding in nature. Therefore, it seeks consensus to influence global decision-making. It is the agility in the identification of priority areas, the participation of a wide stakeholder group (ranging from world leaders, policymakers, the private sector, and common citizens), and the leadership opportunity given to every member nation through a rotating presidency that make it possibly the single-largest and most relevant forum on global decision-making and priority setting. India has tried from the get-go to make its presidency one that is driven by strong leadership and an outcome-oriented focus. The prime minister has led from the front and the Indian G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant is known for his undying energy. So, one hopes that despite widening geopolitical differences today, the world and the G20 will not be restricted to just resolutions and commitments.

There have been a few noteworthy initiatives unique to India’s G20 presidency that set our year apart from previous ones. This time, we have not shied away from tough discussions and decisions. The long-identified need to reform the Bretton Woods institutions—the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—has been taken up, given that the governance of these institutions does not reflect the world today. The issue of debt for the Global South similarly cannot be avoided. Many actions taken in the developed world are making debt expensive for the South just as the new commitments to tackle climate change, which will hit the South much worse than the North, are becoming exorbitant. In fact, global warming itself is an outcome of the development of the West. The B20 engagement group under the G20 has set up a dedicated action council on African integration. It has called for the creation of a G20 centre for the integration of Africa into the global system. We cannot ignore the fact that the next 2 billion people in the world will come from South Asia and Africa, which has the capability of becoming the granary of the world.

On the other hand, India has also put the spotlight on our revolutionary digital public infrastructure (DPI). This infrastructure has brought the power of technology to the masses. India has openly shared the building of Aadhaar, United Payments Interface (UPI), DigiLocker (to store documents), the ability to make direct benefit transfers, the creation of a Government e Marketplace (GeM) and a functioning digital health stack that could keep track of over 2 billion vaccinations. Apart from the DPI featuring as a key topic of discussion across several working groups and engagement groups, a dedicated DPI task force has also been set up at the G20 level, spearheaded by Nandan Nilekani, to help take these innovations to the world and especially to Africa and other countries of the South that can gain from them.

India has tried to catalyse work on climate finance and technology, bringing LiFE (Lifestyle For Environment) to the top of the list of G20 priorities. India itself is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy players in the world as the third-largest global producer and, therefore, has given voice to the South. India has also highlighted the might of its start-up ecosystem through the Startup20 engagement group.

The G20 presidency has allowed India to build on its soft power. India has used the different meetings to showcase the richness and diversity of its culture. Meeting locations have ranged from metro cities to cultural hubs—from Mumbai and New Delhi to

Khajuraho and Darjeeling. To give it added emphasis, the prime minister on his recent state visit to the US led a yoga session outside the UN headquarters. Equally, India has used its presidency to highlight that within this decade it will add another India to its economy, and in the prevailing geopolitics of our time, is the partner of choice for countries and companies alike. The presidency has had, in the words of Lord Tennyson, the courage to believe “’Tis not too late to seek a newer world; To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”.

The author is Janmejaya Sinha, Chairman of BCG India and written with Vishal Jalan, Partner, BCG India. (Views are personal)

Published on: Aug 26, 2023, 12:55 PM IST
Posted by: Priya Raghuvanshi, Aug 24, 2023, 2:56 PM IST