An era of Leadership: India’s presidencies of G20 and SCO

The stars have orientated themselves to make India a global leader in the era of global uncertainties. On 16 Sept 2022, India assumed the presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). On 01 Dec 2022, India also took over the presidency of G20 from Indonesia and will convene the world leaders this year. India also hosted ‘The Voice of Global South’ in New Delhi on 12-13 Jan 2023. India has to steer itself through the pulls and pushes brought to bear upon it by other powers. India has tremendous scope to play an influential role in achieving security, peace, political independence and sustainable economic development. India has to make space for itself.

The SCO is an intergovernmental organization founded in Shanghai, China, on 15 June 2001. It has eight member countries (India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), and Iran has recently joined as the 9th member. Since its inception in 2001, the SCO has mainly focused on regional security issues and its fight against regional terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism. To date, the SCO’s priorities also include regional development. The SCO has been an observer in the UN General Assembly since 2005.

India joined SCO in 2017, considering various geostrategic, security and economic issues such as evolving security situation in Afghanistan, capacity building in the Central Asian Region(CAR), connectivity with the Eurasian region, counter-terrorism and anti-narcotics, and energy cooperation. As a platform for discussion, SCO can elevate trust and collaboration between India and the other SCO members. Thus this regional organization can help serve India’s geostrategic, security and economic interests in the Eurasian region better.

SCO is the world’s largest regional organization in terms of geographic scope and population, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, 40% of the world population, and more than 30% of the global GDP.

Conversely, the G20 is a premier forum for international economic cooperation. It influences and strengthens global architecture and governance on all major international economic issues. It was founded in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis as a forum for Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to discuss global economic and financial matters. It was upgraded to the Heads of State/Government level in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis of 2007. In 2009, it was designated the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

The G20 Summit is held annually under the leadership of a rotating Presidency. The G20 initially focused mainly on broad macroeconomic issues. However, it has since expanded its agenda to inter-alia, including trade, sustainable development, health, agriculture, energy, environment, climate change, and anti-corruption.

The G20 comprises 19 countries — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, the UK and the US — and the European Union. The G20 members represent around 85% of the global GDP, over 75% of the worldwide trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.

Opportunities for India. “India’s G20 Presidency will work to promote this universal sense of one-ness. Hence our theme – ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’” – PM Narendra Modi. India has assumed the presidencies of G20 and SCO when the world’s significant powers are not even talking to each other. India alone, now the fifth largest economy, interacts with each of them, which presents historic opportunities. India also convened a virtual meeting of the 75 nations of the Global South and will host the QUAD foreign ministers meeting very soon. India has positioned itself between NATO and Russia over Ukraine and has leverage that can be used for a good cause. The Indian economy appears better prepared to withstand the world’s headwinds than other major economies. All these factors, put together, make 2023 an opportune year for India to position itself as a global leader.

India is the only major global economy likely to have 6+% GDP growth figures in the future. It outpaced Britain last year to become the fifth-largest economy in nominal GDP terms. In these global challenges, the G20 Presidency gives India a unique opportunity to strengthen its role in the world economic order. With the theme of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, India can steer an ambitious, people-centric agenda to address global challenges and facilitate sustainable economic development.

India can demonstrate its commitment to multilateral cooperation and building bridges between countries and regions. India can showcase its capabilities, interests, and recognition to the world community. Economic and military power, nuclear and space capabilities, a defining role in global affairs and systems, normative weight, and a critical mass of diplomatic, cultural, intellectual, R&D, and technological resources, high-impact foreign policy management, and external projection of hard and soft power are the few opportunities for India during this era of uncertainties and polarization.

India can also promote inclusive growth, increase investment in infrastructure, and strengthen financial regulation. It can further advocate for developing countries’ interests and promote economic cooperation and integration between developed and developing countries.

The World Bank cautioned of a possible global recession in its latest forecast, cutting down global growth estimates for 2023 and 2024 due to factors like the geopolitical scenario, persistently high inflation, and higher interest rates. However, India remains a promising figure in the current scenario. The multilateral bank reiterates that India is undeniably a global powerhouse, and India has the potential to take measures to work for the betterment of the international community.

India also has an opportunity to demonstrate its intent and content for emerging as soft power by showcasing the country’s growing influence and reputation worldwide. And can project the image of independent solid foreign policy.

Challenges before India. The supply chain disruption by the COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented challenges worldwide. The world had just recovered from the ill effects of COVID-19, and challenges emerged from the Ukraine-Russia conflict. It has badly affected the world food supply chain. There is growing uneasiness among the Chinese circle that India will use the opportunity of the G20 Presidency for its interests. China could pressurize India to soften its stance against China. Without the participation of Russia and China in the various activities related to G20 and SCO could leave India in bad taste.

  1. Internal governance challenges. The G20 countries are interested in becoming more inclusive, but there are no formal criteria for joining the group. Therefore, there are internal governance challenges. The membership is mainly based on the country’s systemic importance to global financial markets and its contribution to national GDP. There is no inclusive membership for the least economically developed countries.
  2. No code of conduct was established for the member countries. No action can be initiated against the members if they breach the rules. India could have played a better role in solving the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict had there been a code of conduct for the members.
  3. Three major socioeconomic groups have emerged: the G7, Russia-China, India and others. They are required to come together to set the global agenda.
  4. Geopolitical disruption. Geopolitical tensions spread mainly by China and the US has led to bitter competition among the nations. This is posing the biggest threat to peace and security in the world.
  5. Climate change and relations among the various countries. India, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia opposed the agreement for phasing out the use of coal and fossil fuel subsidies in July 2021. This has created a division between developed and developing countries.

This era will be a tightrope walk for India, and the solution lies in creating balance within and outside groups.

Conclusion: For India, which is profoundly dedicated to multilateralism and democracy, the G20 and SCO Presidencies would be a significant historical moment. Since its Independence, India has engaged with multilateral institutions and contributed to combating contemporary global governance challenges. India’s inclusive governance model emphasizing multilateralism promises one of the finest years of G20 and SCO leadership where multilateralism can flourish. The G20 and SCO can profoundly contribute to making globalization fairer and sustainable while transforming the processes of international negotiations.

Our world is moving towards an era of disruption, more assertive nationalism, intense competitiveness, etc. Global inconsistencies will be heightened through the fierce fire of geopolitics and geo-economics. New wrinkles would be added to an already complicated world.

The rising amidst global disorder will depend on India’s skill to differentiate itself from others. This will help India to establish its credentials as a world leader. The worth of India in such a global scenario needs to be recognized for the betterment of humanity. The rise of India is undoubtedly a story without an end.

About the Author
Colonel Balwan Nagial retired from the Indian Army in 2019 after serving for thirty years. Managed administration, security, project mgt throughout his service. He loves writing and contributing in newspapers and magazines in India. He loves Israeli culture.