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G20 presidency puts Modi’s India in global spotlight. Expectations are already high

Industry leaders see India’s G20 presidency as something they can benefit from, with CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee saying it's a unique opportunity for businesses.

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India’s Presidency of the G20 began on 1 December 2022, and the government took pains to ensure that everybody knew about it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote an article, promptly shared by his Cabinet ministers. News channels and op-eds were full of commentary on how this was a huge opportunity for India.

The government announced that 100 monuments across the country would be lit up and display India’s G20 presidency logo for a week.

As far as newsmakers go, the combined might of the central government machinery and an enthusiastic media ensured that the last week has undoubtedly been the G20 presidency’s. In fact, 1 December saw the nation wake up to full front-page ads in most national dailies showcasing the beginning of India’s term as G20 president. And that’s why India’s G20 presidency is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

Govt’s goal, India’s challenge

In his article, the Prime Minister laid out an optimistic, idealistic, and perhaps even slightly unrealistic vision for India’s G20 presidency, which, he said, will work to promote a “universal sense of one-ness”. The theme: “One Earth, One Family, One Future”.

“The previous 17 Presidencies of the G20 delivered significant results — for ensuring macro-economic stability, rationalising international taxation, relieving debt-burden on countries, among many other outcomes,” PM Modi wrote.

“We will benefit from these achievements, and build further upon them,” he added. “However, as India assumes this important mantle, I ask myself — can the G20 go further still? Can we catalyse a fundamental mindset shift, to benefit humanity as a whole? I believe we can.”

Coming at a time when countries have been turning inwards in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and when the war in Ukraine is re-focusing attention on international borders, fostering a spirit of familial oneness is going to be challenging.

The government is aware of these challenges, as was made clear by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s statements on Thursday.

“Today the world is very polarised,” Jaishankar said. “Even having everybody in the room was a real challenge in the last G20 meeting in Bali.”

Also read: Joko Widodo led G20 in tough times, Modi also has the responsibility of the underdeveloped

All-out opportunity, global spotlight

Notably, even business leaders in India see India’s G20 presidency as something they can benefit from, with the Director General of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Chandrajit Banerjee, writing about how this is a unique opportunity for businesses.

“At a time when there are perceptible shifts in geopolitical alignments, India’s role as G20 president will be central to global stability and macroeconomic coordination as nations strive to recover from the pandemic aftermath and the conflict in Ukraine and tackle climate change,” Banerjee wrote in The Hindu Business Line.

One of the main benefits of taking over the G20 presidency is that it puts India in the global spotlight. The expectations are already high. Back in October, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke about what he hoped would be achieved under India’s leadership. It’s a tough ask.

Not only did Guterres voice his hopes that India’s leadership would allow for the creation of effective systems of debt restructuring–something India is struggling with internally, let alone finding fixes for the international debt–but he also advocated for the dismantling of the international financial and economic system that was “to a large extent built by the rich and for the rich”.

“I very strongly hope that the G20 presidency of India will allow for the creation of systems of debt restructuring and debt relief for the possibility of multilateral development banks to be able to do concessional funding to middle-income countries that are particularly vulnerable,” he said.

The Indian government is all too aware of this global spotlight and has already taken some decisions that are politically loaded in the international context. It was not missed by commentators that India had planned some G20 events to be held in Jammu and Kashmir and that this was a political statement to Pakistan and China.

The underlying slogan for India’s G20 presidency is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which the Prime Minister explained is the “signature of India’s compassion for the world”. There is much to show compassion about. In just our neighbourhood, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are in the throes of economic crises. The crisis in Ukraine is there for all to see. The pandemic has waned, but it’s not gone. Large parts of the world remain without vaccines.

India has one year to make headway with these and other urgent issues. The G20 can be a hugely influential grouping. Its members represent about 85 per cent of the world’s GDP, nearly the same proportion of international trade, and about 65 per cent of the world’s population. What this grouping decides serves as a powerful signal to the world. It is up to India to ensure that this coming year is an effective one.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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