“Just as there is an individuality in every man, so there is a national individuality. As one man differs from another in certain particulars, in certain characteristics of his own, so one race differs from another in certain peculiar characteristics; and just as it is the mission of every man to fulfil a certain purpose in the economy of nature, just as there is a particular line set out for him by his own past Karma, so it is with nations — each nation has a destiny to fulfil, each nation has a message to deliver, each nation has a mission to accomplish. Therefore, from the very start, we must have to understand the mission of our own race, the destiny it has to fulfil, the place it has to occupy in the march of nations, the note which it has to contribute to the harmony of races”. – Swami Vivekananda, The Common Bases of Hinduism, Lectures from Colombo to Almora, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume III
When Bharat assumed the G20 presidency, taking over from Indonesia, ‘What is the big deal in it, when it is just a rotational presidency’ was the reaction among experts. The ordinary people of Bharat were hardly aware of the multilateral forum. The change is perceptible when the final Summit is taking place in Delhi with year-long activities and events under this transformative presidency.
The G8 members, mainly constituting the so-called developed world, have been facing economic crises since the 1990s. In 1999, with the initiative of the then Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin, the organisation extended its membership to 12 more countries. The G8 constitutes just 10 per cent of the global population, embodying ‘West versus the Rest’. Its inability to address the Asian economic crisis was the rationale behind the proposal. Though founded in 1999, it was elevated to the summit level interactions involving the head of government or state, finance minister, or foreign minister, and other high-ranking officials, including the representatives of the European Union institutions, only in 2008 when another crisis hit the Western world. In this sense, the G20 has been a continuation of post–World War II initiatives aimed at international coordination of economic policy under the Breton-Woods System. In a way, it accepted the limitation of the unidimensional, West-centric approach to contemporary global challenges like financial stability, climate change mitigation and sustainable development. Despite this leap from G8 to G20, embodying 70 per cent of the world’s population and 80 per cent of the world’s economy, the multilateral forum has been perceived as the elitist platform of the ‘Rich and Powerful’ against the ‘Rest’. Bharat’s presidency is a departure from this perception.
As the largest democracy in the world and the fastest-growing economy, Bharat’s presidency played a crucial role in building upon the achievements of the previous 17 presidencies by adding entirely new dimensions to the deliberations. Deriving the civilisational spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (Entire Earth is one Family), Bharat paved the path from the limited approach of one world, one market. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, through his able and creative leadership, shifted the focus towards a human-centric development approach that aligns with the concerns of the Global South, including addressing climate change, debt restructuring through the G20’s Common Framework for debt, and a strategy for regulation of global cryptocurrencies. The traditional lifestyle rooted in Bharat’s familial and spiritual wisdom is being presented as the fundamental solution to the mindless, consumeristic model of the West. Through the six thematic priorities – Green Development, Climate Finance & Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE), Accelerated, Inclusive & Resilient Growth, Accelerating Progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Technological Transformation & Digital Public Infrastructure, Multilateral Institutions for the 21st century and Women-led Development – Bharat has reset the agenda of G20 deliberations during her presidency.
Besides the central Sherpa and Finance Ministers tracks, the way Bharat has galvanised the participation of various stakeholders through engagement groups such as Business-20 to Civil-20, spanning over the year at 32 destinations, was a humongous exercise. Not all the verticals reached the desirable results or conclusions, but it has undoubtedly introduced a participatory approach leading to the summit-level discussion. By proposing inclusion of the African Union as a full-fledged member of the G20, Bharat has again showed its specific approach to reforming multilateralism through participation.
The Bharat’s presidency will culminate with the partaking of 43 Heads of Delegations- the largest ever in the G20. At the same time, it will be a new beginning for the issues of sustainability and financial stability with an inclusive, participatory and non-Western paradigm. Hopefully, future presidencies will take the same spirit forward.