G20 Presidency: India’s Opportunity to Shine Brighter

Sub Title : G20 presidency gives India a great window to prove that it has come into its own

Issues Details : Vol 16 Issue 5 Nov – Dec 2022

Author : Chander Malhotra

Page No. : 35

Category : Geostrategy

: December 15, 2022

The G20 presidency gives India a great window to prove that it has come into its own and is ready to take its rightful place in the world. However, the concomitant responsibility is an onerous one as the world is going through turmoil brought about by the Covid pandemic and wars etc. India must rise to the occasion 

The President’s gavel of the Group of Twenty or G20 as it is commonly known was handed over to the Indian PM Narendra  Modi at the recent summit in Bali on 16 Nov 2022, in a symbolic ceremony. Mr Modi, in his closing remarks, at the summit, said that it was a “matter of pride” for all Indians. As Indonesia’s turn to lead the group ended on 30 Nov 2022, India formally took over the presidency on 01 Dec 2022. The presidency is rotated every year amongst the G20 member states. The theme of India’s presidency is ‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’ drawn from the ancient text of the Maha Upanishad and the Sanskrit term implies ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.

G20 was formed in 1999 and was originally a meeting of the Ministers of Finance and the Governors of the Central Banks of member states  in an effort to broaden the discussion of policies that are beneficial for resolving the global economic and financial crisis. In 2008, the G20 was upgraded to the level of Heads of State/Government in the wake of the global financial crisis during the preceding year. In 2009, G20 was designated the “premier forum for international economic cooperation”.  The G20 initially focused mainly on macroeconomic issues, but it has since expanded its agenda to include important issues such as e trade, climate change, sustainable development, health, agriculture, energy, environment, climate change, and the fight against corruption. The group’s stature has grown in the past decade and today it wields considerable global sway. This is axiomatic as G20 members together account for 60% of the world’s population, 80% of global GDP, and 75% of international trade.

The G20 consists of two parallel tracks: the Finance Track and the Sherpa Track. Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors lead the Finance Track while a Sherpa leads the Sherpa Track. The Sherpa is a representative of the leader of the concerned country.

India and the Presidency

PM’s Take

As India began its G20 presidency on 01 Dec 2022, the PM took it upon himself to outline the way forward. The PM stressed on the theme of the Indian presidency viz “One Earth, One Family, One Future”, and that he will accordingly work to promote oneness. He listed terror, climate change and the pandemic as the greatest challenges that must be faced together. The PM also said that India’s G20 priorities will be shaped in consultation with not just our G20 partners, but also our fellow travellers in the Global South, whose voice often goes unheard.  He added that India’s G20 agenda will be inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, and decisive. “Let us join together to make India’s G20 presidency a presidency of healing, harmony and hope. Let us work together to shape a new paradigm of human centric globalisation,” he said in an article which appeared in several newspapers and was posted on his website too. The country looks forward to working on encouraging sustainable lifestyles, depoliticising the global supply of food, fertilizers and medical products among other subjects, the PM said in a string of tweets. He also stressed upon the need to leverage technology. Digital issues and reforms of multilateral financial institutions are expected to be key focus areas for India during its one year tenure and thus India would work to bridge the digital divide, especially in developing countries.

India’s Cultural Plans

The Indian government has planned , to begin its presidency with a number of cultural initiatives. One hundred monuments, including some UNESCO world heritage sites, were specially illuminated on 01 Dec 2022, and citizens invited to join a selfie campaign on MyGov around these illuminated monuments. Sand artist Shri Sudarshan Pattnaik created sand art of India’s G20 logo on the Puri beach in Odisha. A special University Connect event was organized, which virtually brought together students from 75 universities across the country and the Hornbill Festival in Kohima featured a special focus on G20.

India will host over 200 meetings in over 50 cities across 32 different workstreams thus affording the delegates an opportunity to get a glimpse of India’s rich cultural heritage and provide them with a unique Indian experience. These will include ministerial meetings, and those at official and nongovernmental levels, to be held between 1 Dec 2022 and  30 Nov  2023. India will be hosting the annual   G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi on  9 and 10 Sep 2023. The G20 summit will be the first international event  in India to be attended by leaders of the world’s leading economies. Meetings in the run-up to the summit will take place in different venues around India. Some of these will be in sync with festivals in the concerned states and regions — for instance the kite festival in Gujarat.


The presidency brings with it opportunities and India must make use of them.

  • India will have the opportunity to showcase its leadership potential to the world by setting an appropriate global agenda and discourse and then following it through to the extent feasible in a span of one year and ensuring that it is carried forward when the presidency changes next year.
  • India can become a big brother to the Global South. This will considerably enhance its prestige and image.
  • The world order is in a churn. The leadership of G20 will afford India an opportunity to help suggest the right direction to members who are in a state of flux.
  • It will help India exhibit its digital prowess to the world, we have indeed surpassed many developed countries in this sphere.
  • India will get a great opportunity to market its immense tourism potential and display its diversity.

