India’s G20 Presidency.. challenges and opportunities

Indian leadership has often projected New Delhi’s G20 Presidency as an opportunity for playing an important role in global affairs, but it has challenges to handle as the global political landscape is full of political, economic, security and geopolitical uncertainties.

Comprising 19 countries including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkiye, the US, the UK and the European Union, the G20 is considered to be the most important global forum that is capable of addressing several key issues especially the economic and financial ones. Hence the presidency of the body is of paramount importance to any country.

India has so far held more than 100 meetings in the framework of G20 bringing together leaders of the most powerful countries on the planet and New Delhi invited several African and Asian countries to the meetings as guests to showcase that its ?‘One Earth. One Family. One Future?’ a pragmatic and realistic approach.

G20 member countries have substantial stake and at times direct role in triggering global issues whether they are in the economic, health, security arenas.

When India assumed the G20 leadership in December 2022, some of the most important crises including the Ukraine war, economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change issues arising from the new and emerging technologies were at their peak.

India has to deal with China, also a G20 member, and its politics in the border areas. Tension between India and China has aggravated recently over renaming of several places in Arunachal Pradesh and due to objections raised by the Chinese authorities over the visit of Indian officials to the border areas of the Himalayan state.

Another important challenge India faces is on striking a balance in the Indo-Pacific. The QUAD featuring India, Australia, Japan and the US has been subject of controversy as China objected to the alliance and their military exercises alleging that the US is encircling China and trying to contain it with the support of the states in the neighbourhood.

However, New Delhi maintained that the alliance is meant to keep the Indo-Pacific free, prosperous and secure. Chinese increasing economic activities in the South China Sea have also been a major Indian concern.

The G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in March 2023 in New Delhi witnessed exchange of heated words between the US and Russian foreign ministers and also some of the western countries demanded Russia to stop the aggression immediately.

The Russian FM even accused the western powers of misusing G20 platform to push their political agenda unlike earlier meetings which focused mainly on economic and financial issues of global import.

However, as the war in Ukraine has impacted supply chains, energy, supply of essential goods and fertilisers, and strained the global economy, the issue came up for discussion during the G20 Foreign Ministers meets.

India’s challenge in this connection lies in its ability to bring together all the opposing sides to the table and find a lasting solution to the larger geo-political and security issues that triggered the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So far India succeeded in presenting a narrative that is in line with its erstwhile non-alignment policy when it comes to international conflicts.

India has so far distanced from condemning Russia for its war against Ukraine despite pressure from many western countries. Instead, New Delhi reaffirmed its strong affinity with Moscow through mutual exchange of high level visits and holding high profile meetings that also saw promises of deeper defence, economic and investment ties utterly disregarding the fears and feelings of betrayal in western capitals.

Apart from the direct impact and the humanitarian concerns arising out of the ongoing war in Ukraine Indian G20 Presidency has to deal with the uncertainties over food and energy security.

There is a looming uncertainty over the return of COVID pandemic with India itself showing massive increase in the number of infections and deaths. India still have fresh memories of being caught unaware during the second wave of COVID-19 forcing it to appeal for global support as its health facilities failed to accommodate huge numbers of COVID infections and resulted in huge casualties though it was in the forefront of producing and exporting vaccines to other countries.

Apart from the health problems posed by the pandemic, the entire world is gripped with fear and is staring at an imminent economic downturn that is looming large on the horizon.

India is increasingly and aggressively using its G20 Presidency to showcase Indian diversity and opted different cities across the country to host various meetings crossing 100 mark. India is trying to project itself as a powerful player on the global scene and adopted – One Earth. One Family. One Future – as its presidency theme.

India has voiced and earnestly advocated the Voice of Global South and asserted that India will be the voice of voiceless and promised to represent the Global South in the decision making process on important global challenges including climate change, Sustainable Development Goals, pandemic, trade and investment barriers among other things.

During the Ministerial meetings, India was able to conclude substantive outcome documents including one to set up an expert group on Multilateral Development Bank reforms and debt treatment, multilateral reforms, development cooperation, food and energy security, counter-terrorism, new and emerging threats, global skill mapping and disaster risk reduction.

This is crucial given the fact that the G20 members with two-thirds of the world population, contribute about 85 percent of the global GDP and around 75 percent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.

During its presidency, India hosted Voice of Global South Summit – 2023 which served as a platform to discuss energy security and development and sought ways of achieving affordable, accessible and sustainable energy security for the developing world.

It also took up political, economic, social, environmental, cultural, and technical issues concerning the Global South. Concerns of third world countries over the food, fuel and fertilizer were addressed and New Delhi promised to share its experiences, best practices and cutting edge technology in the field of biofuels, hydrogen and solar to ensure energy security and shared development goals.

To conclude, India is facing several challenges in addressing economic issues, challenges in the health sector especially when COVID-19 is still looming large in the horizon.

India?’s ambitious policy proposals in the energy sector and renewable energy are hard to achieve. Reducing the digital divide in the south and north cannot be bridged easily. Reforming multilateral forums and forcing the global economic institutions including the World Trade Organisation or the World Bank is easier said than said given the stake and leverage of developed world on such institutions.

Sustainable Developmental Goals cannot be achieved without a stable, secure and mutually respecting world order. Trade and investment can be pushed forward through collaborative efforts but still bottlenecks are rampant.

India?’s efforts to push agricultural reforms, foster closer cultural ties and helping start-ups, businesses, women-led development, and anti-corruption crusade will have to be seasoned with the current realities that constrain such moves.

Source: Kuwait News Agency

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