Starting on December 1st, 2022, a troika of countries from the Global South (Indonesia, India and Brazil) has assumed the leadership of the G20, with the start of the Indian Presidency following the successful Indonesian Presidency. As the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, has been concluded with tangible results, the Presidency has now passed to India, already a fast developing economy, expected to become the world’s most populous country.
India's G20 Presidency has all the reasons to be challenging, yet promising: with a full recovery from the pandemic, amid the mounting tensions and militarisation tendencies in the Indo-Pacific, India also inherits the moral responsibility to temper the warlike ambitions in the world today.
The current G20 troika leadership will remain in history as the first – so far unique – opportunity for the Global South to assume a more assertive position in the global governance process.Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, has already put forward an agenda of sovereign equality and inclusion during its 2022 G20 Presidency; India, the second most populous country – expected to become the country with the largest population in the world by the first months of 2023 – has officially expressed high hopes for its 2023 G20 Presidency; Brazil, the sixth most populous state in the world today will take the G20 Presidency to South America. It will be the second time for the South American continent to host a G20 Summit, after the 2018 Buenos Aires Summit.
The current troika leadership constitutes a unique opportunity when the past, the present and the incoming G20 Presidencies all represent the views and aspirations of the emerging Global South. Indeed, such a moment may represent not only an opportunity to set the tone for a more balanced and inclusive global governance, but similarly a moment for regional associations and organisations in South American, South and Southeast Asia to boost their economic convergence and development.
As the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out, India’s G20 Presidency comes at a “time of crisis and chaos in the world”. To this effect, Prime Minister Modi explained: “The world is going through the after-effects of a disruptive once-in-a-century pandemic, conflicts and a lot of economic uncertainty. The symbol of the lotus in the G20 logo is a representation of hope in these times. No matter how adverse the circumstances, the lotus still blooms. (…) Even if the world is in a deep crisis, we can still progress and make the world a better place. In Indian culture, both the Goddess of knowledge and prosperity are seated on a lotus. This is what the world needs most today. Shared knowledge that helps us overcome our circumstances, and shared prosperity that reaches the last person at the last mile.”
According to the External Affairs Minister of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar, the Indian agenda for the G20 Presidency is deeply rooted in both the country’s history and place in the current international community; it is, in fact, an opportunity for New Delhi to “share our story with others, particularly those who may transpose some of our experiences on their performance on challenges. It is also a time when we must become the voice of the Global South, that is otherwise under-represented in such forums. Countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America trust India to speak up for them. (...) India has to take the lead in pushing for collective action. And that is exactly what we intend to do at the G20.” According to Foreign Minister Jaishankar, India’s mission at the G20 Presidency is expected to be of historical significance: “for the sake of future generations - for people like you, every generation should leave the planet in a better shape than it inherited. After due deliberation we have therefore taken up "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or "One Earth, One Family, One Future” as our G20 Presidency theme.”
As officially presented by Minister Jaishankar and previously expressed by Prime Minister Modi, India’s 8 practical points in assuming the G20 Presidency could be detailed as:
“1) The greatest challenges can be solved not by fighting with each other but by acting together; 2) Technology gives us the means to address problems on a humanity-wide scale; 3) Digital public goods that we have created are increasingly perceived by the world as delivering revolutionary progress; 4) India’s experiences can provide insights for possible solutions; 5) Our G20 priorities will be shaped by the interests of the Global South; 6) We will encourage sustainable and environment friendly lifestyles based on trusteeship towards nature; 7) We will seek to de-politicise the global supply of food, fertilizer and medical products; and 8) We will encourage an honest conversation among the most powerful countries.”
As explained by the Indian pundit, Professor Harsh V. Pant, Vice President – Studies and Foreign Policy of Observer Research Foundation (ORF), also a honorary member of IRSEA, “The G-20 presidency gives India a chance to shape the agenda for global cooperation as the world emerges from the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group’s importance is reflected by its economic strength: Its member states account for more than 80 percent of global GDP, 75 percent of global trade, and 60 percent of the world’s population. New Delhi is eager to project the presidency as an opportunity to underline its emerging status as a leading power (…)”
Indeed, in the increasingly complex situation the world is currently facing, given the feeling of instability and status-quo changes brought by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the dynamic and tense situation in the Indo-Pacific, the growing militarisation tendencies in the world, as well as the verge of economic and environmental depression, India’s Presidency of the G20 represents both a rare opportunity and a fantastic challenge for New Delhi, particularly for the Indian diplomacy, to become a trustworthy voice of the Global South, an added value to its current regional power status.
To this avail, 2023 might be considered a litmus test not only for India, but for the whole Global South to formulate the answers the global community is seeking.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or view of IRSEA.