Monday, February 6, 2023
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Joko Widodo led G20 in tough times, Modi also has the responsibility of the underdeveloped

While we pat ourselves on the back for growing number of startups, we need to pause and consider the reasons for our poor show on the industrialisation front.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Bali, Indonesia at a colourful event for giving effective leadership to G20 in a challenging global environment — fully aware that India’s presidency is going to be no less challenging. The global situation has not changed in the last one year; rather it has worsened further due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and the eruption of protests in China. Though these two happenings are in different geographies and seemingly unconnected, the cumulative effect they will have on energy and food security is worrying, to say the least.

The Prime Minister indicated this substantially in his speech while accepting the presidency of G20. Highlighting the issue of geopolitics, PM Modi stressed on the importance of promoting harmony within the ‘human family’ and suggested that as president of G20, India will seek to de-politicise the global supply of food, fertilisers and medical products so that geopolitical tensions do not lead to humanitarian crises.  Echoing this sentiment, the Prime Minister has reiterated the nation’s resolve to work to promote the universal sense of oneness highlighting the theme of “one Earth, One Family, One Future”.

Also read: India can open a new chapter in ties with Italy. Rome knows real intent of China’s outreach

Look within

When the supply chain mechanism is hit, medical supplies dry up and food and essential commodities vanish from the shops due to war and serious domestic disruptions, the poor and the underprivileged suffer the most. It is becoming increasingly necessary to insulate the marginalised, poor and developing economies from such collateral damage. This is one of the issues that India would like to include in the G20 agenda, which was launched about two-and-a-half decades back as a forum to resolve the global financial and economic crisis.

The Prime Minister’s initiative to kickstart the G20 presidency with an event involving 76 premier universities is indicative of the direction in which the G20 agenda is likely to evolve. One of India’s prime advantages is the demographic dividend. About 50 per cent of the population is below the age of 30, which signifies the extent to which the country can tap the potential of the student-youth population. But the challenge here is to equip this segment of the population with education, employment and entrepreneurship skills and other associated wherewithal. India has about 108 unicorns, each one of them with a potential to evolve into a new industrial giant.

On the flip side, while we pat ourselves on the back for the growing number of startups, we need to pause and seriously consider the reasons for our poor show on the industrialisation front. In a short span of three decades, China catapulted itself from agriculture-oriented economy to highly developed industrial economy becoming the manufacturing capital of the world. The pandemic has shown the dangers of one country dominating the global production and value chain set up. World needs a diversified value chain mechanism that will balance between production and pollution, promote human-enabled automation and ensure promotion of sustainable green energy. India is on the cusp of emerging as a favourite destination for manufacturing within these parameters.

Also read: G20 leadership only brings status. India should focus on security instead, keep eye on China

Areas that need focus

India will have to use the G20 opportunity to frame a transparent policy for use and transfer of technology. Technology has immensely contributed to the power posturing of certain countries, allowing them to go beyond the end-use protocols like dual use restrictions. It is high time that groups like G20 frame rules for a transparent technology transfer protocol, at least in the areas of climate change, poverty and hunger mitigation and health and wellness. Climate change is one highly challenging area where digital technology framework can find easier and faster solutions, provided there is unified technology adoption and commitment to follow global rules. Sharing information and refraining from treating global commons such as the Arctic, the Antarctic, glaciers, outer space and countries like Tibet, which hold natural reserves that have to last as long as mankind lasts, is an important aspect of sustainable development that India should push as part of the core agenda of G20.

The pandemic has also impacted the process of achieving the SDG targets. It would be a miracle if these targets are met in the next eight years. The G20 under India’s presidency can consider initiating the process of auditing the progress of SDGs and probably work out a revised set of goals and targets for the UN to consider.

The Covid pandemic has seriously impacted trade, economic growth and resource allocation for meeting SDG targets in advanced as well as emerging economies of the world. Naturally, trade, supply and value chains will be important items on the agenda for India to discuss in the forthcoming group meetings and the summit. Besides domestic events and awareness programmes, all concerned ministries should gear up for using the G20 opportunity to increase manufacturing and trade facilities. The digital payment portals and ‘one country one tax system’ has already provided advantage and ease of business but much more needs to be done on the infrastructure front.

Coincidentally, the presidency of G20 will remain for the next three years with IBSA countries giving this institution a rare opportunity to work as a team and set a common agenda for the next three years. New Delhi should seriously consider developing such a common minimum agenda and integrate the goals of G20 with that of IBSA for greater advantage of both institutions.

Seshadri Chari is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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