India’s G20 Presidency: A ‘Bright Spot On A Dark Horizon’
2023 may be a watershed year for the world. This year may be characterized by reverberation across the globe, particularly in the Western hemisphere, of significant events of the past two years, including the Ukraine-Russia conflict, supply chain shockwaves caused by sanctions on Russia, and the Chinese Zero Covid policy.
Energy prices can potentially have ripple effects across many countries, and we cannot rule out that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia could escalate and spread beyond their borders.
With a combination of natural disasters and a growing food supply crisis compounded by rising interest rates and the fear of an impending recession, the year 2023 may bring many challenges, which are hard to assess at this point but would undoubtedly be no less than what the world has endured in recent years.
Despite all of these, there is certainly a glimmer of hope. In taking over the G20 presidency on December 1, India may lead the world’s fastest-growing economy for the following year. It is also the birthplace of one of the oldest civilizations in human history.
India may usher in a new era by pioneering a new path for tackling the global challenges humanity faces today. Over the last three years, India has demonstrated unprecedented capability in managing a cataclysmic pandemic, which had no past reference points regarding the best course of action.
The painful national lockdown imposed on India was sure to plunge economic activity and result in job losses, but the impact of its northern neighbor’s border flareup exacerbated the situation.
In this sense, India had more than one challenge to deal with at a time when the rest of the world was already dealing with the pandemic on its own.
While India’s political leadership under Prime Minister Modi remained calm and poised, it dealt with the emergence of the conflict without getting into a blame game or raising rhetoric.
A major priority of the Modi Government in early 2020 was to provide additional food rations to more than 80 crore beneficiaries after the pandemic became apparent that it would stay and inflict heavy damage.
Thus, Indians from the lower middle class and underprivileged sections could survive the uncertain pandemic with adequate food. India, in the meantime, faced the situation in her northern border areas silently by upgrading its military infrastructure and warfighting capabilities.
As well, India has not had a break from fighting cross-border terrorism, which is a perpetual legacy of her western neighbor. Two records-breaking Government funded initiatives were launched over the next thirty months in India.
Previously, I mentioned the world’s largest food aid program. Still, I also noted that the most extensive vaccination program in the world was launched by the Indian Government, which eventually resulted in India administering over 200 crore vaccines manufactured domestically to its eligible population.
It took a great deal of logistical and collaborative preparation to roll out vaccines, starting with vaccine development, maintaining the highest quality of production through to the last mile delivery of vaccines, and maintaining records on an application-based platform, Cowin.
Besides that, the country also provided precious Covid vaccines to 70 other countries when many developed countries were reluctant to part with their stocks.
The initiative demonstrated India’s ability to deliver during global emergencies worldwide and her willingness to share resources with other developing nations.
In addition, PM Modi has spearheaded critical structural and economic reforms over the last few years that have continued despite the pandemic.
India is poised to not just become the third largest economy in the world in about half a decade or so but also to demonstrate that economic growth and large-scale welfare schemes can go hand-in-hand if the intent is right.
Since it has a nearly $3.5 trillion economy, a healthy forex reserve above $540 billion, a record gross tax collection, and the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, to emulate this model, the rest of the world should follow.
Modi Govt’s Jam Trinity
All of these must be considered in light of the magnitude and impact of the policy initiatives taken by the Modi Government by completely restructuring the structure through which the Central Government offers subsidies to its citizens.
As part of the Jan Dhan, Aadhar, and Mobile (JAM) scheme, Modi Government revolutionized the concept of Direct Benefit Transfer by bypassing all kinds of mediators and transferring government subsidies directly to beneficiaries, removing crores of fake ration cards, fake LPG connections, fake MNREGA cards among others.
There were over 44 crore Jan Dhan Accounts opened in the end. Over Rs. 1.75 lakh crore stands in those accounts today. JAM trinity made it easier for the underprivileged to tide over the challenging times of pandemics.
Almost 50 crore people, or ten crore underprivileged families, receive health protection under Ayushman Bharat, while nearly 50 crore people receive DBT benefits.
As a pioneer in using cutting-edge IT systems to implement welfare schemes at a scale that many Western developed countries may find difficult to match, India is one of the pioneers using IT to implement welfare schemes.
