Home / Opinion / Views /  G20 presidency should amp up India’s influence

The G20 presidency moves to India in December 2022 when Indonesia hands over the baton. An opportunity like this comes only rarely, especially when global geopolitics is in a churn and post-War institutions and alliances are straining to learn about and adjust to a new emerging order. This presents us with a momentous prospect, serendipitously timed to let the country showcase, symbolically and physically, its economic stature and political heft. The G20 is a strategic platform that represents 80% of the world’s economic output, 75% of international trade and 60% of the global population. The G20 presidency affords India a chance to prove its leadership chops on the world stage and reinforce its historical role as a force for moderation, an emissary of peace and as a practitioner of an inclusive economic model that attempts to take all citizens along on a development journey—“sabka saath, sabka vikaas" in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words. With the post-Cold-War political template falling apart and the dominant economic model under scrutiny, we could present new ideas on a global stage that work not just for the top 1%, but also factory workers, farmers, artists, healthcare workers, teachers, scientists and others who toil earnestly and lead modest lives.

Some issues will need to be monitored closely. The first is a sharp erosion of multilateralism, a force for good that has remained under-utilized. The post-World War II global order accorded extraordinary influence in multilateral institutions to a handful of nations, which affected the working and structure of these bodies and inhibited equitable economic growth globally; it opened new avenues for post-colonial exploitation of resource-rich but otherwise poor nations. In every economic sphere, rich nations found a way to shrug off their historical role in impoverishing over half of the world’s population and ducked their responsibility to foster sustainable and equitable growth. Whether it was debt servicing or trade agreements, the global south was always at a disadvantage. The promise of multilateralism was largely observed in the breach. India should use its G20 presidency and its role as an emergent economic power to help construct Multilateralism 2.0 for sensitivity to diverse political and social structures as well as for an equitable economic vision.

G20 presidency will also demand reflection and compassion from our leadership. As India gains sway and pushes for its rightful seat at the global high table, we must eschew perpetrating an expansionary or extractive model to exert power, unlike what a fast-risen China has visited upon numerous poor countries with its Belt and Road Initiative, replete with the imposition of debt burdens on them. This will perhaps require New Delhi to renew its original gift to the global south: a planet-friendly and fair economic policy that has democracy with universal adult franchise at its core. At a time when muscular politics is emasculating individual liberties and autocratic leaders have played on popular angst against economic distress to capture power, in an eerie echo of the dynamics seen in Europe about a century ago, we should aim to provide a beacon of hope to democracies everywhere. An ability to assimilate ancient and liberal philosophical traditions with a modern unifying Constitution has granted our country the capacity to engage with divergent camps of politics and economic policy. We should try to bring them all under one big tent.

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