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OPINION: Will India’s G20 Presidency Emerge as a ‘Bright Spot on the Dark Horizon’ for a World in Crisis?

By: Pathikrit Payne

Edited By: Manjiri Joshi


Last Updated: December 04, 2022, 19:05 IST

New Delhi, India

Indonesian President Joko Widodo welcomes PM Modi at the G20 Summit in Bali. (Image: @MEAIndia)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo welcomes PM Modi at the G20 Summit in Bali. (Image: @MEAIndia)

The excitement surrounding India’s G20 presidency is not just in India but among many other countries, which are increasingly looking up to India as a solution provider

The year 2023 might emerge as a major watershed moment for the world. It might be a year when the resonance of the major events of last two years, including the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the supply chain related shockwaves, as a result of sanctions on Russia, and Zero Covid policy of China, might be felt even more profoundly across the world, and especially in the Western hemisphere.

The ripple effects of cataclysmic rise in prices of energy may have political implications in many countries, while the possibility of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia going out of hand and spreading beyond their borders can simply not be ruled out. A combination of potential natural calamities and an emerging food supply crisis exacerbated by rising interest rates and fear of an impending recession, may essentially make sure that the year 2023 might bring with it a series of challenges whose enormity is difficult to gauge right now, but would certainly not be less than what the world faced in last two years for sure.

Yet, amidst all these, there is certainly a ray of hope. India’s taking over of G20 presidency on December 1, for the next one year, when the world’s fastest growing economy and cradle to the world’s oldest civilisation, would possibly usher in a new era by spearheading a new path for taking on the global challenges that is plaguing mankind today.

India’s Management of Challenges: A New Template for Rest

For almost more than thirty months now, India has demonstrated unprecedented capacity in managing a cataclysmic pandemic which did not have a reference point from the past on what was the ideal way forward in terms of containing it.

Faced with no option but to impose a painful nationwide lockdown that was certain to plunge economic activities and result in loss of jobs, India’s condition was exacerbated even further when it was inflicted with a border flareup by her northern neighbour. Thus, India had more than one challenge to deal with when the rest of the world was already finding it difficult to grapple with the pandemic alone.

Yet India’s political leadership under Prime Minister Modi, remained calm, poised and went ahead to deal with the emerging situations without getting into any kind of a blame game or raising the rhetoric.

From Food Support, Vaccine Initiatives to Military Infrastructure Build-up

In early 2020, when it became clear that the pandemic was here to stay and inflict heavy damage, the first task for Modi Government was to make sure that additional food rations were provided to more than 80 crore beneficiaries so that a large section of Indians, from lower middle class and underprivileged sections, had adequate food to eat and tide over the uncertain pandemic times.

Meanwhile, India silently went ahead with massive upgradation of military infrastructures and war fighting resources, to contain the situations emerging along her northern borders. And India had no respite from fighting cross border terrorism either that has a legacy to emerge perpetually from her western neighbour’s womb.

Over the next thirty months, India continued with two record breaking government funded initiatives. If one was world’s largest food aid program, as mentioned earlier, the other was the roll out of the world’s largest central government funded vaccination program that eventually resulted in India administering more than 200 crore vaccines to its eligible population with domestically manufactured vaccines. The roll out of vaccines itself had an enormous of logistical and collaborative preparations behind it, starting from vaccine development, maintaining highest quality of production to last mile delivery of vaccines, and maintaining records of the same through an application-based platform namely CoWin.

Not just that, even while taking care of its own humongous population, India also went on to provide precious Covid vaccines to 70 other countries especially a time when many of the developed countries were reluctant to share their stock. Through this, India not only demonstrated its global scale industrial proficiency that can deliver during global emergencies, but also willingness to share her resources with other developing nations during times of exigencies.

India’s Resilience Development Program Amidst Pandemic Challenges

It is also important to mention here the manner in which PM Modi spearheaded critical economic and structural reforms over the last few years that continued even during the pandemic phase.

From implementing Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Act to reforming indirect tax structure through enacting GST, followed by major push to Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan to boost domestic production and creating a resilient global scale domestic supply chain ecosystem, from corporate tax reforms to opening up of new sectors to greater private sector participation such as space and defence, from creating a Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to push for making India a global hub for manufacturing, to National Logistics Policy and Project Gatishakti for removing institutional bottlenecks to boost productivity, from a massive push for renewable energy generation capacity, to following an independent foreign policy for management of energy procurement, each of these played a stellar role in making sure that even in the midst of severe economic challenges across the world, India continued with its economic momentum that resulted in it emerging as the fifth largest economy of the world.

Today, with a near $3.5 trillion economy, a healthy forex reserve in excess of $540 billion, record gross tax collection and the third largest startup ecosystem of the world, India is poised to not just emerge as the third largest economy of the world in the next half a decade or so, but has also exemplified that economic growth and large-scale welfare schemes can go hand in hand if the intent is right. This is a template for the rest of the world to emulate.

Modi Govt’s JAM Trinity: A Game Changing Template

Amidst all these, one must remember the magnitude and impact of the policy initiatives that was taken by Modi Government through complete restructuring of the architecture through which Central Government provides subsidies to beneficiaries. Through the trinity of Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile, popularly known as JAM, Modi Government revolutionised the concept of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of government subsidies to beneficiaries bypassing all kinds of middlemen that also resulted in weeding out crores of fake ration cards, fake LPG connections, fake MNREGA cards to name a few. Eventually, more than 44 crore Jan Dhan Accounts were opened. Today, the cumulative balance in those accounts stand at more than Rs 1.75 lakh crore. Had it not been for JAM trinity, supporting the under privileged to tide over the difficult times of pandemic challenges would have been more problematic.

