‘India’s G20 presidency was not a moment but a movement’

‘India’s G20 legacy: Shaping a New World Order’ notes a new benchmark set by India

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Over 220 meetings across 60 cities in all 28 states and eight Union Territories…It wasn’t an easy task. To hold a Group of 20 meeting at a time when the Covid pandemic just got over, a world was wracked by wars and conflicts, when mutual suspicion ruled supreme and questions were raised about the efficacy of global institutions to mitigate financial and environmental distress. But India did it and how!

For one thing, the summit went beyond the G20 mandate of accelerating Sustainable Development Goals, reviving economic growth and generating climate finance.

A collection of articles into a book ‘India’s G20 Legacy: Shaping a New World Order’ by none but those who were directly involved in the enormous task—diplomats, bureaucrats, academics and intellectuals, both from India and abroad—and ably edited by Manish Chand, a foreign affairs expert and writer, brings out the entire range of issues and viewpoints that made the Indian chapter of G20 a new benchmark worthy of emulation.

In his foreword, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the chief coordinator of India’s G20 presidency sums it up succinctly: “The most important legacy of India’s G20 presidency was its overarching focus, not just in terms of priorities, but also through organization… India’s G20 leadership wasn’t just a moment, it was a movement”.

The gains from India’s presidency that ended on November 30, 2023, were quite a few: A new permanent member in the form of the African Union (AU), managing the serious ideological and bloc differences over the Ukraine war (by finding the middle ground between the G7 countries and Russia), and framing consensus on a range of issues. 

With AU’s inclusion, writes Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa: “India transformed the G20 into a substantially more inclusive institution, now encapsulating nearly 90 per cent of the global population…three-fourths of global trade.”

But most significantly, as Manish Chand writes: “India’s G20 presidency marks a turning point for the ascendance of the Global South in the multilateral agenda”.

The Green Development Pact was another feather in the cap of India’s G20 event, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the fact that 90 per cent of the total carbon space is already claimed by the developed world, at the cost of the space of the developing countries.

A noteworthy feature was the widespread civil society participation embodying grassroots participation. Cultural events roped in about 15,000 local artists, in a big boost to the tourism sector.

Articles by Vincenzo De Luca, Italy’s ambassador to India, and Kenneth Felix Haczynski da Nobrega, the Brazilian ambassador talk of continuing with the legacy set in New Delhi. In 2024, Italy holds the G7 presidency while the G20 presidency is held by Brazil.

In his article, former diplomat and strategist D.B. Venkatesh Varma writes: “The character of G20 has changed from a grouping dominated by G7 concerns to one that is now better prepared to address a more equitable international cooperative agenda that is sensitive to the interest of the Global South.”

What stands out in the end is the vital role that India played in bridge-building and consensus-building and the image of the nation being a problem solver and agenda setter is likely to endure. 

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