At a global think tank event earlier this year, I had a sense of Déjà-vu when a delegate from Kenya was relating the challenges that women in her country, in particular, and Africa in general, faced. Low access to formal financial systems because of low banking penetration; domestic violence that poor working women often had to face; the shackles that the loan sharks had woven around any entrepreneurial dreams; low to non-existent access to safe sanitation and so on. I was reminded of India of a decade ago, when social media had just started gaining traction in the early 2010s.We then debated precisely the same problems and just expressed hopelessness at the seeming non-solvability of such basic issues. Listening the same issues raised so passionately in 2023 seemed almost misplaced at first and then I realized, the Kenyan banker is talking of her country and African continent and not India!
I will come back to this story later and give context. But first, G-20 and Bharat’s Presidency.
As Prime Minister Modi hosts the leaders for the G-20 summit and subsequent to which Bharat’s Presidency of the forum will to an end, it is time to assess what all Bharat has achieved in this last one year. This can be done in three broad ways.
First, on the data front, Bharat’s G-20 Presidency speaks for itself. The G20 event has held 220+ meetings, in 60 Cities with 25,000+ delegates from more than 115 countries across the world.The Global South summit, that saw participation of over 125 countries and the participation of African Union in G-20 itself highlighted India’s growing message of inclusive growth and providing a voice for all.
Compared to previous presidencies the G-20 hosted by Bharat was one of the most inclusive and delivery-oriented forums. Bharat was able to bring out 91 line-of-efforts and annexed Presidency documents, documents which is more than any previous Presidency post 2017.
Second, on the broader directional achievement front. G-20 under Bharat’s Presidency became the world’s most inclusive body with the representation of the African Union. As ‘Mother of Democracy’, Bharat gave to the world a “People’s G-20’ as opposed to earlier version which were merely leaders of government G-20. This will have enormous consequences going forward because the framework set by Prime Minister Modi will become the normative format. In turn, the decisions of G-20 will have worldwide legitimacy not just because of its inclusiveness but also because of the implicit acceptance of its decision by the people at large.
Bharat’s Presidency has also been the most progressive Presidency on women empowerment and has also scaled at global scale the homegrown model of “Women Led Development’ instead of just women development. Bharat’s leadership on technology and green development has also set global benchmarks through this G-20 Presidency.
Third, on the long-term impact of Year 2023 and Bharat’s G-20 Presidency. For many centuries now, the West has been the normative power. First Europe and then the USA set the global norms across domains and the rest of the world was expected to follow them. Divorced of their cultural con text and even otherwise, many of these norms were unfit for broader parts of the world, yet the sheer magnitude of the narrative hold the West had on the Rest made it impossible for the broader world to countenance any deviations.
For the first time in many centuries, a country outside the West has emerged which can become a normative power for others to follow and emulate. USSR and China, other powers who emerged in between could never become normative powers since the models they professed were not part of the larger march of international consensus. Bharat is different. It is part of the international consensus of free democracy, free press, free judiciary, vibrant civil society, established civilizational moorings of multiple millennia and a successful plural society. Yet, Bharat is not part of Western Consensus and that what makes its proposition unique.
The G-20 Presidency has been the coming out year of Bharat which sets new norms at the global stage – norms that are internationally acceptable but are different from what the West has established.Let us return to the story that I related in the beginning para.
The solutions to the problems that the Kenyan banker was so passionately speaking about are on offer by India. Even if one thinks of it as a pilot, then the pilot has been done at a scale of 140 crore people. If it can work at India scale then surely it can work at Kenya scale or at any other country level scale and even the African continent level scale as a whole!
This is the value of proposition of Bharat that was always inherent but never realized until now. The solutions that Bharat will offer, the norms Bharat will set will have global replicability because of the unique characteristic of India that no other country offers – the sheer scale of population; geographical and climate diversity; language and cultural diversity; and finally religious and ethnic diversity. If Bharat can do it, so can anyone.
Jan Dhan model has solved the financial inclusion challenge. Swachh Bharat model has solved the sanitation access problem. Ayushman Bharat has solved the affordable health access problem. UPI – powered through Aadhar and Jan Dhan – has solved the digital payments access problem.
In fact, Bharat’s digital public infrastructure model – a first in the world – has given an entirely new way of doing things nit just to the developing world but the entire world including the West.Bharat’s Vaccine Maitri set a new example of cooperation even at times of extreme distress. Bharat’s DBT model has shown to the world that welfare can reach the poor and the needy without any leakages and without any miss!
The norms that Bharat has set in managing development needs – building highways and airports at the fastest pace in the world – while being the only country in the world to meet its climate commitments as well has also given a model for the world to follow as a replicable model – one which is not just being preached by the rich but one that has been practiced by a fellow poor developing country.
As this G-20 under Bharat’s Presidency will be analyzed by historians in years to come, one thing is certain. The 18th G-20 Presidency, one held by Bharat in 2023, will be remembered as a watershed moment in global politics and global order. G-20 Presidency under Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be long remembered as that fork in the road when an Asian power started emerging as a global normative power after almost half a millennium. But this is just a start. A new era is in offing.