The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict, has evoked the threat of global recession, high inflation, and an energy and food crisis. The collateral has been the slowing down of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate actions. Moreover, the world is polarised more than ever before.
Against this backdrop, India will be assuming a global leadership role. In December, India will be president of the G20, the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). India will hold the G20 presidency for the first time and will remain at the helm of this influential grouping for a year from December 1.
In the last few years, India’s global positioning has allowed it to secure a meaningful engagement with leading international partners, regional interlocutors and the developing world. India has been a regular invitee at the G7, consisting of major developed nations; it is a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), consisting of the major emerging economies; Quad, with the United States (US), Japan and Australia; and the SCO, which includes Russia, China and the Central Asian nations. In addition, India has effectively engaged regional partners, as evident from recent summit-level meetings it has held with the European Union, the African Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Central Asian States.
In these trying times, the international community will look for serious and credible measures to address uncertainties at the geopolitical and macroeconomic levels. The G20 uniquely offers a platform that has on board the world’s major developed and emerging economies. In the past, this group has delivered outcomes on issues of global import. Its recent decisions to agree on a debt-suspension initiative for developing countries hit hard by Covid-19 and an equitable tax regime for multinationals have been well received. However, the success of its broader composition can also contain the seeds of division. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has drawn a sharp focus on these traditional fault lines.
The stresses and uncertainties the world faces call for visionary leadership and great qualities of statesmanship. Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s New India has steered our country through the storm of Covid-19 and has turned India into one of the bright spots on the global landscape. It is a resilient India that has bounced back to become one of the fastest-growing economies. It is also an India that did not hesitate, in the most difficult of times, to share its resources and capacities for the greater global good.
Under the PM’s vision, India’s foreign policy has been inspired to work for the global common good in keeping with our ancient philosophy of Vasudeva Kutumbakkam, the world is one family with a shared future. At the G20 summit convened by Saudi Arabia in March 2020 to respond to the pandemic, PM Modi called for a “people-centric globalisation”.
In keeping with this larger vision, India’s effort has been to leverage its domestic strengths and achievements to contribute globally. From Vaccine Maitri to Operation Sanjeevani and COWIN as an open-source digital platform for Covid-19 vaccination to the Oxygen Express, India has offered assistance to countries during the pandemic. Its stellar achievements in developing renewable energy and disaster-resilient capacities have been extended globally through international bodies such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. As a first responder and net-security provider, Indian assistance to its extended neighbourhood during natural calamities and other emergencies has reached from Aceh in Indonesia to Mozambique on the eastern littoral of Africa.
India’s term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will end this year. It has, however, already made its mark in this exclusive UN body. Under India’s presidency in July 2021, the UNSC adopted a consensus-based presidential statement on maritime security for the first time. This was the first time in our history that an Indian PM presided over a UNSC summit. In its two-year term at the UNSC, India has effectively engaged on various issues, from the international community’s approach to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to peacekeeping and counter-terrorism. When it exits the UNSC, it will undoubtedly leave a distinctive mark of the contribution that will vindicate and reinforce the case for it to become a permanent member.
Prime Minister Modi’s imprint on the international consciousness has been profound. His intellectual outreach through concepts such as SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region; One Earth, One Health; LiFE – Lifestyle for Environment; P3 or Pro-Planet People; International Day of Yoga; Panchamrit for climate commitment; One Sun One World One Grid on interconnected green grids; have created a global resonance on issues of the most significant importance to people not only in India but across the world, and have been institutionalised in the activities of the UN and other international organisations and bodies.
India’s engagement has not been confined to the rich and influential. India enjoys the strong support of the developing world. As external affairs minister S Jaishankar pointed out, “India is widely being perceived as the voice of the global south”. As India prepares to take on the G20 presidency, it will represent the hopes and aspirations of the developing world while at the same time comfortably positioned to engage the developed world and the large emerging economies.
India’s wide acceptability in the international community, strong developing country credentials, independence in thought and action, and resilient scientific and economic base have uniquely positioned it to provide global leadership at a critical time in international affairs. We must use our presidency of the G20 to work with our key partners to replicate at a global level our recent achievements and experiences in digital transformations for socio-economic development, innovation for growth and the development of alternative energy capacities for climate actions, among others.
As we enter the period of Amrit Kaal in the run-up to [email protected], we are poised to shift trajectory to a path of high growth and inclusive development, fulfilling our collective aspirations to become a developed economy by 2047. Our inherent strengths place us in a unique position to provide constructive global leadership. India can provide solutions to the many global challenges that beset the world today, in leading us to a better tomorrow.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla is the chief coordinator of India’s G20 presidency and former foreign secretary. The views expressed are personal.
BDST: 1330 HRS, NOV 02, 2022