G20: India’s Challenges

Prof M K Bhat
It is a matter of great pride for every Indian that India is going to head G20 presidency from Dec 1st 2022 to 30th Nov.2023. Its coincidence with Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations currently going on in the country, to commemorate 75 years of independence adds further to its charm. India has already made the logo, theme and website for G20 meetings under its leadership. It will be holding 200 meetings at different locations across the country. It has invited Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and UAE for the summit in 2023. It is a unique chance for India to show case its growing influence in international affairs. It is worthwhile to point out here that the clout of India’s foreign policy became emphatically visible when it got its statement that ‘present era must not be of war’ included in the final declaration of G20 at Bali, Indonesia.
The Presidency of such a powerful group involves responsibilities and will provide unprecedented opportunities to Indian leadership to shape the international response to the pressing challenges. G20 in recent years has emerged as a big force among countries of the world for the international economic cooperation. The clout of G20 is dominant at present despite the fact that it bears no permanent headquarters. It contains 85 percent of the world GDP, 75 percent of global trade and two third of the world population.
India has decided to make ‘Vasudeva Kutumbhkam’ stressing on, one earth, one family, one future; as the theme of its leadership. India is going for inclusive and action-oriented agenda, it will work to bridge the digital divide and take the challenge of food and energy security in the aftermath of Russia Ukraine War. India has promised to be a catalyst for global change at a time when the world is grappling with geo political tensions, economic slowdown, rising food and energy prices, long term ill effects of the pandemic and catastrophic climate changes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his closing remarks at Bali Indonesia held that “the sense of ownership on natural resources is giving rise to conflict in present times and is the main cause for the plight of environment. For this it holds that the safe future of the planet trusteeship is the only solution”
It remains to be seen how India will lead to inclusiveness and unity of the members on the key issues which are going to be quite complex because they involve diverse interests of the member countries. The issues like sustainable growth of world economy after Covid 19 pandemics, ensuring food and energy security especially after Russia and Ukraine war, Health and digital transformation, and lastly horrible climate changes in recent years needs an in-depth and long understanding among the member countries.
The first and the foremost challenge for India will be to keep the group united on the crucial issues. It may be conveyed here that G20 stands as a divided house at present with several members shedding their responsibility of charting the path of peaceful settlement in Ukraine. Members bear a polarized view on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine e.g. Canada’s Prime minister Justin Trudeau, Polish economic development minister Piotr Norwalk presented proposal for expulsion of Russia in meeting with US. Joe Biden subsequently supported it but Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin held that ‘Russia is an important member, and no member has the right to expel another country.’ The demand to expel Russia from G20 countries was being supported by some other members and even sanctions were levied on it. India defied those sanctions and took bold decision in the interest of the country despite a big pressure from America.
This geo political environment is further vitiated by the expansionist strategy of China, its attack on Taiwan and flexing of its muscles with reference to neighbors especially in south China sea. The geopolitical environment is also under threat from terror organizations/countries. There are some countries who take a soft line on terrorism and directly/indirectly help such organizations /countries. It will be pertinent for India to segregate such organizations /countries for making peaceful living of humans as one family on this planet- a reality.
Besides geopolitical disturbances, the biggest challenge for India will be the economic growth of the countries devastated by Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Global economies are experiencing a sharp economic slowdown and rampant inflation higher than seen in several decades in the past. The Global growth forecasts slowed from 6.0 percent in 2021 to 3.2 percent in 2022 and is likely to be 2.7 percent in 2023. This is the weakest growth profile since 2001 except for the global financial crisis and the acute phase of the COVID-19.
The Russia Ukraine war has led to food and energy crises and thereby to higher-than-expected inflation worldwide- especially in the United States and major European economies. This had an adverse impact on financial conditions of the countries. The financial instability in the world needs to be chalked with IMF, WTO, OECD at present. The things got further worsened by a devastating economic slowdown in China and COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns. The economic damage from the conflict will further contribute to the slowdown in global growth and will add to inflation.
Global inflation is expected to rise from 4.7 percent in 2021 to 8.8 percent in 2022 but may decline to 6.5 percent in 2023 and to 4.1 percent by 2024. Fuel and food prices have increased rapidly, hitting vulnerable populations in low-income countries hardest. War-induced commodity price increases and broadening price pressures have led to 2022 inflation projections of 5.7 percent in advanced economies and 8.7 percent in emerging market and developing economies-1.8 and 2.8 percentage points higher than projected last January.
Climate change is another issue that will keep the mandarins in the foreign ministry busy during G20 deliberations. The scale of recent changes across the climate system are unprecedented and have started to occur more regularly. The extreme climate like increase in global sea level, evidence of extreme heatwaves, fire in forests, heavy precipitation, droughts and tropical cyclones and increase in global surface temperature is becoming common. The rise in temperature has to be contained at 1.5degree Celsius by reducing greenhouse gases/ carbon dioxide to zero level till the mid-century otherwise the things may be devastating for the people of the world.
The long-standing demand of the global south for compensation from polluter countries raised in Sharm el-Sheikh can be dealt firmly in G20 meetings. The developed and the under-developed nations have been demanding reparation losses both in terms of monitory compensation and technology transfer since Kyoto conference, for making transition from fossil to cleaner energy. The terms and conditions of this exchange can be dealt at length in G20 meetings and this may offer India a unique opportunity to steward the talks towards negotiated settlements.
While voicing the concerns of the developing economies in climate change talks, India has at Sharm el-Sheikh meeting reiterated its demand for phasing out of all fossil fuel and not just coal to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius targets on global warming. It may be worthwhile to point out that nearly 55 percent of India’s energy requirements are met by coal-based power so India may have to take its interests in consideration while deliberating on this issue in G20.
(The author is Professor (M.A.I.T) Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi)