Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought to the world stage his promise to bring back black money stashed abroad, pitching for global cooperation to tackle the menace at his first G20 summit on Saturday.
He told G20 leaders as well as heads of the five-nation BRICS bloc that “repatriation” of black money is his government’s priority and sent a message that economic reforms for tangible growth should be “people-centric and people-driven” and insulated from politics.
Modi underscored the security and economic challenges that slush funds pose to the international community and sought close coordination among the nations to achieve the objective of bringing back home Indian slush money kept hidden abroad.
“Repatriation of black money kept abroad is a key priority for us,” said the Prime Minister, one of the most sought-after leaders at the summit, who stood next to British premier David Cameron at the customary photo-op in a bandhgala with a pink pocket square masking the grey.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said it was the first time that the “security dimensions” of black money have been brought to focus. Modi’s pitch was in line with summit host Australia’s promise for a “very aggressive” crackdown on tax avoidance, which goes with India seeking strong action by the G20 nations against tax havens.
The two-day summit is being held at a time tax avoidance by multinational companies were reportedly organising tax-lowering deals with Luxembourg and pressure from anti-corruption advocates, urging the major economies to stem the flow of slush funds across borders.
Later in the day, Modi told fellow G20 leaders at a retreat hosted by his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott that economic reforms were handicapped by the perception of being government programmes and a burden on the people. He said this needs to change.
“Reform is bound to face resistance ... (it) must be insulated from political pressure,” Modi said and pointed out that it cannot be undertaken by “stealth”.
His comments in Brisbane come days before the start of the winter session of Parliament in which key but controversial legislations on opening up the pension and insurance sectors are expected to be taken up.
Modi also called for a common strategy to tackle global terrorism at meetings with French president Francois Hollande and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper on the sidelines of the summit.
He told both leaders that religion should be delinked from terrorism.
Host Abbott got a Modi “jhappi” (hug) that the Australian media described as the “standout shake” of the summit — distinct from the formal handshakes.
The Australian leader posted a photo of Modi sharing a lighter moment with US President Barack Obama and himself during the retreat. “The BBQ lunch with @narendramodi and @BarackObama was an opportunity for #G20 Leaders to talk in a relaxed atmosphere,” Abbott posted.