Q: The G-20 Presidency has given India the opportunity to promote its vision for a sustainable, inclusive and equitable world, and to raise its profile as a leader in the Indo-Pacific region. With just days left for the summit, please share your thoughts on achievements of Indian Presidency.
A: To answer this question, we need to set the context on two aspects. The first is on the formation of the G20. Second is the context in which India got the G20 Presidency.
The genesis of the G20 was at the end of the last century. The major economies of the world got together with a vision of a collective and coordinated response to economic crises. Its salience grew even more during the global economic crisis in the first decade of the 21st century.
But when the pandemic struck, the world understood that in addition to the economic challenges, there were also other important and immediate challenges impacting humanity.
By this time, the world was already taking note of India's human-centric model of development. Whether it was economic growth, technological progress, institutional delivery or social infrastructure, they were all being taken to the last mile, ensuring none was left behind.
There was greater awareness of these massive strides being taken by India. It was acknowledged that the country which used to be seen just as a large market had become a part of the solutions to the global challenges.
Looking at India's experience, it was recognized that a human-centric approach works even during a crisis. India's response to the pandemic through a clear and coordinated approach, direct assistance to the most vulnerable using technology, coming up with vaccines and running the world's largest vaccine drive, and sharing medicines and vaccines with nearly 150 countries were noted and well appreciated.
By the time India became the president of G20, our words and vision for the world were not being taken merely as ideas but as a roadmap for the future.
Before we complete our G20 Presidency, over 1 lakh delegates will have visited India. They have been going to different regions, witnessing our demography, democracy and diversity. They are also seeing how a fourth D, development, has been empowering the people over the last decade. There is a growing understanding that
many of the solutions that the world needs are already being successfully implemented in our country, with speed and scale.
Many positive impacts are coming out of India's G20 Presidency. Some of them are very close to my heart.
The shift to a human-centric approach has begun globally and we are playing the role of a catalyst.
The effort towards greater inclusion for the Global South, especially Africa in global affairs has gained momentum.
India's G20 Presidency has also sowed the seeds of confidence in the countries of the so-called Third World'. They are gaining greater confidence to shape the direction of the world in the coming years on many issues such as climate change and global institutional reforms.
We will move faster towards a more representative and inclusive order where every voice is heard.
Further, all this will happen with the cooperation of the developed countries, because today, they are acknowledging the potential of the Global South more than ever before and recognizing the aspirations of these countries as a force for the global good.
Q: G-20 has emerged as the most influential bloc in the world, comprising 85 per cent of the global GDP. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the G-20 as you hand over the Presidency to Brazil. What advice will you give to President Lula.
A: It is certainly true that G20 is an influential grouping. However, I want to address the part of your question that speaks about 85 per cent GDP of the world'.
As I already said, a GDP-centric view of the world is now changing to a human-centric one. Like a new world order was seen after World War 2, a new world order is taking shape post-COVID. The parameters of influence and impact are changing and this needs to be recognized.
The Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas' model that has shown the way in India can also be a guiding principle for the welfare of the world.
Irrespective of the size of the GDP, every voice matters.
Further, it would not be right for me to give any country any advice on what to do during their G20 Presidency. Everyone brings their unique strengths to the table.
I have had the privilege of interacting with my friend President Lula and I respect his abilities and vision. I wish him and the people of Brazil great success in all their initiatives during the G20 Presidency.
We will still be part of the Troika over the next year which will ensure our continued constructive contribution to the G20 beyond our Presidency as well.
I avail of this opportunity to acknowledge the support that we received from our predecessor in the G20 Presidency, Indonesia and President Widodo. We will carry forward the same spirit into the Presidency of our successor, Brazil.
Q: India has proposed making the Africa Union a permanent member of G-20. How will it help in giving a voice to the global south a presence. why is that voice important to be heard in the international fora.
A: Before I answer your question, I would like to draw your attention to the theme of our G20 Presidency - Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam One Earth, One Family, One Future'. It is not just a slogan but a comprehensive philosophy that is derived from our cultural ethos.
