G20 presidency will test India’s global leadership credentials

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It will be a great achievement for India’s G20 presidency if it manages to resolve the debt crisis which is troubling several member nations.

India has assumed the presidency of the G20 this month in the midst of a global economic crisis and geopolitical uncertainty. The grouping that accounts for 64% of the world population and 85% of the global GDP has become a key player in world affairs in recent years.

India’s presidency of G20 will be marked by the theme “One Earth, One Family, One Future”. The country has listed terror, climate change, and pandemic as the greatest challenges facing economies today and has suggested that these can be best fought together. Other than this, India has also named sustainable lifestyles, depoliticising the global food supply, fertilisers and medical products among other priorities of its G20 leadership.

India’s presidency comes at a time when the world is grappling with fear of recession in advanced economies, sticky inflation, rising interest rates and unemployment. G20 leadership is an opportunity for the country to showcase its leadership credentials as it seeks to assume greater responsibility in global affairs.

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India is the fifth largest economy in the world and the third in terms of purchasing power parity. It accounts for 3.6% of G20 GDP in nominal terms and 8.2% in PPP terms. The IMF projects that India’s GDP will grow at 6.1% in 2023 which will make it the fastest growing G20 nation.

India’s G20 agenda

Food and energy security are the biggest concerns for the global south, exemplified by the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. India’s presidency, as emphasised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will look to safeguard the interests of the nations that find themselves in vulnerable situations.

Then there is the issue of climate change. India would do well to encash the opportunity of utilising its G20 presidentship to lead a collective endeavour to mitigate climate change. The country has recently passed the Energy Conservation Bill 2022 which mandates the use of renewable energy sources. India is one of the most vulnerable countries to extreme weather events and it will do well to bring the issue to the G20 agenda.

India is also presented with a rare opportunity to push the perspective of the grouping and nudge the members towards inclusion of Africa’s representation within the G20. This will help derail the growing threats of increased Chinese influence in the continent and also provide greater leverage to African nations in restructuring their debt with China.

India has announced that the G20 agenda will be set after taking opinions from a wide range of stakeholders and people. Analysts have said that the country must push for reforms in multilateral institutions like the IMF and World Bank to make them attentive to developing countries.

The broad agenda of the G20 is to ensure the world’s financial stability and equitable access to the fruits of economic and technological development to everyone. The country must now figure out how to do this with a war raging in Europe that has disrupted economies by limiting access to fuel, foodgrain and fertiliser, just as the pandemic’s grip loosened.

Tough task ahead

India taken the presidency at a time of great upheaval and has its task cut out to channel the opinion withing the grouping. It will not be a cake walk for the Modi government to conduct substantive negotiations and to put together a comprehensive G20 agenda with a focus on counter-terrorism, supply chain disruptions and global unity.

The country also needs to navigate the divide in the grouping not just over the Ukraine crisis, but also on its own problems with China. To further complicate the problem, the rivalry between China and the US is on the boil.

The birth of G20 in 2008 and the first summit in the US were also at a time of crisis for the global economy. The world is facing a similar chaotic situation with the Russia-Ukraine war weighing heavily on the future of the global economy. Western sanctions on Russian oil and gas are expected to intensify this month. Further, economic downturn, pandemic worries and climate change issues are also testing the foundations of globalisation and an interconnected global economy.

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India is also troubled by the economic crisis as well as social and communal tension. The government must brace for more scrutiny on such issues. Having raised the pitch on its global leadership, New Delhi must take care not to get dragged into great power rivalries. It should focus on its ability to translate its global vision into its domestic policies as well.

Why G20 leadership is significant for Modi

The G20 summit is timed just ahead of the general elections scheduled for next year. Global leadership credentials can enhance Narendra Modi’s reputation at home. He can showcase his closeness with global leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron. Still, it will be a big challenge for the prime minister to make a difference in the difficult geopolitical and economic situation.

The G20 is an informal group comprising 19 countries and the European Union with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. G-20 is being considered as an alternative to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which has been paralysed by the veto power of five permanent members. The UN is also suffering from credibility issues after the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If the G-20 can manage to become a peacemaker in Europe, it will attain legitimacy as a group to promote international peace and security.