There are big challenges to overcome, but every challenge presents an opportunity, says India’s G-20 Sherpa.
New Delhi: In an exclusive conversation, India’s G-20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant spoke of India’s G-20 presidency and the opportunities it brings, from showcasing brand India to the world to pitching the nation as the “Vishwa Guru” by attracting the West towards our digital models, vaccine maitri, our growing GDP and our 1.4 billion-strong manpower. Excerpts:
Q: You have donned several hats—from being the CEO of Niti Aayog to being the key driver of Prime Minister’s pet projects -Incredible India, Start-Up India and Make in India. As the G-20 India Sherpa, how have you planned this national celebration which will last an entire year until 31 November, 2023?
A: G-20 is conducted by coming together of the world’s most advanced and developed countries and it is an important forum because 85% of the world’s GDP comes from these G-20 nations. The world’s 78% trade also comes from these G-20 nations, world’s 90% patents also come from these nations. Up until now, we used to give our comments on the agendas driven by the developed world. This is the first time that India has got the chance to bring forward its priorities for the world to comment on. This time around, we will submit India’s initiative at the G-20 leaders’ summit.
India has decided to hold the 215 meetings in 56 cities of every union territory and every of the country. The initiative is to transform these 56 cities, their roads, their potholes, their drainage, their sewage, which, thus far, the Rajasthan government did in Udaipur, Karnataka government in Bangaluru and the Maharashtra government in Mumbai—the three states where the G-20 meetings have been held so far.
These cities also get a platform to showcase their culture, classical dance forms and art forms in front of the world. They also get to present on a platter their culinary diversity on a global platform. This also gives the state governments a chance to showcase their handicrafts. These handicrafts from each state, under the “one district one product” policy, will be presented as gifts to the foreign dignitaries. The global handicraft market is around USD 50 billion, the travel and tourism market is pegged at USD 400 billion, and India has a meagre 2% share in it. The G-20 India presidency gives us a chance to become a travel and tourism destination and a global culture brand. It gives an opportunity to every state to become a global brand.
Q: Our Prime Minister spoke about how G-20 India presidency should be a national celebration, not a sarkari function. Amidst the global gloom caused by recession, inflation, unemployment, slowing GDPs and now Covid, can India take on the challenge of leading the world?
A: India is leading the charge of G-20 at a time when there are many challenges facing the world. There is global slowdown, inflation, recession and Covid has had a big impact on slowing down economies. Around 20 crore people have become poor, 10 crore people are unemployed, climate and finance have been hugely impacted, global supply chains have been disrupted, and Covid has resurged. from China.
These are big challenges to overcome, but every challenge presents an opportunity. That’s why, I feel, India’s G-20 presidency presents a big opportunity to show global leadership. Our priorities have been chosen to keep all these things in mind because India has worked a lot in sectors of fast payments, digital transformation, digital identity, data empowerment and bank accounts. We vaccinated 2 billion people during Covid, and nowhere did we use paperwork; it was all cashless, paperless and digital. Similarly, every person has a digital identity, a bank account. Our digital payments are 7% more than US, France, Germany, the whole of Europe, and 3% more than China.
So, if during Covid we gave 37 crore people the transfer benefit because of which nobody slipped below poverty line, it’s a lesson on how using digitization we can transform the world.
There are somewhere around 70 nations that are in global debt, as many as 133 nations do not have digital payment, 400 crore people have no digital identity, and 200 crore people have no bank account. How can we take India’s digital model to the world, how can we take India’s success narrative to the world—G-20 presents us this big opportunity.
Q: Has Prime Minister Narendra Modi already set the global narrative of India as the Vishwa Guru?
A: G-20 Bali showed us that throughout the year there was no communication during their meetings. But the meeting in Bali for Sherpas India took charge and brought together the developing countries to convince, G7, Russia and China, thereby bringing out the joint communiqué.
In Indonesia, the heads of states agreed that India played a big role. Similarly, during the digital transformation talk, every world leader said that India took this leadership due to this tag and that this model should be implemented in all developing countries. Thirdly, the biggest thing is that India is the voice of the Global South. The developing nations have India as their voice and this is very important because the challenges they face, including global debt, digital transformation, literacy and health, they are all taken forward by India.
Q: It is significant, diplomatically and strategically, that G-20 meetings are taking place in Srinagar in Kashmir, Itanagar in Arunachal and Leh in Ladakh. What is the underlying message being sent to the world?
A: India’s first message was through its theme “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and the second message, “One Earth, One Family, One Future”. Be it our different political philosophies, ideologies, different geographies, but we all come from one cosmos, we are all born from one cosmic web. That’s why it is important for us to work together with oneness. Of course, there is unity in diversity but we have to work for citizens of the world when 33 leaders come together and this message of unity in diversity is brought forward by India.
Q: Can India use the G-20 platform to put forth India’s agendas, including India’s long-standing demand of being part of the United Nations P5 grouping or stringent actions the United Nations and the world must take against terrorism?
A: Our message is that of inclusive, resilient, sustainable growth and digital transformation. We are also highlighting women-led development today, in our country, for every 2,000 men, there are 1,078 women as per latest statistics. Our message will also be that the multilateral order since World War II is outdated and it is important we make a new model and it is important that new, developing countries play a major role in the new world order.