Interactive discussion on 25.03.2023 with Prof. Rajat Kathuria, Dean of School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shiv Nadar University and former Director, Indian Council for Research onInternational Economic Relations (ICRIER).
India’s presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) is a landmark moment: the world’s largest democracy takes leadership of a group which represents around 85% of the global GDP, over 75% of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.At the national level, India’s presidency marks the commencement of Amritkaal, the 25-year period beginning from the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence, leading up to a centenary of independence. At the regional level, India is poised to set the ‘Asian’ agenda and strengthen the position and voice of the ‘Global South’. At the global level, India assumes charge to set the opportunities and path for just and equitable growth for all in the world, as the world navigates through turbulent times, with the vision of achieving sustainable, holistic, responsible,
and inclusive growth.
The theme of India’s G20 Presidency - Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam captures the immense task and opportunity ahead. The theme, translated in English to One Earth, One Family, One Future, is drawn from the ancient Sanskrit text of the Maha Upanishad. This reflects a commitment to the value of all life – human, animal, plant, and microorganisms – and their interconnectedness. Characterised as the theme of ‘Lifestyle and Environment’, India’s G20 Presidency reflects a
watershed moment in local, national, and global politics.
The G20 comprises 19 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany,India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, United Kingdom, and United States) and European Union. The G20 functional structure is characterised by two tracks – the Sherpa track and the Finance track. The Sherpa track comprises representative of the leaders of member countries and focuses on socio-economic issues such as agriculture, anti-corruption, climate, digital economy, education, employment, energy, environment, health, tourism, trade and investment. The Finance track is headed by the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and focuses on Fiscal and monetary policy issues such as the global economy, infrastructure, financial regulation, financial
inclusion, international financial architecture, and international taxation. Each track further comprises numerous working groups which work with Engagement groups (non-governmental participants) to further the G20 commitment to consulting a wide range of stakeholders.
India G20 2023
During its Presidency, India’s special invitee guest countries are Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius,Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and UAE. India’s invited international organisations are UN, IMF, World Bank, WHO, WTO, ILO, FSB, OECD, AU Chair, NEPAD Chair, ASEAN Chair, ADB, ISA and CDRI.
India’s Presidency of the G20 has been hailed as an “opportunity to showcase India's capability to the world.” At the same time, India’s Presidency has been described as a “position of responsibility.” At a critical juncture in the global post-pandemic recovery, India is set to take the stage for the immediate agendas in economics, security, and development. For this reason, India’s G20 theme has been hailed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India as “decisive”.
For its Presidency, India has identified six priorities.
1. Green Development, Climate Finance and LiFE;
2. Accelerated, Inclusive and Resilient Growth;
3. Accelerating progress on SDGs;
4. Technological Transformation and Digital Public Infrastructure;
5. Multilateral Institutions for the 21st century; and
6. Women-led development.
Theses six areas represent India’s vision of peace, security, economic growth, and technological inclusivity.
At the heart of the India’s G20 agenda is recognising the importance of collective action and inclusive collaboration. India’s agenda reflects the immediate opportunities presented by its Presidency:
1. Multilateralism – As the world witnesses rising geo-political tensions, India’s leadership presents an opportunity to set the path in an era of declining multilateralism to a presidency that will be “inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented.”
2. The Global South – India is at the center of a troika of G20 presidencies Indonesia, India and Brazil (2022-2024). All three are emerging economies and present a significant opportunity to highlight the Global South and lend further credence to its voice in the global order. At this juncture, India’s presidency is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the West and the Global South on numerous issues - climate change, trade facilitation and
health care resilience support. In the past, India has championed the cause of low-income nations – through its stance on climate change, tariff and non-tariff barriers for transitioning economies, and through patent-waivers for the vaccine on COVID-19. India’s Presidency is a significant opportunity to highlight the voice of Asia and the Global South as a force in the global order.
3. Inclusive digital development– India has been at the forefront of advocating for significant digital inclusion i.e., that the digital transformation should encompass all of humanity and that greater benefits of digital progress will be realized only through digital inclusivity. India has an opportunity to demonstrate how digital architecture may be made more widely accessible, putting its lessons and experiences in digital inclusion on a global map.