Those efforts would invariably follow those of India in the fight against environmental degradation.
With the aspirations and needs of nearly 140 crore people, the country is a difficult place to be. Still, with its civilizational roots rooted in conservation rather than exploitation of nature, it stands in an unenviable position.
Despite conflicting challenges, India has voluntarily taken some key initiatives to address climatic challenges in recent years.
Through the National Awards, the Modi Government has also created an institutional framework for the first time to recognize grassroots environmental conservationists in India.
Besides its success in the development matrix, the Modi Government can also be credited for reviving the notion of spirituality and holistic development in its human development policies.
It is now recognized globally that the efforts spearheaded by Yoga to internationalize and support traditional medicine are now gaining a lot of traction.
In their recent establishment of the WHO Centre for Traditional Medicines in Jamnagar, Gujarat, WHO acknowledged the importance of traditional medicines and the strides India has made in promoting them.
A New Voice For Global South
The Indian Government’s ability to defend its independent foreign policy and refusal to bow to extraneous dictums has been a critical factor in India’s ascendance under Modi.
As a result of the Modi Government’s stance on buying oil from Russia in the face of Western sanctions imposed on the country, its refusal to budge under sanctions, and how it has exposed some of the double standards of Western countries regarding sanctions culture, India has been gradually emerging as the voice of the South in the global economy.
The Indian Government, under Prime Minister Modi, has refused to side with the West when it comes to sanctions against Russia and has repeatedly advocated dialogue as the best method of resolution.
In addition, the Prime Minister has taken a bold stand by declaring that today’s era should not be a time of war.
As well as for all major powerhouses around the world, it could also be for the giant military-industrial complexes which have been accused of manipulating policies to facilitate conflicts in the interest of their fortunes.
Despite all the vicious onslaughts of cross-border terrorism, India remains one of the few countries that have not lost faith in humanity and dialogue, even as they fight for freedom and democracy.
As a result of terrorism, India has questioned the double standards of developed economies many times over. Throughout his tenure, Prime Minister Modi has reiterated the need for the UN to define terrorism and the need to condemn terrorism unequivocally.
Additionally, it exemplifies how resolving long-standing disputes can be achieved without violence or bloodshed, even in hostile situations. By amending Article 370 and resolving many long-standing conflicts in Northeast India, India is setting an excellent example for others to follow regarding conflict resolution.
India’s presidency of the G20 is celebrated not just in India but also among several other countries, who are increasingly looking to India for solutions.
During pandemics, India has offered the world its largest food aid program, economic management, strides in renewable energy development, and the successful template of Covid vaccination and direct benefit transfer.
India has also proven to offer several advantages in space technology and next-generation 5G networks through frugal engineering.
As a result, India’s G20 presidency celebrates the idea of India and its rise into global prominence.
India still faces the same problems as before. The only way to survive the challenges and emerge more resilient is for India to know how to overcome and eventually mitigate them, as opposed to most.
Additionally, the year-long G20 programming will take place across various cities in India, allowing India to tell the Indian story from the people’s point of view.
Some have, especially in the West, for quite some time now, portrayed the Indian story with a blatant bias.
India will attempt to be pinned down through the manipulation of data to project unreal things, no matter what the country does. It is now India’s turn to rectify those mistakes. India is not a mere ‘bright spot on the dark horizon.
Restoring A Resilient Global Supply Chain
Supply chains are global networks that operate across international boundaries and define a de-territorialized economic space where goods and services are organized and distributed.
Several sectors, including logistics, transportation, and shipping, have been affected by the post-Covid world and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
In addition, Russia is the second largest producer of gas worldwide and holds around 24 percent of global oil reserves. Moreover, Russian oil and gas are mainly exported to China, OECD countries, and the Indian subcontinent.
The Ukrainian agri-business exports agri-products mainly to China, Egypt, the Gulf, Turkey, India, and the EU. In addition, Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe.
Many people are suffering economically because of the long-term war between Russia and Ukraine, which has led to staggering inflation and deteriorating living conditions.
However, the UN-led global governance structure may need help resolving this conflict in light of the supply chain disruption.
Alternatives included diversifying supply chains and locating them in resource-specific locations.
