India G20 Presidency: Issues and Priorities
India took over the presidency of the G20 forum in December 2022 from Indonesia, and will hold it for the next twelve months. Together, the G20 members represent more than 80% of the world’s GDP, 75% of international trade and 60% of the world’s population.
This presidency is a crucial podium to showcase India’s role in a global economy fresh on the heels of recovery from a pandemic, and faced with growing uncertainties such as a looming financial recession and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Coming just one year prior to the 2024 general elections, the timing is also important as a platform for Prime Minister Modi to position himself – and India – on the global stage.
India’s approach to the G20 presidency is a far cry from the traditionally staid approach to international diplomacy, limited to the government and commercial capitals of Delhi and Mumbai. Drawing inspiration from the G20 Presidency theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – ‘One Earth One Family One Future’, India will host over 200 meetings in over 50 cities across 32 different workstreams.
The G20 itinerary is designed to reflect the breadth and diversity of the country, with a particular focus on hosting events at major cultural and tourist hotspots.
The G20 ‘showcase’ will include meetings on the fringe of the Hornbill music festival in the north-eastern state of Nagaland to a kite flying event in the western state of Gujarat, to name just two examples. However, behind all this lies a serious policy agenda.
Ambitious Policy Agenda
India has put forward an ambitious G20 agenda and its stated priorities include:
- Green Development, Climate Finance & Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE)
- Accelerated, Inclusive & Resilient Growth
- Accelerating progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- Technological Transformation & Digital Public Infrastructure
- Multilateral Institutions for the 21stcentury
- Women-led development
The G20’s work is divided into two tracks: the Finance Track and the Sherpa Track. Within the two tracks, there are thematically oriented working groups in which representatives from the relevant ministries of the members as well as from invited/guest countries and various international organizations participate. The working groups meet regularly throughout the term of each Presidency.
The Green Development Agenda
PM Modi has set ambitious targets for India’s path to net zero emissions by 2070. This goal can only be met with urgent actions in this decade, potentially accelerated through India’s G20 presidency. The actions will include investments in sustainable lifestyles, leveraging green hydrogen for climate action, and accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). External Affairs Minister Jaishankar has committed to driving a consensus on a “Green Development Pact of the G20 Leaders”, which is expected to serve as a blueprint of strong actions for the next decade powering green development all over the world.
Two areas which can be expected to receive specific focus are climate finance and green hydrogen in the energy sector. This is also evidenced through strong domestic measures including a recent green bonds scheme launched by the Reserve Bank of India, and a National Hydrogen Mission launched by the Indian government.
The world will be looking at India on this front. Recent reports indicate that India may have already surpassed China in terms of population. India is the world’s third-largest emitter of CO2, despite low per capita CO2 emissions. The Indian subcontinent is also among the most vulnerable regions globally when it comes to the impact of climate change. Extreme weather events can potentially diminish the overall economic performance of this region.
At the same time, given the point India is currently placed on in its path to development demands. This conundrum has also recently been a cause of conflict, with India strongly urging developed countries in recent times to carry their weight when it comes to shouldering “net zero” responsibilities. Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav has reiterated the need for climate justice including equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC).
The G20 forum presents a strong opportunity to build consensus on promoting private investment in green infrastructure projects within the G20 nations and facilitate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
The Digital Economy Agenda
The Digital Public Infrastructure for Economic Transformation, Financial Inclusion and Development task force will be co-chaired by India’s G20 sherpa Amitabh Kant and Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani, noted philanthropist and tech evangelist. The task force will “oversee and facilitate achieving India’s G20 Presidency agenda and priorities on the following areas:
- Digital public infrastructure
- Financial inclusion
- Promoting digital identity
- Improved and innovative technology-based services including digital payments system like UPI along with the governance frameworks.
This is among the most significant areas strongest pillars of India’s G20 presidency. The much-celebrated United Payments Interface or UPI is not just a golden child of India’s digital architecture, but also presents a strong opportunity to expand the technology to a larger global economy. The contactless payment sign is a ubiquitous presence at all businesses today. UPI closed the year 2022 on a high note as the number of transactions reached a record 7.82 billion in December and totalled Rs 12.82 trillion, also a record high.
India is already in discussions with other nations to export ideas like its payments system internationally. The Monetary Authority of Singapore has recently indicated that integration of India’s UPI system and the Singapore equivalent PayNow, is imminent. Other countries like, the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman, which have large Indian diaspora are also under consideration for similar partnerships- the promise of significantly reduced remittance costs being a key driver.
A significant part of PM Modi’s soft-power strategy is to use the G20 presidency’s prominence to advance India’s digital achievements like UPI to represent itself as a democratic, business-friendly alternative to China.
Apart from digital UPI and digital payment, other areas of focus for the Task Force will include digital public infrastructure, financial inclusion, promoting digital identity, improved and innovative technology-based services spanning across sectors including finance, health, education, skilling, data, taxation, digital commerce, mobility, and beyond.
Opportunities to Engage
India’s G20 Presidency is an unparalleled opportunity for a variety of stakeholders including the private sector to engage with and embed themselves in the ongoing conversations around some of the most pressing issues of our time, including sustainability, digital infrastructure, and priorities in the healthcare sector. The G20 platform allows opportunities to not just with critical decision makers like government and regulators, but also offers potential frameworks to influence policy discussions.
Speyside Corporate Relations successfully supported clients in global stakeholder and issues mapping and research project in sectors including healthcare in Indonesia during their 2022 presidency. We are uniquely positioned with the marriage of local talent and expertise coupled with regional experience to help organisations looking to strengthen their presence in India. Please get in touch to further discuss potential partnerships.