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Focus on unity: India takes G20 reins today

By, New Delhi
Dec 01, 2022 04:42 AM IST

India’s G20 presidency begins on Thursday with a focus on forging unity within a disparate grouping to tackle larger global challenges such as an economic slowdown, indebtedness of countries and the climate crisis amid persisting divisions over the Ukraine conflict.

India’s G20 presidency begins on Thursday with a focus on forging unity within a disparate grouping to tackle larger global challenges such as an economic slowdown, indebtedness of countries and the climate crisis amid persisting divisions over the Ukraine conflict.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a bilateral meeting on November 16, 2022 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. (REUTERS)
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a bilateral meeting on November 16, 2022 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. (REUTERS)

This approach will require engagement with all G20 members, including China, which is engaged in a dragging border standoff with India, since the grouping of the world’s 20 largest economies is consensus-driven, people familiar with the matter said.

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Though the G20 has a structured agenda, counterterrorism remains an important issue for India and will be raised within the grouping at forums such as the foreign ministers’ meeting. On the finance track of the G20, the focus will be on ensuring inclusive and resilient growth following the global impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, the people said.

India’s start of the presidency on Thursday will be marked by several people-centric activities, ranging from a “University Connect” programme involving students from 75 institutions that will be addressed by external affairs minister S Jaishankar, to lighting up 100 monuments across the country with the G20 logo, which draws inspiration from the colours of the national flag – saffron, white and green – and juxtaposes the planet earth with the lotus to reflect a pro-planet approach.

Also read: G20 members briefed on priorities for India’s presidency

The theme for India’s G20 presidency – “One Earth, One Family, One Future” – highlights the importance of having an approach that unites the world to address the future together, and of meeting the expectations of developing countries with regard to global challenges such as climate action. Addressing the final session of the G20 Summit in Bali, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the country’s presidency will be “inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented”.

“We have to bring about unity, not divisiveness, at a time when the Global South is expecting the G20 will respond to global issues,” one of the people cited above said. “In our presidency, we will try to get a level of unity that can address the most challenging and pressing issues and we will keep divisiveness to a minimum level.”

This includes divisions between the West and Russia over the Ukraine conflict, and India will act as a bridge so that G20 members can tackle pressing larger issues such as economic growth, indebtedness of countries and reviving the momentum for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We will need to engage every member. China is the world’s second largest economy and crucial for supply chains. You can’t talk about the indebtedness of states without China being a part of it,” the person said.

In the context of debt relief, the people pointed to problems experienced by certain countries in India’s neighbourhood that were too reliant on external debt and experienced a lot of hardship since the pandemic. India will also work for reforms of multilateral bodies such as the Bretton Woods institutions – the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – whose current mandate does not equip them to respond to contemporary challenges, including raising more finances through the private sector or providing financing for climate action.

On the possibility of G20-related meetings being organised in Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, the people said the calendar for more than 200 meetings before the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September 2023 is still being worked out.

The outreach that begins on Thursday will be expanded to schools across the country to involve young people with the G20 presidency. There will be a selfie competition, with winners receiving G20-related goodies, sand sculpture events and release of video messages and radio jingles on Thursday. Ted Talks, quiz competitions and special sessions for youngsters will also be held at a later stage. These are all part of efforts to broadbase the messaging about the importance of India chairing the G20 and to include people at the grassroots as a “whole of country” approach.

German ambassador Philipp Ackermann, who participated in a special briefing last week by the Indian government on the country’s G20 priorities, said: “India has an ambitious agenda for the G20 and that comes along with high expectations. India is not an average G20 country, it’s one of the clear heavyweights in the G20 and we are looking forward to working with our Indian friends.”

Other G20 members such as Germany understand India’s agenda and priorities and will support it, Ackermann told reporters on Wednesday. “I think it’s a very important G20 presidency,” he added.

There are also plans to showcase festivals in different regions – such as Makar Sankranti in January and Shiv Ratri in February – as part of steps to highlight the best of Indian celebrations and events among G20 members over the next year. As Nagaland’s Hornbill Festival, a major tourist draw in the northeastern region, is set to start on December 1, it will be showcased during the commencement of the G20 presidency.

The G20 Summit, the people said, will be the largest and most multilateral event to be organised by India since independence. Whereas China organised meetings at 14 locations during its 2016 G20 presidency and Indonesia held meetings at 25 locations this year, the Indian side plans to hold meetings at more than 50 locations.

Also read: India’s G20 presidency will be inclusive, decisive, action-oriented: PM Modi

These meetings will be part of the finance track that focuses on eight issues such as infrastructure financing, health finance, and financial sector reforms, the sherpa track that focuses on 12 topics such as anti-corruption, agriculture, digital economy and climate, and 10 engagement groups involving private organisations and civil society.

There will also be B2B events and a business summit before the G20 Summit. Official meetings will include visits to iconic historic sites located near venues, such as Hampi, Ajanta, Ellora and Khajuraho.

The leaders of the G20 members -- Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union -- are expected to attend next year’s summit. They will be joined by the representatives of international bodies such as the UN, World Bank and International Monetary Fund and the leaders of nine guest countries – Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and the UAE.

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