Challenges that India Faces

It is India’s chance to shine brighter but it comes with several challenges within the G20 group and those thrown up by the current geopolitical scenario.

Internal Issues of G20

G20 achieved great success when it rescued a global financial system heading towards a collapse. During the years 2008 and 2009, G20 nations agreed to spending measures worth $4 trillion to revive their economies, rejected trade barriers, and implemented far-reaching reforms of the financial system. However, due to internal divisions, basis national priorities of the members, G20 has struggled to achieve similar success on its goals of coordinating monetary and fiscal policies, achieving higher growth, and rooting out corruption and tax evasion.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has further deepened the existing divisions within the group. The maverick US President Donald Trump clashed with the rest of the group on trade, climate, and migration policy. Though President Joe Biden promised a return to multilateral cooperation, achieving a new global agreement on corporate taxation, but tensions have continued to grow as high and low income countries have increasingly diverged on major issues. The Covid 19 pandemic offered a great opportunity to the group but self seeking national priorities  prevented it from achieving  the full potential of what it could have to help the underdeveloped and not so well off nations. The only silver lining was the G20 countries agreeing  to suspend debt payments owed to them by some of the world’s poorest countries, providing some relief

Climate change is another issue where G20 has not been successful. Though it was a focus of the G20 Rome summit of 2021, the meeting yielded few concrete commitments on the issue essentially because of  lack of stronger commitments as has been the norm during the Conference of Parties on Climate change.

Global Challenges

Russia Ukraine War. The Russia Ukraine war has impacted the world tremendously, creating massive geopolitical ambiguity and increasing global inflation and creating food and energy shortages. The sanctions imposed by the West and the constant bickering over fuel prices keep aggravating the situation which is already bad. India’s  efforts to  balance its national interests by continuing to do business as usual with Russia has somewhat irked the West. India as the leader of G20 will have to walk the tight rope and endeavour in earnest to bring about a mutually acceptable  end to the conflict.

Looming  Global Recession.  In response to high inflation, central banks across countries have raised interest rates, which, in turn, have dampened economic activity further after the Covid induced slowdown . Some of the biggest major economies such as the US and the UK have recession staring them in the face. Many other economies are slowing down. China, one of the major engines for global growth, is witnessing a sharp slowdown as it struggles with a real estate crisis. India as the G20 leader will have to nudge members to help the less developed countries as they will be adversely impacted by the cascading effect.

Energy Crisis. The global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing profound hardship. Energy markets remain extremely vulnerable, and the crisis is a reminder of the fragility and unsustainability of the current global energy system. India will have to do deft management so that it can balance interests of all stake holders including its own.

Ongoing Reset: World Order. Various geopolitical factors and events have triggered a reset in the World Order, this reset is still ongoing. Nothing certain is on the horizon as yet as the meeting between Xi and Biden at Bali in Nov 2022 indicates. Ties between the United States and China had chilled to a new low after the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in Aug this year. But the meeting between the two presidents suggests a thaw of sorts. How the relationship pans out further is a matter of speculation. India will have to carefully balance its interests as it works with both of them during the tenure of its presidency as also keep an eye on other member states as the pendulum swings.

Food Crisis. The world is facing a catastrophic food crisis , the largest in modern history. Millions are at risk of worsening hunger unless action is taken now to respond at scale to the drivers of this crisis: conflict, climate shocks and the threat of global recession. Many governments in the Global South, battered by the Covid19 pandemic, the inequality in resources available for the recovery, and the climate crisis, have no fiscal space to help their people deal with rising food and fertilizer prices accelerated by the war. India has professed that it will focus on the Global South. It will have to work hard to motivate the other G20 members to help the vulnerable without creating any debt traps.

Trade. India itself has been in the eye of a storm as far as trade practices are concerned. A case in point being the WTO holding  certain practices by India, e.g. the export subsidy on sugar being inconsistent with global trade norms. Given India’s stance on this and some other trade issues, it may have some difficulty in trying  to push the G20 leaders for a more open, stable, and transparent rules based trade that would help address global shortages of goods.


The PM has enunciated in great detail as to how he wants to take his job as the President of G20 forward. The theme set by India viz ‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’ is going to be the spirit  of the entire endeavour. He has outlined challenges that must be faced together, his desire to work for the Global South and that it will be an action oriented presidency. The presidency gives India a great window to prove that it has come into its own but the responsibility that comes along with the presidency is an onerous one given that the world is going through turmoil brought about by various factors like the Covid pandemic and wars etc. India must rise to the occasion.