4. Broad-focus beyond economic security – Though initially conceptualised in 1999 to address macro-economic reform and economic security, the base of the G20 agenda has seen a significant expansion over the years. India’s G20 Presidency comes at the middle of the presidency of a troika of countries - Indonesia, India, and Brazil. This presents an opportunity to shift focus away from the ‘Western’ agenda to broad-base topics such as the eradication of poverty, ensuring health and well-being in the region to fulfil numerous SDGs.
India’s Presidency also comes at a time which is characterised by a myriad of challenges – the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the post-COVID 19 global recovery, and an increasing challenging world economic order. The G20 communique notes that “today’s era must not be of war” and echoes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’. At such a critical juncture, all eyes are on India and its position on these key issues.
As India assumes the Presidency of the G20, the challenge is to embrace a changing global order and steer it towards the stated path of inclusion and mutual-cooperation. At a time when the world order continues its transformation to a multipolar and multi-vocal world, the G20 as a multilateral forum where sovereign nations chart the course of tomorrow is an important player in the global order. India’s emphasis during its Presidency on peace, security, economic growth, and technological inclusivity is a significant step towards global peace, rules-based governance and growth for all in this world.
Highlights from Prof. Kathuria’s presentation:
Some highlights from the India Policy Forum (IPF) discussion with Prof. Rajat Kathuria, Dean of School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shiv Nadar University and former Director, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) on 25 March, 2023
• Genesis of the G20 - The G20 was created in response to the financial crises in several emerging economies, especially in Asia, in the 1990s and due to the recognition that some of these countries were not adequately represented in global economic discussion and governance. The shortcomings of the G7, and dissatisfaction with the system of
financial assistance in vogue where international financial institutions sought changes in the internal politics and economy of a country led to the emerging economies seeking a representative financial forum.
• Expansion of G20 and introduction of the Leaders’ track – To strengthen participation and outcome of the G20, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the ‘Leaders Meeting’ of the member countries was introduced. Accordingly, the Pittsburg Summit marked the commencement of the Leaders’ Track (Sherpa).
• The goal of the G20 – G20 was founded on the notion of the representation of the Global South and emerging economies. As countries like India and China had significant impact on the global economy, there was an understanding that the G20 would emerge as a more representative body which lent voice to the Global South. This signaled two realisations – first, the vision of the G20 as a representative body was achieved by expanding it beyond its early goals of sole focus on macro-economic reform to a broader variety of socio-political issues; and second, institutional change is glacial and takes time and effort. While the fruits of the G20 summits were visible, there was a significant way to go before looking at concrete changes based on international consensus.
• G20 as a basis to understand market responsibility - The foundational moment of the G20 (as a response to market dominance of a select few western countries) helps understand market responsibility of countries. For instance, India is a global leader in wheat export. When India temporarily banned/reduced the export of wheat, prices for
wheat shot up globally. Thus, broad market decisions such as quantitative easing prior to the 2008 crisis in USA and the stimulus packages announced during COVID-19 in USA cannot be viewed in isolation and only in the context of the US economy. These examples signal the global ripple effect of economies, which permeate across national frontiers.
• Vision for tomorrow - The G20 experience solidified the understanding that policy coordination is concerted, time-consuming, and requires patience. The induction of the leaders of the members countries in the G20 summit was a significant step forward.
• Leaders’ Track - Operates vide numerous working groups. Whilst this is not as outcome focused as the finance track, there is a creation of significant scholarship and discourse. This hints that the G20 is not a panacea for all problems but is a step in the right direction. Before criticising the G20 body, it is important to understand the burden that rests on the G20 – it was never meant to solve everything but was to present a forum for each country to voice their opinion and act as agenda-setters.
Highlights from the Q&A session
• There is an argument to be made for the G20 to revert to its initial focus on macro-economic reforms. However, an equally strong case can be made to strengthen the outcomes of the G20 summit. There is no clear answer to this – however, a broad focus on the outcomes is a step forward.
• India is set to lead on digital infrastructure. The past is testament to the exponential growth of technology and its pervasion across the global population.
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