G20: A Unique Opportunity for India in a Mad-bad World

Reaching another breakthrough in the year it completes 75 years of Independence, hosting the 18th G20 summit will be a stepping stone for India on its journey of becoming a leading power. The parleys shaping the atmosphere includes how will and how should India leverage this seminal moment which will shape its momentum in the decades to come. The current G20 presidency comes at a time when the world is witnessing instability in every domain. The world is neither truly multipolar, nor bipolar or unipolar. As the world hangs in a limbo, it opens an opportunity of window for New Delhi to mould the emerging brave new world. A world where everybody is taking a haircut to create a landing space, and all the feet is on the accelerator, India will have to take the responsibility to apply brakes and shape the order of things to come. 

Strategic autonomy – Polestar of India’s Foreign Policy 

New Delhi has always harmonized the national interests of other countries, while also advancing its own since 1947. Even during the current Russia-Ukraine crisis India has maintained a neutral stance by not picking sides and also manage to keep China at bay. As the rivalry of great power politics continues to sharpen, the situation will become more entangled and will put India’s diplomatic skills at test. Aspiring to be a developed country by 2047, India will require help from all quarters, thus pushing India to choose between multiples of countries. Strategic autonomy will continue to remain the guiding star of India’s foreign policy as the global rebalancing takes place. At the same time this multiplicity will offer New Delhi a broader horizon to diversify its relations. 

Multiple multilaterals – Challenges or Cohesion? 

The pillars of the Bretton Woods system like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank have been shaking today. These multilateral institutions of the 20th century are no more able to serve the interests of the 21st century. Lack of reforms like inadequate representation and membership, lackadaisical approach in increasing the amount of quotas of certain countries, changes in the funding mechanism, and unfair and unequal distribution clogs the wheel of progress of these institutions. This has ultimately led to the rise of parallel institutions like New Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, Euronet and System for transfer of financial messages in place of Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). The formation of such varied multilaterals point towards an emerging order that is characterized by multiple institutions serving a similar cause. Will it foster cooperation among countries or will it create more challenges for cohesion? Will it bring back the stability of yesterday or shape a new order? The birth pangs of such parallel institutions by major economies also raises questions on who will set the rules, for whom and who will actually follow them in an uncertain world.  It sets a slippery slope for the growth of multiple institutions in an emerging world order which will rather make the world look more chaotic and cumbersome. It remains to be seen how New Delhi being a member of various institutions balances its stand and also give effect to reformed multilateralism by bringing all the members on board. It’s a chance for India to truly showcase its leadership skills while justifying its theme ‘One Earth One Family One Future’. 

Indian Ocean region is central to Indo-Pacific region 

With the world going distraught over the Indo-Pacific region – new streaks of cooperation, confrontation, contestation and conflict are coming to light. It becomes quintessentially significant for India which is a residential power and occupies 40% of the strategic waters, to leverage Indian Ocean region in the larger Indo-Pacific region. The nomenclature of the Indo-Pacific region is incomplete without the primacy of the Indian Ocean region. And this is the opportune moment for India to harness all its diplomatic skills, political willingness, economic capability and military capacity towards the region where it is centrally located. India’s role is pivotal due to its historical relationship, diasporic ties and strategic importance, in bringing together all the littoral countries and island nations in a well weaved net. A closed intact neighbourhood will give India ample space to rise and lead the world. 

As India deals with the little mad and more bad world, mentioned by Subramanian Jaishankar, it is no way competing with any other power in the region or beyond. Instead, India will compete with its past to complete its future. Where opportunities hover, so do the challenges. India will have to navigate its way by dealing with different power alignments and realignments in an emerging world order. Otherwise, usually considered as a backbencher when it comes to trade and economic issues, India will now have to pull up its socks and take wider economic roles and responsibilities in the times to come. An economically sound India will only be able to deliver its high stalled promises. India will remain an important pole of any emerging world order, and thus it must use the high table to form tactical friendships and minimize opposition to serve its interests.

[Image credit: G20 Secretariat, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India]

*Radhey Tambi is a research associate (Indo-Pacific Group) at the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), New Delhi. Currently, she is undertaking a research study on “Leveraging India’s interest through island nations in the Indian Ocean Region” for her book proposal. She has completed her post-graduation in Geopolitics and International Relations from Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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