By Sushil Kutty
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the opportunity of his lifetime to make a global difference to India’s status on the world stage when India assumes the G20 presidency on December 1 for a period of one year. The Prime Minister himself has called it a “huge opportunity” for India in his November 27 edition of ‘Mann Ki Baat’. Modi, who is used to big pronouncements, kept it simple while stressing that India must utilize the opportunity to focus on “global good”.
So far, so good. Prime Minister Modi had taken over the G20 chair from Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Bali earlier this month. Sunday, November 27, Modi said, “Be it peace or unity, sensitivity towards environment or sustainable development, India has solutions to challenges related to all such things.”
Modi appeared keen to share the leadership of the G20 with common Indians. He spoke of a hand-woven G20 logo sent to him by a Telangana resident who said it was a matter of great pride for India to host the 2023 G20 Summit. Modi couldn’t believe his eyes and ears to know that even a commoner could be so affected by India hosting the G20 summit.
For somebody who loves to be the cynosure on the world stage, India assuming the G20 presidency and New Delhi holding the 2023 G20 Summit is like bringing the world home. That said, even as India assumes G20 leadership, the world is facing a plethora of challenges that calls for global attention.
For example, Covid-19 and the after effects of the pandemic in countries worldwide. India can play a major role in tackling the last vestiges of the pandemic. The continued outbreaks of Covid-19 in China are proof that all vaccinations haven’t worked 100 percent, some have been less than effective. India with its fairly good record on vaccinating its population can contribute to the ongoing global ‘vaxx’ efforts.
Taking on climate change is a staple for the G20 and along with the other sustainable development goals, a long-term challenge for the G20. Then, there are the economic challenges including fighting global poverty fuelled by the economic downturn and the slowing of the post-pandemic global recovery.
Security challenges include those between China and the United States caused by trade tensions, and those emanating because of Taiwan. How India can help steer both the US and China into safe harbours will test Modi and India’s G20 leadership.
The war in Ukraine and how to handle Russia without getting stuck in a groove will perhaps be one of the biggest challenges before G20, and India’s presidency of the high profile grouping. Even as India assumes leadership, there’s the assumption that India has a special standing in the comity of nations, and Prime Minister Modi has a special bonding with President Vladimir Putin, that will help broker peace.
Who knows, perhaps Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been waiting for India to take the G20 leadership to begin actively negotiating an end to the Ukraine War. It will be a feather in India’s cap and to him, personally, to add to India’s ‘vishwaguru’ image, one that he can spin to win yet another term in 2024.
Modi perhaps was laying the ground when he told Putin at the Samarkand SCO that “This Era is not of War”. With the G20 presidency, Modi also cannot involve India in any squabbles with neighbours. Border tensions with China will have to be curbed, and LoC confrontations with Pakistan minimized. With great power comes greater responsibility, and world peace does not come piecemeal.
The geopolitical insecurity, and food and energy security are global concerns very much within the purview of the G20 presidency. For Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, the major powers’ tensions with Russia was the biggest challenge for the year Indonesia headed the G20.
It was tough dealing with the US and Russia when both are at loggerheads. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wouldn’t have it easy either. Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin aren’t friends and China’s Xi Jinping is no leader that the US President will come to trust enough to ignore him. In fact, in March 2022, Biden wanted Russia expelled from G20.
Given all these to chew on, India has the option to either sit through the one year it will be helming the G20 or come away with several successes under its belt. Getting Ukraine out of the Russian-roulette would be the biggest challenge, and the biggest success of all. Helping alleviate global poverty and containing global warming will be other satisfactions. Going forward, it is rather gratifying to be told that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “This Era is not of War” has been included in the G20 language. (IPA Service)