‘World looking at India’s G20 presidency with hope’

India G20 presidency
India sees G20 presidency as an opportunity to work towards an accountable, inclusive, equitable and representative forum, says V Muraleedharan, minister of state for external affairs.

India’s G20 presidency: Today, the world is witnessing unprecedented challenges that has brought many economies to a halt. The economic order that was existing in the pre-pandemic times have changed significantly in the post-pandemic times. The pandemic has not just stressed our systems globally, but has also exposed the existing gaps in our systems, forcing all of us to identify the loopholes, regroup, reform and reinvent.

Today, amid this confusion, we are transformed as a nation with several positives. India’s growth for the current year is estimated at 7%, which is the highest among all major economies, despite the massive global slowdown caused by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. During the last 9 years, the Indian economy has galloped from the 10th to 5th largest in the world. Our development rests on an expansive digital public infrastructure designed to ensure that “no one is left behind”. India today envisions itself as a developed country by 2047, at the centenary of our Independence.

The transformation to a New India is not just about economic growth. It also entails good governance, people’s participation, and empowerment. We are working on the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat and making India a pivotal force for global good. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, “When India grows, the world grows, when India reforms the world transforms”. With robust economy and creating more opportunities for youth, we stand tall in the world.

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Covid-19 crisis showcased India’s leadership

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the disruptions do not recognise geographical boundaries. Even at the height of the Covid crisis, India never shied away from its regional and global responsibilities. Vaccine Maitri, the global health diplomacy operation, in which we supplied made in India vaccines to nations across the world is a practical demonstration of our belief and our approach. The government following its philosophy of Vasudheva Kutumbhkam, has assisted over 150 countries by supplying medicines, medical equipment, vaccines as well as facilitating travel of our doctors and nurses.

India’s neighborhood first policy speaks volumes today. We endeavour for excellent relationships. We have friendly relationship with all, except one. Our connectivity projects in Nepal, Bangladesh Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Maldives are hugely successful. When our neighbour Sri Lanka was in trouble, we stepped in. India provided substantial assistance with over $4 billion to Sri Lanka to tide over its financial crisis.

When the conflict in Ukraine aggravated food and energy inflation to make it one of the biggest challenges of our times, India responded by supplying food grains, including as grant assistance, to Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Yemen and several countries in Africa. Recently, when a deadly earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on February 6, India launched Operation Dost and dispatched relief material as part of its Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) efforts to assist in earthquake-hit Turkey and Syria.

Today, India’s Act East Policy are more focused. India’s interests in the Indo-Pacific today are very substantial and brings in development.

G20 presidency an extraordinary opportunity

India has assumed the Presidency of G20. India’s G20 Presidency has started on an energetic, positive and promising note since December 1, 2022. India has undertaken the responsibility of G20 Presidency with a profound belief in the immense cooperative potential of people and countries to undergo a fundamental mind shift and address the current global concerns with a fresh and broader perspective. Our Presidency is not a routine diplomatic event; it is a historic opportunity and a moment of pride for the whole nation.

Over 200 meetings are going to be held in 56 cities. As reflected in Hon’ble PM’s words, now, more than ever, “There is an unprecedented curiosity in the world to know and understand India.” The world trusts us and is looking at our G20 Presidency with tremendous hope. Our Presidency’s theme Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One Earth, One Family, One Future affirms the value of universal brotherhood, and the dignity and interconnectedness of all forms of life.

India’s G20 priority will be to continue working for reformed multilateralism that creates a more accountable, inclusive, equitable and representative forum that is fit for addressing the many challenges in the 21st century. Not only we are assuming Presidency of major organisations, we are actively leading the groups such as I2U2, QUAD to name a few.

India is second to none when it comes to climate action. Prime Minister Narenda Modi made ambitious commitments at COP26 in Glasgow over and above the commitments made earlier. The Prime Minister launched Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) in the presence of the UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres in June 2022. Mission LiFE is envisioned as an India-led global mass movement towards “mindful and deliberate utilisation, instead of mindless and destructive consumption”.

We are focusing on areas that have the potential to usher in a sustainable lifestyle. India has also enabled two major initiatives for global climate action viz. International Solar Alliance (ISA) on the sidelines of COP21 which has over 100 members today. The second is Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).

India has remained committed to multilateralism and believes that human centric globalisation. We believe that the processes of multilateral diplomacy, and its outcomes, impact our lives every day. At the Voice of Global South summit, PM Modi gave the mantra of ‘Respond, Recognise, Respect, Reform’. India stands committed and it stands ready to strengthen its partnerships with the UN to ensure a brighter future for the planet. India rightfully deserves a place at UN as a permanent member of the Security Council and we work on that direction.

The government has placed special emphasis on engaging with the Indian diaspora abroad. Our engagement with the Indian diaspora is of a higher qualitative order. Today, engaging with our diaspora is a core component of our foreign policy.

During the initial days of the Ukraine crisis, the Prime Minister sent four Ministers to Ukraine’s bordering countries to oversee the evacuation of Indians under Operation Ganga. That reiterated our commitment to our citizens, to ensure the safety and security of Indians in any corner of the world. It underlined a whole-of-government approach. Operation Ganga and Operation Vande Bharat are testimonies for Indians in distress abroad, who know they can count on their government.

With the tall leadership in Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, his visits abroad, engagements with world leaders and interactions with Indian diaspora are not just news to the common citizen back home. It is an emotional connect that she/he makes to his fellow brethren abroad who are also interested in shaping a new India. It is this strong connect that common citizens feel proud of; it reinstates the belief of an aspirational India that the country and countrymen have grown in stature in the world arena. Due to his leadership and vision, the world’s perception of Indians and of India has dramatically changed.

If I summarise, what India means in the new world order, I would say the following:

The one that is at a prominent position for leading the global south; the one that emphasise Neighbourhood First, Act East policy and Indo-Pacific policy; the one that is engaging with diaspora more effectively; the one that is bringing benefits to Indian population despite global economic slowdown; the one that voices for reformed UN system that adapts to the present day reality; and the one that is confident and aims for collective benefit.

(Shri V Muraleedharan is the minister of state for external affairs and parliamentary affairs in the Union cabinet. This article is the transcript of his inaugural address at an event on India’s G20 presidency, organised by Policy Circle in New Delhi on Thursday.)