This guides our outlook within India and towards the world too. Look at our track record within India.
We identified districts that were earlier labelled backward' and neglected. We brought a fresh approach and empowered the aspirations of the people there. The Aspirational Districts programme was launched. It is bearing wonderful results with many of these districts showing significant progress. We identified villages and households without electricity and electrified them.
We identified households without access to drinking water and provided 10 crore tap water connections.
Similarly, we reached those without facilities such as sanitation and bank accounts, enabling access and empowerment.
This is the approach that guides us even at the global level. We work for the inclusion of those who feel their voices are not being heard.
Take the example of health. We believe in the vision of One Earth, One Health'. This is manifesting itself in different ways.
India's ancient systems of Yoga and Ayurveda are helping the world bring a paradigm shift in the focus towards health and wellness.
During COVID-19, our approach was not that of isolation but of integration. Despite our constraints, we assisted nearly 150 countries of the world with medicines and vaccines. Many of these countries were from the Global South.
There have been many climate meetings over the decades. These discussions, despite the best intentions, would end up revolving around who is to blame.
But we took a positive and affirmative approach with a can do' spirit. We set up the International Solar Alliance and took the initiative to bring countries together under the vision of One World One Sun One Grid'.
Similarly, we started the Coalition for Disaster Resilience so that countries across the world, especially developing countries, learn from each other and build infrastructure that is resilient even during disasters.
We have also worked with small island nations of the world to further their interests, including under the Forum of India and Pacific Island Countries.
When we say we see the world as a family, we truly mean it. Every country's voice matters, no matter the size, economy or region. In this, we are also inspired by the humane vision and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, and Kwame Nkrumah.
Our affinity to Africa is natural. We have had millennia-old cultural and commerce ties with Africa. We have a shared history of movements against colonialism. As a youthful and aspirational nation ourselves, we also relate to the people of Africa and their aspirations.
In the last few years, this relationship has got even stronger. One of the earliest summits that I held after becoming Prime Minister was the India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015. Over 50 countries from Africa participated and it greatly strengthened our partnership.
Later, in 2017, for the first time, a summit of the African Development Bank was held outside Africa, in Ahmedabad.
Africa is a top priority for us even within the G20. One of the first things we did during our G20 Presidency was to hold the Voice of the Global South summit, which had enthusiastic participation from Africa.
We believe that no plan for the future of the planet can be successful without the representation and recognition of all voices. There is a need to come out of a purely utilitarian worldview and embrace a Sarva Jana Hitaaya, Sarva Jana Sukhaaya' model.
Q: You launched the Solar Alliance a few years ago. Now you are proposing a bio-fuel alliance, which we believe you will unveil at G-20. What is the objective and how will it help import-dependent countries like India on energy security.
A: There is a big difference between the world of the 20th century and the 21st century. The world is more interconnected and interdependent, and rightly so. But we must understand that in an interconnected and interdependent world, the greater the capacities and capabilities of the countries around the world, the greater the global resilience.
When the links in a chain are weak, each crisis further weakens the complete chain. But when the links are strong, the global chain can handle any crisis, utilizing each other's strengths.
In a way, this thought can also be seen in Mahatma Gandhi's vision of self-sufficiency, which continues to be relevant at a global level too.
Further, the protection and preservation of our planet for our future generations is a shared responsibility that needs to be given top priority.
We have been making great progress in climate-centric initiatives within India.
India ramped up its solar energy capacity 20-fold in just a few years. India is among the top four nations in the world in terms of wind energy.
In the electric vehicle revolution, India is playing an important role in both innovation and adoption.
We are perhaps the first among the G20 countries to have achieved our climate targets 9 years ahead of the scheduled date. Our action against single-use plastic has been recognized across the world. We have also made great strides in safe sanitation and cleanliness.
Naturally, we have moved from being just a member of global efforts to playing a leading role in many initiatives. Initiatives like the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure are bringing countries together for
the planet. The ISA has got a great response with over 100 countries joining it!
