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Yoga, beach cleanup — how India kicked off G20 curtain raiser in Andaman & Nicobar

Set to officially assume G20 presidency on 1 December, India plans to hold more than 200 meetings across 56 locations, culminating in G20 Summit in September 2023.

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New Delhi: With India set to officially assume its maiden G20 Presidency on 1 December, the Narendra Modi government is keen to showcase the best the country has to offer by holding over 200 meetings across 56 locations over the next one year.

A curtain raiser for India’s G20 presidency kicked off in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Friday, attended by various G20 ambassadors, among them the British and Australian High Commissioners, and the Russian and German ambassadors to India.

Centred around Havelock Island, also known as Swaraj Dweep, the first leg of the curtain raiser comprised a visit to the Cellular Jail in Port Blair, an early morning yoga session, and a cleanup drive at the Kaala Pathar beach. The day concluded with a meeting where dignitaries discussed topics ranging from climate finance, tourism, global food security, education, commerce, developmental cooperation, and skill-mapping.

The choice of Swaraj Dweep as the location for the curtain raiser was “symbolic”, according to India’s chief G20 coordinator Harsh Shringla.

“Andaman is important. At the G20 summit in Bali, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Indonesian President Joko Widodo that the two countries are 90 nautical miles close and not 90 nautical miles apart. Andaman and Nicobar Islands are closest to Indonesia and therefore this place is symbolic for the meeting,” Shringla had told the media earlier.

The theme for India’s presidency is “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” — Sanskrit for ‘the world is one family’.

Beyond official engagements, the Modi government is also looking to use this opportunity to exhibit and strengthen India’s soft power. “A dose of culture, a taste of cuisine, and excursions to places of historical interest,” said an official familiar with the preparations.

The off-shore meetings are part of this strategy aimed at allowing participants to ‘discover India to its fullest’. The government also wants the experience to be ‘spiritually elevating, culturally enriching and mentally rejuvenating’.

Apart from metropolitan cities, the planned G20 meetings will be held in Imphal, Kohima, Leh, Port Blair, Siliguri, Gangtok, Shimla, Rishikesh, Aizawl and Agartala. 

Also Read: Onus on G20 leaders to bridge digital gap in the world, Modi talks inclusivity at Bali summit

Highlighting India’s successes

Throughout the span of this G20 year, which will begin on 1 December and end with the summit in September 2023, India will be highlighting its successes, including its ‘much-acclaimed’ public digital infrastructure, its role as ‘pharmacy of the world,’ and its financial inclusion model. In the over 200 meetings to be held over the course of one year, the government is also looking to promote Ayurveda, traditional medicine and Rupay cards.

Explaining that there is a desire for a G20 presidency that is action and outcome-oriented, an official familiar with the preparations was quoted as saying, “The major decisions taken earlier will continue but we will try to marry them with new innovations. We want to position the Indian model for potential solution of issues and development.”

In a post-Covid world unnerved by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, India sees the G20 presidency as an opportunity to illuminate issues that affect emerging economies, such as climate justice and access to affordable healthcare.

“This is the first time India is going to set the agenda for the world. So far, we were reacting to the agenda being received from the developed world,” G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant had told the media earlier.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: G20 presidency is India’s chance to fix power imbalances in artificial intelligence adoption


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