As India takes over the charge of G20 presidency on 1 December 2022, this is a golden opportunity for the country to globally communicate what it stands for. In sync with the presidency theme of ‘world is one family’, India will also aim to affirm what was once said by former American diplomat Frank A Ninkovich: “The world of learning is one world’.
In his radio broadcast on the eve of India’s Independence, Sri Aurobindo spoke about his five dreams, of which two were pertinent —the ‘resurgence of Asia and her peoples’, and the ‘spiritual gift of India to the world has begun’. Through the G20, India will try to showcase the steps one can take to move from the developing world to the developed, both materialistically and spiritually.
Be it global engagement, development co-operation, digital advancements in empowering the socially disadvantaged, digital data protection, policy-led intervention, religion-led dialogues, social justice initiatives, a vibrant diaspora, International Day of Non-Violence, International Day of Yoga and substantive climate justice endeavours, India will be keenly looking to place facts before the observers from the world, besides leaders of the 19 other world economies. Hosting of such global events directly contributes to India’s profile worldwide and strengthens her role in world order. Media reports say hosting the G20 in 2023 is the highest profile international gathering ever.
Chinese historian Tan Chung once wrote how China should understand from critics ‘what it is and what it is not’. Another aspiring superpower in the region seems to have carefully heard him. In her journey, India has been honest in owning up to her challenges. The Swachh Bharat mission is a step towards providing basic sanitation coverage to its populace.
The 2022 UN E-Government Development Index mentions how countries such as India are sprucing up their digital capabilities to empower the marginalised. Some of India’s initiatives include the ‘Sugamya Bharat App’, which was launched to ease accessibility issues faced by differently abled in buildings, transport systems. Likewise, the agri-market app is also mentioned in the index report for its services to farmers.
All these are concrete steps taken by India towards aligning its policy orientations towards larger foreign policy goals. India is poised to play a much bigger role in envisioning a framework for digital economies for the world in general and G20 in particular.
India as a civilisational nation state has seen much but also has much to do. There have been several advancements that India has had over the last 75 years of Independence. This said, she will be looking to set forth important targets that she aspires to accomplish when she celebrates 100 years of Independence in 2047.
People admire countries that work for others. India has had several crucial initiatives that have contributed to the well-being of the populace of the world. The Covid-19 pandemic reiterated this. India was the first mover to dispatch vaccines to countries in need. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) are among other key examples.
Being the 5th largest economy in the world, India has demonstrated that it is not just a passive bystander but an active problem solver. The Government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated with respect to the Ukraine-Russia conflict that this is not the ‘age of war’. True to this, the White House has already acknowledged India’s proactive role in negotiating the draft of the Bali declaration of the just concluded G20 summit in Indonesia.
Hosting the G20 provides India with an opportunity to contemporise history with invaluable life lessons by learning from those who enabled the making of India as a civilisational nation state.
Going ahead, collaboration, not confrontation, will be the mantra. In a seemingly divided world of opinions and politics, India will look to reiterate the importance of collaboration. Moving beyond the ‘Asia for Asians’ rhetoric, India must declare and own the importance of ‘Asia for all’ in sync with the vision of integration. I genuinely believe for Asia to participate in the world as a positive contributor by solving its challenges, it must be rooted in the ‘Asian dream’ that binds our countries and people together, something that is open, diverse, all-encompassing, accepting and inclusive. India can be a catalyst in articulating the ‘Asian dream’. Total domination will not be India’s idea, but coming together to solve emerging challenges that confront us as a global society will be. Not just one sided, but collective work to empower the last man or woman standing. Traversing centuries, India has been witness to spiritual teachers who have, time and again, reaffirmed how true education lies in looking at all as one and working together as one. In sync with this objective, India has invited six nations — Bangladesh, Mauritius, Oman, the UAE, Nigeria and Egypt — to the G-20.
There will be contrarian viewpoints, but India will use this opportunity to listen to every view true to its democratic ethos.
As per reports, there are over 200 events under various engagement platforms that India has planned in alignment with the G20. Prime Minister Modi understands the importance of such global events, as he championed the Vibrant Gujarat Investors Summit as Chief Minister that saw several international leaders attend and experience what it means to be in Gujarat.
The G20 under India could also focus on defining the role of non-state actors coherently. Beyond the state apparatus, the focus will be, in my opinion, how cities fare in the times to come. In the time of the pandemic, cities played a major role in rehabilitation. During the pandemic and the reduced virulence of it, studies show that Indian and Chinese cities led the 2022 GDP growth. Despite supply chain and international trade bottlenecks, Asian cities have been at the forefront of becoming manufacturing intensive, a key sector for economic growth.
When it comes to civil societies and think tanks, the ‘Think 20’ is an official engagement group that describes itself as an ‘idea bank’ aimed at bringing together think tanks and subject experts. Education, culture, policy and sustainable ideas will be the four pillars on which India positions itself well for countries to take back something at the G20 in 2023. How well she does and communicates this, time will tell. But one thing is for sure, the future is Indian.
Sudarshan Ramabadran is an author and researcher. He tweets at @sudarshanr108. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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