The combination of Ayushman Bharat that provides health protection to 10 crore underprivileged families, or almost 50 crore people, and DBT scheme have been gamechangers when it comes to last mile delivery of government welfare schemes and has made India one of the pioneers in using cutting edge IT systems for implementation welfare schemes, at a scale which many of the Western developed countries may find difficult to match.

India’s Strides on Climate Initiatives: Pioneering and Pivotal

Next in line would invariably be India’s efforts on the environmental front. The country stands at an unenviable position of having to take care of the aspirations and needs of nearly 140 crore people, and yet having its civilisational roots embedded in conservation rather than exploitation of nature, India, over the last few years, in spite of conflicting challenges have voluntarily taken some key initiatives to work on addressing climatic challenges as well.

From initiating the formation of International Solar Alliance, creating policy framework for making electric vehicles more viable and eventually the preferred option for transport, to working with the private sector to invest billions of dollars for creating a green hydrogen generation ecosystem that would eventually be cost effective and commercially viable, to banning single use plastics for commercial purposes, to setting stringent targets for renewable power capacity installation in the country, to altering rural lifestyle through Ujjwala Yojana to replace wood with LPG for cooking purposes, to India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, India has been striving and setting newer benchmarks which are in sync with its sustainable development agenda to create the perfect rhythm of harmony between development imperatives and nature conservation.

Also, a critical aspect of the same has been the manner in which Modi Government through National Awards, has for the first time in India created an institutional framework to recognise the grassroots level conservators of environment.

Bringing Spiritual Balance in a Conflict-Ridden World

Modi Government’s success lies not just in the development matrix but also the manner in which it has revived the idea of spirituality and holistic approach in the realm of human development. From spearheading the internationalisation of the practise of Yoga to giving right kind of institutional support to traditional medicines, the efforts are now getting recognised worldwide. While 21st June has been declared as International Day of Yoga, the importance of traditional medicines and India’s strides in that has been acknowledged by WHO when it recently laid the foundation of WHO Centre for Traditional Medicines in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

A New Voice for Global South

A critical aspect of India’s ascendency under Modi Government has been India’s strong defence of its independent foreign policy and its refusal to toe to any external dictums. Modi Government’s stand on procurement of oil from Russia in the midst of sanctions imposed by the Western countries on Russia, its refusal to bend under threats of sanctions, and the manner in which India has exposed the double standards of some of the Western countries on the culture of sanctions, have made India gradually emerge as the natural voice for the Global South.

India’s Strides for a ‘No War’ World but Unequivocal Stand Against Terrorism

India, under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, has not only refused to side with the West on the issue of sanctions against Russia, but has reiterated its stand time and again, that issues should be resolved through dialogues.

Also, the Prime Minister has taken a bold stand by stating ‘Today’s era must not be of war’, a message that is for all the major powerhouses of the world, and perhaps also for the giant military industrial complexes of the world who have often been alleged of manipulating policies to facilitate conflicts that favours their fortunes in return.

Domestically as well, India remains one of the very few countries of the world which in spite of facing such vicious onslaught of cross border terrorism has still not lost faith in humanity and dialogue, even while fighting terrorism. India has time and again questioned the double standards of developed economies when it comes to dealing with terrorism. Prime Minister Modi has reiterated at every forum the need for UN to define terrorism and the necessity for unequivocal condemnation of all kinds of terrorism.

It has also shown how long-standing disputes and contentious issues can be resolved, even in hostile situations, with administrative grit and without any major bloodshed. From amendment to Article 370, to resolving many of the long-standing disputes in Northeast India that drastically reduced footprints of violence, India is creating a new template for conflict resolution for others to emulate.

India’s Emergence as the New Solution Provider

The excitement surrounding India’s presidency of G20 is not just in India but among many other countries, which are increasingly looking forward to India as a solution provider. From its successful template of Covid vaccination, direct benefit transfer or DBT framework, the largest food aid program during pandemic, economic management, strides in the realm of renewable energy development, as well as its success with frugal engineering in the realm of space technology or development of cutting-edge next generation 5G network, India has indeed many things to offer to the world.

India’s G20 presidency is thus the celebration of the idea of India and India’s emergence in the global arena. It does not mean India does no longer have its own set of problems. It only means India knows now better than most how to tide over and eventually mitigate the challenges to emerge more resilient than before.

Setting the New Narrative for India and Global South

And finally, the year-long programs of G20 that would happen across various cities of India, would give India the opportunity to share the Indian story through the voice of Indians. For quite some time now, there has been a blatant bias that has been showcased by some, especially in the West, while narrating the Indian story. No matter what India does, they would attempt to pin down India through manipulation of data to project things which are far from reality.

Now, it would be India’s turn to correct those wrongs as well. It is not for nothing that IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva termed India as a ‘bright spot on the dark horizon’.

Pathikrit Payne is a Senior Research Fellow with Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Foundation, the Secretariat for Y20 India, the youth engagement group of G20. Views expressed are personal.

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first published:December 04, 2022, 18:52 IST
last updated:December 04, 2022, 19:05 IST
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