Our Mission LiFE initiative focuses on Lifestyle for Environment. Today, in each society we have people who are health conscious. What they buy, what they eat, what they do each decision is based on how it serves their health. Their choices are not only guided by how it will affect them today but also by the long-term impact. Similarly,
people across the world can come together to become planet conscious. Each lifestyle decision can be made based on what impact it will have on the planet in the long term.
Now, the biofuel alliance is another step in this direction.
Such alliances are aimed at creating options for developing countries to advance their energy transitions. Biofuels are also important from the perspective of a circular economy. Markets, trade, technology, and policy all aspects of international cooperation are crucial in creating such opportunities.
Such alternatives can enhance energy security, create opportunities for domestic industry, and create green jobs all crucial elements in ensuring a transition that leaves no one behind.
Q: Even your critics have admired the way you made G-20 a buzzword during India's Presidency and planned a year-long calendar of high-profile meetings across the country. This was unprecedented. How did you envisage this concept of spreading G-20 meetings across India. What was the rationale behind this strategy?
A: We have observed many instances in the past where some countries, even if small in size, took up the responsibility of organising high-profile global meets, including ones like the Olympics. These mega congregations had a positive and transformational impact. They spurred growth and changed their outlook towards themselves and also the way the world started to recognize their abilities. In fact, it became a turning point in their development journey.
India, across its various states, union territories and cities has so much potential to welcome, host and connect with the world.
Unfortunately, in the past, there used to be an attitude of getting things done right here in Delhi, in and around Vigyan Bhavan. Perhaps because it was an easy way out. Or perhaps because those in power lacked confidence in the people of different parts of the country to successfully execute plans of such scale.
I have great belief in the abilities of our people. I come from an organizational background and there are many experiences during that phase of life from which I learned a lot. I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand the feats common citizens were capable of when given a platform and an opportunity. So, we reformed the approach.
If you observe carefully, over the years, we trusted the people of every region. Here are some examples. The 8th BRICS Summit happened in Goa. The 2nd FIPIC summit involving many Pacific Island nations happened in Jaipur. The Global Entrepreneurship Summit happened in Hyderabad.
Similarly, we ensured that many foreign leaders who visited our country were hosted at various places across the country rather than just in Delhi. The same approach is continuing in G20 too, at a larger scale.
By the time our G20 Presidency term ends, over 220 meetings would have happened across 60 cities in all 28 states and 8 union territories. Over 1 lakh participants from around 125 nationalities would have witnessed the skills of Indians. Over 1.5 crore people in our country have been involved in these programmes or have come in touch with some aspects of them.
Each such global scale assignment has pushed capacity building in several domains such as management of logistics, hospitality, tourism, soft skills, and execution of projects, among others. This has been a big boost to the self-confidence of the people of each region. Now, they know they can deliver something world-class. This capacity and confidence will also get channelized into various other constructive endeavours that will push progress and prosperity.
Moreover, we are not only conducting meetings across all states but each state is also ensuring they leave their unique cultural stamp on the minds of the delegates. This is also giving the world an idea of India's incredible diversity. I have also appealed to various states during the Chief Ministers meeting that they should ensure that each
state continues to strengthen its relationship with the delegates who visited them during G20 and their countries. This will also open up a lot of opportunities for the people in future.
So, there is a deeper plan behind the decentralization of the activities related to G20. We are investing in capacity building in our people, our institutions and our cities.
Q: More than 200 sectoral meetings took place in India during 2023 ranging from tourism to health, climate change to health, women empowerment to energy transition. How many of them have produced concrete outcomes to your satisfaction. Are there some areas where you see we could have done more.
A: There are two aspects to this answer. The first is that you must ask me the question about outcomes in December, after our term ends. Moreover, in keeping with the sanctity of the upcoming Summit, it would not be correct on my part to spell out details right now.
But there is another aspect that I would certainly like to speak about. Many important issues have been taken up over the last year.
In the spirit of taking the entire One Earth along as One Family towards One Future that is sustainable and equitable, several issues have been discussed and taken forward.
