India’s G20 Presidency at a Time of Global Political Divide – Analysis – Eurasia Review


By Dr. Manpreet Sethi*

In December this year, India will assume the presidency of the economic grouping, the G20, which includes major developed and developing economies. For a year thereafter, New Delhi will be in charge. This is not expected to be an easy task given the rather difficult economic turns and steep geopolitical bumps that will have to be negotiated. In fact, the group, which began by focusing primarily on financial and economic issues, never experienced the kind of tense state-to-state relations that characterize international relations today. The G20 has grown and flourished in a more benign world. He focused primarily on coordinating the financial policies and trade issues of the economies that accounted for 85-90% of world GDP and 75% of world trade. The political nature of these relations has never been a primary concern for the group.

The contemporary economic and political situation, however, is different. According to World Bank forecasts, the world is set to experience the largest global contraction in the coming years. Having faced global supply chain disruptions, first from the pandemic and then from the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, the economic order is likely to overturn the old form of globalization. Thus, the familiarity of economic behavior observed in recent decades will be lacking in the future. New, smaller economic arrangements are being explored to minimize vulnerabilities in elaborate global supply chains, as more disruptions from pandemics and geopolitical tensions are still expected.

Politically, interstate relations between great powers have never been so polarized since the Cold War years. Due to tensions between Russia and the United States/NATO over Ukraine, and between the United States and China over Taiwan and other issues, the geopolitical situation is full of challenges that will impinge on the future of the G20.

Three other evolutions will also cast a shadow over the group. The first relates to a noticeable decline in confidence in the capacity of multilateral institutions; the second comes from the rise to power of an assertive and aggressive China which does not hesitate to show its military muscle. The third can be felt in the increased frequency and intensity of climate-induced events that affect both developed and developing countries.

As a result of these developments, all national economies are facing multiple blows. While geopolitical challenges push states to build up their military might against perceived national security threats, health emergencies and climate concerns drive national spending on health, resilient infrastructure, and disaster mitigation. Torn between the two priorities, governments will aspire to rapid economic growth, but the constraint will be to achieve it sustainably.

What can the Indian presidency bring in these circumstances? Can India offer the G20 a new focus or a new direction? Issues of cybersecurity, digitalization, data hygiene, acceleration of economic growth, etc. will obviously be on the agenda. But, given the specific nature of contemporary challenges, can India use its leadership role in the G20 to bring some of its own “middle way” philosophy and values ​​into the “system”? ? As several working groups are being established and about 200 meetings are being held, can India urge some of them to focus on issues which they believe require solution through action cooperative?

Two of them can be cited by way of example. The first concerns energy security within the broader framework of climate concerns. Electricity as a key driver of modern economies is an established fact. The world needs huge amounts of electricity to fuel economic growth, especially in developing countries. How this electricity is produced has a huge impact on the climate. In fact, nearly 27% of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere today come from electricity generation, which is hugely biased towards fossil fuels. G20 economies are responsible for adding around 80% of global carbon emissions. If these countries are to be weaned from fossil fuels and reoriented towards low-carbon options, their energy transition will have to be supported by financing and low-cost technological options. A rapid increase in the use of renewable and nuclear energy, which are among the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be needed to ensure that developing countries are able to halt climate change.

India has set an example by taking several steps to meet its climate commitments: these aim to achieve a non-fossil energy capacity of 500 GW and to meet 50% of its electricity needs from renewable energies. by 2030. A continued expansion of its indigenous nuclear energy program and a rapid move towards using solar and wind power for electricity generation are steps in this direction. India has also initiated the creation of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to encourage the use of solar electricity. India’s ability to forge partnerships and friendships in today’s polarized world can help it better target energy transition issues. New Delhi’s traditional approach to conservation and responsible consumption can be presented to foreign visitors during its G20 presidency as an insight into sustainable lifestyles. The Prime Minister also encouraged all citizens to take this path as part of his call for LIFE or “lifestyle for the environment”.

As chair of the G20, New Delhi can also encourage countries to prioritize peace over security. India is one of the few countries facing a rather difficult geopolitical environment from two nuclear-armed neighbors – with whom it has unresolved territorial issues and who are using proxies to hold India down unstable. He regularly faces multiple crises. Although this required the accumulation of hard power, India never projected force as a weapon of first resort. She has also not lost sight of the fact that only peace can bring true security. Restraint and responsibility are evident in India’s military behavior, particularly with regard to the development of nuclear weapons capability and its no-first-use policy. It is quite the opposite of its neighbors.

For national economic growth and development to take center stage, the international system will need to rethink military spending. If the great powers continue without talking to each other, mistrust will only grow. This will lead to worst-case assumptions about everyone’s capabilities and intent, fueling self-fulfilling prophecies and distracting attention from economic development. As these powers also expand their nuclear arsenals and capabilities, and as many of them opt for risky nuclear strategies, an inadvertent escalation leading to a nuclear exchange is no longer as unthinkable as it was.

As India assumes the presidency of the G20, it has the opportunity to set the agenda, organize meetings between ministers, government officials and members of civil society, as well as the Leaders’ Summit in November 2023. India’s traditional wisdom of prioritizing international peace to ensure national security is necessary to enable global financial stability, combat climate change and ensure sustainable development. That’s what a Vishwaguru should do.

*Dr Manpreet Sethi is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Air Power Studies (CAPS) in New Delhi.


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