Significant producers in the global silicon market include China, Russia, Brazil, Norway, the United States, France, Iceland, Malaysia, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, India, Spain, and Canada. Silicon is a semiconductor material made mainly in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China, the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Germany.
Moreover, Taiwan, South Korea, and China control nearly 87 percent of the global semiconductor market. There will be grave implications for the digital economy if there is a conflict in the South China Sea. This may pose critical challenges to the electronics and communication industries and the supply chain industries.
The asymmetric supply chain dependency needs to be rectified, but who will do it? Developing and developed nations could form the G20, a forum that represents both.
Depending on the future agenda of the G-20 forum, India’s geostrategic location, democratic values, demographic dividend, robust diaspora, and civilizational connectivity could play a significant role.
It is crucial that India, as the G20 president, initiates corrective measures to reduce supply chain disruptions and convinces the US, EU, China, and Russia to focus on them.
Moreover, by collaborating cross-border, we could identify regional potentials and construct workable value chains overriding the existing asymmetrical dependency. Supply chain interdependence and symmetrical order could lead to equitable growth and development, reducing inequalities.
The UN, Bretton Woods institutions, IMF, World Bank, and other multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO) may be structurally modified and democratized.
In this regard, as G20 president, India has to weigh its options and revamp global governance structures to facilitate diverse and diverse supply chains.
Cross-continental connectivity includes roadways, rails, and waterways. Afro-Asian highways to connect continents are long overdue, and India, as G20 president, must take decisive actions to promote international land transport and multimodal corridors.
Build Back Better World (B3W) is a G7-backed global transport corridor project that believes values drive good governance, climate-friendliness, and strong strategic partnerships.
Multitrillion-dollar projects in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Indo-Pacific could contribute to balanced growth and development across countries.
The United Nations Economic Commission (UNEC) may accelerate regional transport corridor construction through India’s presidency of the G20 as an alternative to Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its monopoly.
There are no boundaries between terrorism and its victims; it is universal. The threat posed to global peace and development has become immense. As a result, India’s presidency of G20 can secure international solidarity to resolve this challenge.
As a country, we have consistently supported all UN counter-terrorism conventions to ensure world peace, freedom, and safety.
In this regard, India is undoubtedly upfront about its commitment. As a result of the revolution in communications technology, terror strategies and operations have also changed.
Therefore, India is responsible for inviting G-20 members and non-members to reach a consensus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven counter-terrorist prevention measures.
Using cutting-edge technology and AI effectively should allow for action through anticipation.
Additionally, New Delhi must redeem itself for its efforts to combat terror financing and money laundering, and due to the diversity of its domestic legal, financial, and institutional frameworks, it may advocate for effective internationalization of Financial Action Task Force policies as well as sharing of intelligence to prevent terror attacks through global partnerships.
Climate Action Policies
There is a growing concern worldwide about climate change. Therefore, it has sought global attention to devise a solution to this problem. Global warming is a challenging issue because greenhouse gases contribute significantly to it.
Approximately 3 to 3.6 billion people worldwide are expected to be affected by climate change conditions, and 700 people may be displaced due to water scarcity by 2030.
Consequently, the levels of CFCs that have raised the alarm must be drastically reduced if global warming is to be contained within 1.5 degrees Celsius. Therefore, it is urgent that non-renewable sources be replaced with renewable sources of energy if we are to achieve this goal.
Hence, the India-led solar grid ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) could serve as a pivot for creating a transnational green corridor linking South Asia, South-East Asia, West Asia, and Africa, as well as other continents.
Bringing this policy formulation to practical action would represent a paradigm shift in green energy debates. To reach a net-zero world by 2025, India, as G20 president, must intensify its climate action diplomacy with China, the US, and the European Union.
G20 members and multilateral institutions should work together to develop an open global climate architecture that ensures future success for a green world.
Shared partnerships are crucial for many developed industrialized countries in the G20 as they adjust to the new conditions created by climate change.
Humanity could suffer catastrophic consequences if the situation does not change. These are the areas India needs to address to make the world a better place.
India faces challenges due to structural constraints related to G20, inflation, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine War, Chinese diplomatic obscurity, and policy uncertainty. Grit is necessary for New Delhi to maximize opportunities presented by constraints.
Edited by Prakriti Arora