There are various levels at which meetings have happened in the G20.
An important kind is the Ministerial meeting since it is high-profile and has a great chance of immediate policy impact. Let me give you some examples from the Ministerial meetings.
Over 13 Ministerial meetings have been organised and several successful outcomes have been adopted.
One of the priorities of our Presidency was to accelerate climate action by democratizing it. Focusing on lifestyle impact on climate, through Mission LiFE, is a way of truly democratizing this issue because the power to make a positive impact on the planet is there with every individual. At the Development Ministers Meeting, G20 adopted the Action Plan to accelerate progress on SDGs and Lifestyles for Sustainable Development.
Similarly, the Agriculture Ministers successfully adopted Deccan High Level Principles on Food Security and Nutrition. These will help alleviate global hunger and malnutrition. Given our passion for our sustainable superfood, Shree Anna, the Agriculture Ministers also launched the international initiative for research on millets and other ancient grains while also bringing focus on the importance of climatesmart and digital approach to agriculture.
The Ministerial Conference on Women's Empowerment built consensus on bridging the gender digital divide, reducing gaps in labour force participation and enabling a larger role for women in positions of leadership and decision-making.
The Energy Ministers have also delivered consensus on the high-level principles for hydrogen and have laid a foundation for establishing the Global Biofuels Alliance, amongst several other outcomes.
The Environment and Climate Ministers have made progress on the launch of an industry-led Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Industry Coalition while setting an ambitious target of achieving a 50 per cent reduction in land degradation by 2040.
The Labour and Employment ministers also achieved consensus for developing an international reference for the classification of occupations to enable mutual recognition of skills across borders. This will help demand to meet supply, and help industries find human capital.
The Trade and Investment Ministers have also adopted high-level principles for the digitalisation of trade documents, which will boost trade and contribute to Ease of Doing Business.
These are just some of the important developments. Across domains, there are many more. In the coming years, these will prove to be pivotal for the direction that the world takes.
Q: Some of our neighbours raised objections to the venues of some of the meetings. What message did we send by hosting foreign leaders at G-20 in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, notwithstanding objection by Pakistan and China.
A: I am surprised that PTI is asking such a question. Such a question would be valid if we had refrained from conducting meetings in those venues.
Ours is such a vast, beautiful and diverse nation. When G20 meetings are happening, isn't it natural that meetings will be held in every part of our country?
Q: India assumed the G20 Presidency when most member nations were facing a threat of recession while India was the only bright spot. How has India leveraged its position as the fastest growing economy to forge a consensus on credit flow, inflation control and global tax deals.
A: In the three decades before 2014, our country saw many governments that were unstable and therefore, unable to get much done.
But in the last few years, the people have given a decisive mandate, which has led to a stable government, predictable policies and clarity in the overall direction.
This stability is the reason that over the past nine years, several reforms were brought in. These reforms, related to the economy, education, financial sector, banks, digitalization, welfare, inclusion and social sector, have laid a strong foundation and growth is a natural by-product.
The rapid and sustained progress made by India naturally evoked interest across the world and many countries have been watching our growth story very closely. They are convinced that this progress is not an accident but is happening as a result of a clear, action-oriented roadmap of Reform, Perform, Transform'.
For a long time, India was perceived as a nation of over 1 billion hungry stomachs. But now, India is being seen as a nation of over 1 billion aspirational minds, more than 2 billion skilled hands, and hundreds of millions of young people. We are not only the most populous country in the world but also the nation with the largest youth population. So, perspectives about India have changed.
Further, India's calibrated and measured fiscal and monetary response to the pandemic ensured macroeconomic stability while addressing the needs of the people. At the same time, every rupee that was meant for the poor reached them immediately, without any leakages or delays, due to our impressive digital public infrastructure.
Several such factors provided a strong credible foundation upon which we could build our G20 Presidency agenda. This is the reason we have been able to bring nations of the world together to discuss, deliberate and deliver on various issues.
