The Summit is Here! India does well for G20

It has been a year-long festival with serious intent to bring the world together on issues that confront the global community, in a spirit that represents the concerns of the global South. Efforts that have been recognised by the world at large, to forge unity and empower the weaker sections.

It has been a year of hectic activity on the ground for G20 year of India’s presidency, culminating in this month’s Summit that will bring some 40 plus global leaders, like never before in our history. It is a mini-United Nations at work, a summit that can produce so much and yet also risks the danger of being just another occasion when leaders mouth platitudes, with little real intent to change how the world lives.

It’s been a most challenging times for the global community, especially when India has worked hard to make the difference. Not an easy crown to wear if you wanted to ensure a new order, where the global South should matter more than they have got so far; when North-South and East-West have seen new divisions taking sharper trajectories.

India has been a rising power, based both upon its economic progress and yet to achieve its known potential. Here is where the world will invest in the next few decades, this is where global business has the opportunity to put their money and resources, where else can they get a better market. Ironically, our slow progress in recent decades has given us a new edge – we are the country of 1.4 billion where the growth has not happened in the past, now with an opportunity to grow, the maximum potential that any single country can offer. Our domestic market is huge, craving for every little category of creature comfort.

India is buying weapons, upgrading its technology, building infrastructure, aiming at healthy and climate friendly solutions giving rise to unseen possibilities.

An earlier policy of non-alignment, championed by us in the 60s and 70s, has moved towards a recognition of a multi-polar word order. This may go against the grain of a two-power challenge, but this is indeed the reality of the modern world. There is Europe, Russia, Japan, China, the US; there is also a rising India, and blocks like ASEAN, the Latin Americans and the Africa block, not to mention the entire Gulf region. Each of them counts and together they will guide the future world order. There would be pulls and pushes, tugs and glitches, but this is the new dispensation where India has a role to play, representing the concerns of the Global South, irrespective of which continent they are in!

Nearer home in South Asia, stability is being challenged like never before. China continues its aggressive drives – on the eve of the summit, to release a new map that defies logic. Continuing dialogues on the border have failed to change the ground reality, little disengagement is in sight. That chance encounter at the BRICS summit between the two sides was a non-event, videos show Xi in a rigid mode! This alone is enough to keep our region on the boil. Except that the recent deeper understanding with the US, the new alignments through multilateral alignments such as QUAD will alter and bolster the overall power engagements. But it all forebodes an ongoing hostile environment for the region, with India in the middle.

How does the rest of South Asia see the emerging situation? These are countries in debt, a large part of which is on account of false promises from China and expensive projects being floated with no returns in sight. Driven by covid impact that has lasted longer than one thought, internal unrest and unsettled economic compulsions. And, a more reliable India as neighbour, who has put trust first in our relationships with them – look at Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal – we have explored and worked upon mutual interests and deepened our social, cultural and economic engagement with all of them.

Through the year, India has navigated this multi-polar doctrine, understood the economic challenges of growth with responsibility to environment and climate change, sought a new level of cooperation and support from the richer nations, which have ironically been the biggest polluters and most irresponsible, having developed at a time when these issues were not adequately recognised or addressed.

Narendra Modi has emerged as a serious leader, a tough leader, and one who is willing to put his neck out based upon convictions and belief in how the new order must evolve. Modi’s stance has been globally accepted, and indeed it would appear also well respected. He has built upon his ‘hugs’ diplomacy to deepen his personal relationships across countries and continents. Undoubtedly, he has impressed world leaders with his sincerity to build a new India and a new global order in cooperation with everyone. There has been only one notable exception, that of China and Xi, but the Indian PM continues to hope this too will change, though this may be inconsistent to China’s growing belligerence across the globe, it is not winning friends.

Modi’s stance with President Putin to say that ‘war is not the solution’ holds good for other regions as well; in Taiwan, on the Indo-China border, and elsewhere. It underscores the need for restraint and solutions in the ongoing Ukraine conflict. It also says something on our own borders, taking a 360 degree perspective.

In all these efforts, from an India perspective, an able votary has been EAM Jaishankar, clearly toing and strengthening the Indian and Modi principle. He is admirably suited to his new assignment, as a career diplomat, and a budding politician with composure and knowledgeable. He has articulated India’s position, simplifying what is couched in diplomatic language and made intelligible to the masses. He has also mentioned how the Modi government has taken G20 issues and concerns across to smaller cities, made global issues a concern for the common man.

What of the G20 summit itself? No effort has been spared by the Indian authorities at all levels, to make it a grand welcome. Access from the IGIA onwards to the hotels, has been upgraded with a holistic expression on safety, easy mobility, plenty of greens, and expositions of Indian art. A pleasing sight for the visitor. During the summit, expositions have been planned on both Indian culture and also global expressions, signifying one earth, one people in a unity embrace. The stately Pragati Maidan, renamed Bharat Mandapam, will offer world class amenities to the attendees.

As far as the content of the summit goes, will it depend upon who wins? India will naturally and rightfully aim for a resolution that is acceptable to all. Equally, there would be dissenting voices who would have a singular mission to spoil the party. If a situation can be developed where everybody wins, and there are no losers, we will have a most successful way forward. On climate change, on energy, on a host of issues like tourism and exchange between nations; on Ukraine where war still rages with no solution yet in sight.

G20 must focus upon development, Amitabh Kant, Sherpa for India, has said. Leave political issues to the United Nations, as here at G20, India has “worked upon the reform and development of multilateral financial institutions, how these instruments can play a key role in providing long term fincnaces to the Global South”. Kant, in an interview with a daily newspaper, has also promised that there will be a communique at the end of the summit, as the PM has promised a forward looking a progressive, action oriented one.

What of the messaging of the G20 year of presidency through 2023 within the country? As the world meets in New Delhi, what impact will this have upon domestic politics? Will this swing the voter towards the ruling party at the hustings next year? Difficult to say, only time will tell. There is a PM riding the high stage, deliberating upon the global scene with over 40 leaders who matter! It cannot not have an impact. But will this convert to votes, is only what the results can say.

All considered, we have done well on numerous fronts in a tricky and edgy situation globally. It has been a year long festival, with serious intent and role play, with India certainly moving into a slot of leadership of the Global South. It’s a role that requires humility, benevolence and tolerance. And, also a big heart and possibly a deep pocket as well!


Navin Berry, Editor, Destination India, over five decades has edited publications like CityScan, India Debates and Travel Trends Today. He is the founder of SATTE, India’s first inbound tourism mart, biggest in Asia.



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