Pathway to Vishwa Guru: India and the G20
Project assistant, SCRAP Weapons
The G20 grouping is one of the most influential intergovernmental forums where world leaders chalk out strategies to address global economic and financial issues with policy coordinators, combining the joint efforts of some of the most advanced and emerging economies. Amidst the pesky backlog of most international fora and multilateral institutions on consensus building, the G20’s unique setting of the rotating presidency, shifting agenda and absence of a permanent secretariat, brings in the possibility of implementing decisive resolutions with geographical parity, long overdue in the new world order. Comprising of member states representing 85% of the Global GDP, over 75% of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world’s population, the prima facie of this year’s agenda seems optimistic especially in the backdrop of the Troika chair (Indonesia, India and Brazil) representing the Global South and developing nations.
India hosting this year’s G20 takes the centre stage in merging its age-old tradition of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (“The world is one family”) with the contemporary 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. Reaching the mantle of the country with the highest population, all eyes are now on India on how it will steer this narrative towards achieving its ambitious target of becoming a $5 trillion economy while meaningfully engaging its 52.9% “youth bulge”. Since its inception, India’s G20 presidency will aim to be “Inclusive, Ambitious, Decisive and Asia oriented” according to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. How this will bridge the shortcomings of the previous year’s “Recover Together, Recover Stronger” motto and of this year’s “One Earth, One family, One Future” will be decisive in determining the credibility of this global agenda.
India at the moment is at its peak of global prowess, with the presidency of the G20 Summit, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and of the United Nations Security Council (December 2022). Acknowledging the current torrent times, the context of international affairs is beset by the “3Cs of Covid-19, Climate Change and Conflicts”, according to Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. Known as the “largest democracy in the world” and associated with ideas of peace and spirituality, whether India has been successful in honouring the legacy of Gandhi-ji and his ideals of nonviolence along with the core values on which the country was built is highly debatable. Endorsing the Gandhian precept of going beyond mere tolerance to acceptance, at this point, is imperative. While India is known to be the land of peaceful coexistence, the growing counter-narratives depicting the on-the-ground realities of the country cannot be ignored. In recent years, the worldview about India and its cultural plurality has been undermined by the country’s neutral stance on certain issues and the fact that it has now become the largest importer of arms and the 3rd largest military spender in the world (SIPRI, 2021). This predicament implores scholars of peace to ponder on the need of such balancing acts of power and whether there will be an end to this arms race before the total annihilation of humanity.
The dominance of the Global North in multilateral forums is no secret. Former colonies have been at the forefront to demand more diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in international forums and in organisations which are responsible for negotiating the majority of the treaties and resolutions. However, efforts to counter this imbalance have been ineffective so far. Nevertheless, the past few decades have witnessed a remarkable transformation in the international political architecture, where the global epicentre of power has shifted from the West to the East, establishing an Asia-centric nucleus as the driving force of world affairs in the so-called “Asian Century ”.
Through the G20 summit, India will be provided with the opportunity to build new synergies with institutions and governments to counter hegemonic views and vested priorities with greater inclusivity, circumventing perfectionist tendencies and manicured ideologies. India can play a decisive role in advocating for greater representation provided it is willing to make some systemic changes in its administration and policies, setting an example by recalibrating its priority in building a panoramic global society. However, it needs to double down on its core agenda of pushing UN reforms and countering terror with increased representation of voices from historically marginalised communities, including women, indigenous groups, people with disability, non-binary identities etc., ensuring innovative solutions and an enhanced North-South coalition. With a human-centric approach at its core, India has the potential of rekindling fragmented relations and driving consensus, especially by supporting the global call in activating a Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD-IV) at the United Nations General Assembly, which was last convened in 1988, and dispelling the idea of it being a global talk show. It would be a diplomatic victory if it is successful in initiating discussions to advance a disarmament agenda among major players using the G20’s ‘Sherpa Track’ (which focuses on non-economic and financial issues, such as development, anti-corruption and food security), thus materialising its zealous vision of becoming a Vishwa Guru (global leader).
Project assistant, SCRAP Weapons