India’s profile under Prime Minister Modi has risen much more than before because of his leadership style and, more importantly, his taking leadership on many key issues on the international agenda.
He has been the voice of not only India’s concerns but also of the Global South in general, a voice that will get more resonance under India’s G20 presidency, now assumed by it after the Bali summit.
In his statement at the closing session of the G20 summit, PM Modi reiterated what India’s priorities will be during its presidency. He has recognised that India is taking charge of the G-20 at a time when the world is simultaneously grappling with geopolitical tensions, economic slowdown, rising food and energy prices, and the long-term ill-effects of the pandemic. He has promised that India’s G-20 presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented.
PM Modi has already launched many new ideas internationally to shape the contemporary global agenda in climate change, renewable energy, green transition, digitalisation, inclusive development etc. Under its G20 presidency, India will have the opportunity to promote its ideas more purposefully for the global good. He stressed at Bali that the need today is to ensure that development benefits are universal and all-inclusive. In line with his oft-expressed view that globalisation should be people-centric, he said at Bali that the benefits of developments should be extended to all human beings “with compassion and solidarity”.
Under India’s presidency, a thrust will be given to the concepts launched by Modi, such as LiFE, i.e. “Lifestyle for Environment”, to preserve the planet’s future. However, it is difficult to foresee how and why the developed countries will accept to change their lifestyles involving reduced consumption, contrary to the western economic model that relies on increased consumption to maintain economic growth. This is a wasteful model that is being emulated by all other countries on the development route. A sense of trusteeship over the planet’s natural resources is the right way forward. However, those who already possess or seek to control critical resources and weaponise them to gain a political or economic advantage over others would be resisted.
The role of women in development is now a priority issue for the international community. At the national level, PM Modi is already focused on the issue of women’s empowerment. At Bali, he said that global development is not possible without women’s participation and that we have to prioritise women-led development even in the G20 agenda.
It is a truism that no progress on any front can be achieved without peace and security. The G20, according to Modi, has to convey a strong message in favour of peace and harmony. With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that shows little signs of abating, India’s G20 presidency will face a major challenge. Under the Indonesian Presidency, in many meetings, be it at the Finance Ministers or Foreign Ministers level, no joint communiqué could be issued because the western countries wanted to include a condemnation of Russia for its war on Ukraine which Russia as a G20 member opposed. This meant that only a Chair’s statement could be issued. There was a risk that differences over Ukraine could prevent a joint communiqué from being issued at Bali too, which, if it happened, would have have put India in a most difficult position of taking over a group not only divided but with its future in jeopardy.
Fortunately, the worst has not happened, and a joint communiqué could be negotiated, even if it is heavily weighted in favour of the West’s position on Ukraine, with the “condemnation” of Russia for its aggression on Ukraine figuring in the text. This has set the template for future communiqués under the Indian presidency at various levels, given that the Ukraine conflict is likely to endure.
In his address to the Food and Energy Security, PM Modi recognised the current challenging global environment that includes climate change issues, the COVID pandemic, the developments in Ukraine and the global problems associated with it. All these together, he said, had caused havoc in the world, with global supply chains in ruins, a crisis of essential goods across the globe, imposing severe pressures on the poor citizens of every country who lack the financial capacity to cope with them. The Prime Minister acknowledged that the unreformed multilateral institutions such as the UN had been unsuccessful on these issues, raising greater expectations from the G20 and making the group more relevant.
Energy security has become a grave issue for energy-importing countries in particular. There are moves by the West to impose a price cap on Russian oil, which will further disrupt global energy supplies. Interestingly, PM Modi pointed out that India’s energy-security is crucial for global growth as it is the world’s fastest-growing economy
PM Modi recalled that he had repeatedly said that a way had to be found to return to the path of ceasefire and diplomacy in Ukraine. This has been reflected in the paragraph in the G20 communiqué, which notes that the “peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war”. The last is a line that the Prime Minister used in a conversation with President Putin at Samarkand, one that has reverberated internationally. PM Modi visualised at Bali a new world order for the post-Covid period based on a collective resolve to ensure peace, harmony and security in the world.
India’s record in dealing with the challenges of the pandemic is, in many ways, exemplary. PM mentioned at Bali how India had ensured the food security of its 1.3 billion citizens, besides also supplying food grains to many countries in need. In his statements and those of the External Affairs Minister in the UN and in other forums, the current shortage of fertilisers risking to cause tomorrow’s food crisis has been highlighted. At Bali, the Prime Minister stressed that the G20 should mutually agree to maintain the supply chain of fertilisers and food grains stable and assured- an indirect reference to the Black Sea grain export initiative. He used the occasion to recall his initiative in favour of re-popularising nutritious and traditional foodgrains like millets. He spoke of celebrating the International Year of Millets with great enthusiasm next year.
Energy security has become a grave issue for energy-importing countries in particular. The sanctions imposed on Russia’s energy sector has had serious consequences for Europe itself too. There are moves by the West to impose a price cap on Russian oil, which will further disrupt global energy supplies. Interestingly, PM Modi pointed out that India’s energy-security is also crucial for global growth as it is the world’s fastest-growing economy. Our western partners need to give more thought to this argument. The Prime Minister had this in mind when he cautioned against promoting any restrictions on the supply of energy and stability in the energy market. He said that during India’s G20 Presidency, India will work for global consensus on all these issues.
The Prime Minister’s digital agenda for India has been a remarkable success. He said at Bali that digital transformation is the most remarkable change of our era and that the proper use of digital technologies could become a force multiplier in the decades-long global fight against poverty and climate change as well, with the examples of remote-working and paperless green offices during Covid. Stressing that digital access should be truly inclusive, he said that India’s experience of the past few years showed that if digital architecture was made inclusive, it could bring about socio-economic transformation. He drew attention to the fact that India had developed digital public goods whose basic architecture had in-built democratic principles, with solutions-based on open source, open APIs, and open standards, which were interoperable and public. He recalled that India’s open-source CoWIN platform made the biggest vaccination campaign in human history a success during the pandemic.
At Bali, the Prime Minister stressed that the G20 should mutually agree to maintain the supply chain of fertilisers and food grains stable and assured- an indirect reference to the Black Sea grain export initiative. He used the occasion to recall his initiative in favour of re-popularising nutritious and traditional foodgrains like millets
PM Modi noted that there was still a huge digital divide at the international level. During its G20 Presidency next year, he said, India would work jointly with G20 partners towards bringing digital transformation to the lives of every human being. PM Modi made it known that all the ideas and priorities he had propounded during his interventions at the summit would be fully embodied in the theme of India’s G20 Chairmanship – “One Earth, One Family, One Future”.
The PM said at Bali that it was a proud occasion for every Indian to assume the G20 Presidency. India will organise G20 meetings in different cities and states, which will give our guests a full experience of India’s incredible diversity, inclusive traditions, and cultural richness; wishing that all G20 members will participate in this unique celebration in India, the ‘Mother of Democracy’.