The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

India is set to assume the presidency of the G20 in December. The G20 is the world’s most influential multilateral forum that develops rules and norms of global economic governance. It was formed in the background of the financial crisis that hit Asia in the late 1990s. It also became more important in the post-2008 financial crisis to help in the recovery of global growth. Collectively, the G20 countries include 60% of the world’s population, 80% of the global GDP, and 75% of global trade. All the world’s leading economic powers are members of the G20.

India’s upcoming G20 presidency comes during a challenging global environment with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the crisis over Taiwan, global inflation and supply chain disruptions, climate change, slowing international trade, and rising global debt. All these challenges have assumed greater significance as they arrive in the backdrop of a pandemic which has disrupted the world in fundamental ways.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of India’s presidency lies in India’s dexterity to engage with and listen to all sides in a fractured multipolar world. This ability should be capitalized upon during India’s G20 presidency.

Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 sherpa, believes that the primary challenge India should seek to tackle is inclusive and equitable global growth. He argues that growth alone will facilitate emerging markets and the Global South to lift a vast segment of the population out of poverty. Kant envisions the creation of digital public infrastructure in untapped fields like health, education, nutrition, and agriculture to catapult global growth to higher levels. The goal of resuscitating global growth should also include addressing ballooning public debt and rising inflation.

The identification of the Internet as a basic human right and the use of technology to reduce inequalities has also been well recognized. Therefore, it is also imperative for India to take a lead role in shaping tech regulations which seek to balance growth demands of the economy, private sector interests, and sovereignty and security needs of countries.

Promoting sustainability, climate adaptation, mitigation and a smooth energy transition towards green energy will also be another key factor in India’s outlook for the G20. A lot of emphases will be given to the acceleration of renewables and decarbonizing through private sector participation and entrepreneurship. To facilitate this, India seeks to restructure development financial institutions by enhancing the equity base so that lending for climate finance becomes easier. This is crucial as the developed world has fallen woefully short of executing its lofty commitments, made in the name of climate finance and technology transfers to enable climate justice.

These two themes of equitable growth and sustainability neatly fit into India’s ambition of accelerated implementation of the SDGs, especially given the havoc caused by the pandemic in terms of learning outcomes, health disruptions, and pushing millions back into poverty.

Thought leaders have also called for India to capitalize on the momentum generated by the emerging-world troika of the preceding, current, and succeeding presidents of the G20. This will enable India to have well-defined and focused priorities for its tenure, enabling continuity, and change.

Experts have also pointed out key areas in which India needs to step up its game. These include designing a new framework for trade in services, establishing better cross-order standards for transparency in financial flows, and reconfiguration of global financial regulations. Another broader area that New Delhi would like to work towards is robust multilateralism.

Some observers have also linked India’s stewardship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the G20 presidency in the next year. They have argued that despite SCO’s political and security character, issues around technology, sustainability, green transitions, cyber security, online malfeasance, and unsustainable infrastructure projects must be discussed and debated. This will create a “linking bridge” between the SCO and G20 whose methods and styles might appear divergent.

India’s Narendra Modi envisages an overarching narrative of LiFE-Lifestyle for Environment behind India’s ambitions for the G20. LiFE lays particular stress on molding untenable human consumption patterns of our times. In short, LiFE promotes mindful consumption and prudent resource utilization while being cognizant of the harmful effects of unbridled utilization on the environment.

India seeks to pack its G20 presidency with meaningful dialogue on all the issues discussed above and would like to energetically play with its front foot forward.

Ved Shinde is studying Political Science and Economics at St. Stephens College, Delhi University.