Opinion | G20 Summit: In a Fractured World, Resilient India is the Only Hope

As the 17th G20 Summit takes place in Indonesia, one gets increasingly conscious of the fractured global order in the backdrop of which leaders from 20 largest economies of the world are meeting each other. The world hadn’t come out from the shadows of a once-a-century pandemic, and it was thrown into the abyss of hyperinflation exacerbated by the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict. Fuel prices are breaking national records, fears of a gas shortage in a particularly difficult winter in Europe are looming large, China’s economy is set to fail its annual target of a 5 percent growth and currencies including rupee are having a free fall. Nothing is really going in the favour of a stable and peaceful world order.

But G20 itself was created during one such difficult time. Starting in the early 1990s, a series of massive debt crises rocked the world, including the Mexican Peso Crisis, 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 1998 Russian financial crisis. This led to a rethink regarding the post-World War II financial architecture and how inadequate were the existing institutions such as G7, G8 and the Bretton Woods Institutions in dealing with them. Originally, G20 was envisaged as a meeting of finance ministers and governors of the central bank but the 2008 economic crisis pushed it to convene a summit-level meeting of heads of the state or government every year. Since then, the G20 has become an important platform to discuss the global economy and other pressing global issues. The bilateral meetings held on the sidelines of the summit have also led to conclusion of some major agreements and coordination on policy including the partial ceasefire in Syria debated in 2017 or the right way to approach Iranian nukes at the 2009 summit. As this year’s summit unfolds, withdrawal by the Russian President in the wake of Ukraine-Russia conflict and global economic uncertainty are set to dominate the proceedings.

But the most important takeaway for India is going to be the fact that it is going to host the next edition of the Summit in 2023 as it takes over G20 Presidency from Indonesia at the end of this 17th summit. This presidency couldn’t have come at a more opportune point. While the west and Russia are at loggerheads and world reeling under a massive food-fuel inflation, India has emerged to be the rare hope with its delicate diplomatic balancing, its engagement of all sides and its record of carrying on an unperturbed growth and keeping its economy stable.

India that has faced pressure from the west to condemn Russia has suddenly become a player best positioned to mediate peace between Ukraine and Russia. A New York Times piece on this matter reflected the hopes that the world at large is now placing on India. In a world of fuel shortage and massive inflation, India has demonstrated excellent political acumen in acquiring cheap Russian oil and has managed to keep the prices under control for its domestic population. This year’s G20 agenda is focused on health, energy security and digital-based economic transformation under the theme “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”. There is much for India to contribute from its own experience on all the three pillars. Covid-19 has once again bolstered India’s claim as the pharmacy of the world with the success of its massive vaccination programme based on indigenous manufacturing of its own vaccine. India is also making a swift transition to clean energy with it emerging as the third largest producer of renewable energy at around 40 percent of its installed energy capacity coming from renewable sources.

India is also best placed to talk about Digital-based economic transformation with UPI transactions hitting a new milestone every month. India is all set to cross the $5 trillion economy landmark of which the digital economy alone would be worth $1 trillion by 2025. With the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, India is leading the digital-based economic transformation.

Naturally, the leadership shown by India in these various domains has made the world sit back and listen. While speaking at the working session on food and energy security at G20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has utilised the opportunity well to highlight India’s concerns and its capability. He drew attention to the fact how the UN has failed to be effective in dealing with global issues because of a lack of credible reforms. India has often highlighted the need for UN reforms at many forums especially because a country the size of India and its capability still doesn’t have a permanent seat at the security council.

This year, December onwards, India will find a greater canvas to air its concerns and demonstrate its leadership as it assumes the G20 presidency. India has unabashedly communicated to the world its desire to be a leading power. Hence, the G20 presidency is going to be its chance to showcase its capability and confidence.

The author is a PhD in International Relations from the Department of International Relations, South Asian University. Her research focuses on the political economy of South Asia and regional integration. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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