The Lotus Sutra: India's G20 agenda
As the world's largest democracy, and fifth-largest economy, takes over the G20 presidency, what's on India's agenda?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the logo of the country's G20 presidency - a lotus, the country's national flower, holding up the globe.
The upcoming G20 Summit would grab the attention of the whole world as it brings together
the key economies amidst some tense geopolitical scenarios and ongoing international crises.
The Group of 20 Summit is held among the representatives of the twenty most prominent
economies of the world. These countries include - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada,
China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia,
Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK and USA. These countries together
make up for about 80 per cent of the global trade and about 90 per cent of the global gross
domestic product (GDP).
The grouping was created in the aftermath of the Asian financial crises in the 1990s that led
to the international acknowledgment of the need to develop a cooperative mechanism among
the major economies so as to mitigate any such crisis in the future. Held annually since 2008,
the G20 Summit assumes rotating presidency of the member states and the structure involves
two major working tracks. This includes the Sherpa’s Track and the Finance Tracks.
These two tracks are the result of the expanding agendas of the G20 Summits over time. Initially the grouping was primarily just focused on the issues of financial concern however, over the period a variety of policy agendas started coming into the larger bracket of the Summit’s goals. While the Sherpa Track caters to the non-financial policy issues in order to address major security challenges such as those pertaining to food security and developmental issues; the Finance Track primarily focuses on the global financial issues and economic resource allocation.
While we attempt to understand the significance of this year’s upcoming G20 Summit, it is
important to bear in mind the global context that the world is witnessing as this important
summit takes place.
The Global Context
India will inherit the Presidency from Indonesia at a very crucial time in global politics. The
international security scenario is mired with a number of crises ranging from Global Food
Security crisis to the steadfastly increasing climate change concerns. Not to mention, the
implications of the Russian War on Ukraine in the form of the energy security crisis as well
as the resulting human rights violations.
On top of this, the world’s economy is still recovering from the aftermath of the Global Pandemic in the form of an economic slowdown and hence it becomes all the more important for the major economic powers of the world to come together in order to devise a recovery plan for the economic infrastructure.
Apart from the economic and security issues, another important issue shaping the geopolitical
trajectory of the world includes the rapidly evolving problem of climate change. As the
prominent world economies come together, it would also be interesting to note how they will
deliberate on the issues of allocation of financial resources to climate action and for the
technologies for renewable energy transformation.
As India takes up the Presidency for the next year, there will be a great responsibility to foster
consensus on significant geopolitical, strategic and financial issues in terms of the crises
faced by the world at large. Therefore, as India takes up the centre stage on this prominent
global event, all eyes would be on how the country navigates through these challenges.
India as the G20 President India unveiled the theme for its G20 Presidency to be the Sanskrit slogan - Vasudeva Kutumbakam. Translated into English, this means - The world is one family.
The idea is to promote Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Jan Bhagidari which would mean cooperation among people across the world. This clearly fits into the larger goal of the G20 which aims towards bringing together the developed and developing world powers and allows them to deliberate as well as cooperate over issues of global significance. As the world ascends into another year of the G20 Summit, the primary three pillars of the global cooperation can be identified as - sustainable energy transition as a part of climate action, global health architecture and digital transformation.
India as the G20 President is likely to build on the major issues of concern that have been
discussed over the past few summits, these would primarily include progress on Climate
Action and the transition to a 'green' economy through greater investments in Renewable
Energy Transformation Technologies.
While the global pandemic occupied the major stage in the previous G20 Summits held in Italy and Indonesia, this year’s summit is likely to focus primarily on the recovery of the global economies from the slowdown imposed by the pandemic. As India leads in a technological infrastructure for disaster risk reduction and management, there needs to be a greater involvement of the world economies into building a roadmap to the climate action and disaster control as the world is likely to get deeper into the grips of rising temperatures and rising sea levels which will result in an unprecedented increase into the natural disasters. As the 27th Climate Change Conference (COP27) still goes on, it would be very important to note how the member countries aim to build on their commitments highlighted in the COP27 by backing it with economic and financial resource allocation.
India has always held a vocal opinion on the need for tangible action on the part of the
developed world when it comes to greater accountability for climate action. As the G20
President, now India could play a greater part in demanding more investments and resource
allocation for renewable transformation technologies, especially by the developed world.
Another major aspect of the repercussions of the global pandemic is the greater attention now given to the healthcare infrastructure. The last two years of the pandemic has led to a
collective realisation that there needs to be a robust health infrastructure. In this regard, the
G20 health ministerial meeting would play an important role in creating a plan for the
greater accessibility of healthcare services as well as a strong investment into research and
development aspects for healthcare.
As India has pioneered the pharmaceutical industry, it could possibly play a greater leadership role in the development of this infrastructure. The next major agenda of the G20 cooperation would entail creating a sustainable infrastructure for a global digital economy. This becomes a greater agenda because the complete potential of digital resources was unveiled during one of the most grave health crises of this century- the covid-19 pandemic. As the world was halted physically, it carried on digitally.
Therefore, there needs to be a recognition of the avenues for greater investments
for digital transformation. This particular agenda has also been progressively gaining
prominence over the last two years as well. Under the Italian Presidency in 2021, the focus
was primarily on Child Protection and Empowerment in the Digital Environment.
During the Indonesian Presidency 2022, a Working Group for Digital Economy was created.
This year, the working group could see greater developments on its agenda. Over the years
different states have identified different priority areas when it comes to the Digital Economy.
It is primarily because of this reason that under their Presidencies, these states have focused
on a variety of issues pertaining to this agenda.
During China’s Presidency back in 2016, it had called upon the financial bodies such as the
International Monetary Fund, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as well as the World Bank to develop
credible data in order to assess the contribution of the digital economy into the global
economic statistics. In this regard, India’s Presidency is likely to play a greater role in
enhancing the investments into cybersecurity and the digital economy. This could be
prominent because the idea of digital infrastructure has been a central aspect of Indian Prime
Minister Narendra Modi’s domestic policy agenda and now it could be translated to the
foreign policy as well through India’s seat at the presidency. India could further work upon
creating an infrastructure for e-commerce cooperation inorder to facilitate cross border trade.
Greater cooperation on dissemination of digital skills and a global tax framework is needed
and it would be interesting to note how India navigates through the disagreements.
A Complex Road
Apart from the financial and economic issues at the heart of the G20 grouping, there is an
omnipresent underlying factor of the geostrategic situation of the world. The world, now
grappling with a war in Europe, is at a very critical turn where there needs to be a greater
mechanism for cooperation among the belligerent powers especially, in this case Russia and
the US on one hand and India and China on the other. When it comes to the cracks in the
world order created by the Russian war on Ukraine, India has primarily maintained what the
experts have called, a ‘balancing act’.
As the country goes ahead to assume the presidency of such a crucial grouping, it would be
very relevant for the world to witness how the contentious issues are dealt with. The idea also
remains that India should be able to prioritise its own developmental agenda while
consciously managing the tensions among the major powers.
One main aspect of mitigating political disagreements is to enhance economic agreements
and it may be an optimistic hope that the upcoming G20 Summit becomes a platform for the
important powers to come together and cooperate over issues