Inflation is a key issue that the world faces. Our G20 Presidency engaged the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. It was recognized that timely and clear communication of policy stances by Central Banks is crucial. This can ensure that policies taken by each country to combat inflation do not lead to negative repercussions in other countries.
Significant emphasis was also placed on enabling countries to share policy experiences on how they tackle the challenges associated with food and energy price volatility especially since food and energy markets are closely interconnected.
As far as international taxation is concerned, India used the G20 forum to provide a strong impetus to achieve significant progress on Pillar One, including the delivery of a text of a Multilateral Convention. This Convention will allow countries and jurisdictions to move forward with historic, major reform of the international tax system. As you can see, there is substantial progress across many issues. This is also a result of the confidence that other partner countries have shown in India’s Presidency.
Q: Are we expecting any consensus at the G-20 summit on the challenge of debt restructuring, which has become a problem for the global South. Is India helping countries trapped in the Chinese debt trap such as Sri Lanka, Sudan etc. How much increase in allocation of assistance has India made to these countries.
A: I am happy that you asked me a question on this topic. The debt crisis is indeed a matter of great concern for the world, especially developing countries. Citizens from different countries are keenly following the decisions being taken by governments in this regard. There are some appreciable results too.
First, countries that are going through debt crisis or have gone through it, have begun to give greater importance to financial discipline. Second, others who have seen some countries facing tough times due to the debt crisis are conscious of avoiding the same missteps. You are well aware that I have urged our state governments to be conscious about financial discipline as well. Whether it is in the National Conference of Chief Secretaries or any such platform, I have said that financially irresponsible policies and populism may give political results in the short term but will extract a great social and economic price in the long term. Those who suffer those consequences the most are often the poorest and the most vulnerable.
Our G20 Presidency has placed a significant emphasis on addressing the global challenges posed by debt vulnerabilities, especially for nations in the Global South. G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors have acknowledged the good progress in debt treatment of Common Framework countries and beyond the Common Framework too. We have also been greatly sensitive to the needs of our valued neighbour, Sri Lanka, during their tough times. To accelerate global debt restructuring efforts, the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable, a joint initiative of the IMF, World Bank and the G20 Presidency was launched earlier this year. This will strengthen communication among key stakeholders and facilitate effective debt treatment.
While a lot is being done to address these issues, as I said earlier, I am positive that rising awareness among the people of different countries will ensure that such situations don’t recur often.
Q: Your message to President Putin in Samarkand that this is not an era of war has won worldwide endorsement. Given the differences between G-7 and China-Russia combine, it will be difficult for the bloc to adopt this message. In that context what can India do as the president to help forge a consensus, and what will be your personal message to the leaders to help build that consensus.
A: There are many different conflicts across various regions. All of them need to be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. This is our stand on any conflict anywhere. Whether as G20 president or not, we will support every effort to ensure peace across the world. We recognize that we all have our positions and our perspectives on various global issues. At the same time, we have repeatedly emphasized that a divided world will find it difficult to fight common challenges.
The world is looking at G20 to deliver results on many issues such as growth, development, climate change, pandemics, and disaster resilience, which affect every part of the world. We can all face these challenges better if we are united.
We have and we will always stand in support of peace, stability and progress.
Q: When you set the 2070 goal you saw fossil fuels playing a dominant role in countries like India, which was frowned upon by the West. But most of the countries in the world realized the importance of fossil fuels post Ukraine conflict with some in Europe switching back to coal and gas. How do you see the climate change targets progressing in the post-Ukraine war era.
A: Our principle is simple – diversity is our best bet, whether in society or in terms of our energy mix. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Given the different pathways countries are on, our pathways for energy transition will be different.
Despite having 17% of the world’s population, India’s historic share in cumulative emissions has been less than 5%. Yet, we have left no stone unturned in meeting our climate goals. I have already spoken about our various achievements in this domain in my reply to an earlier question. So, we are certainly on track while also tailoring in various factors needed to ensure growth.
As for the future of the fight against climate change, I am extremely positive about it. We are working with other nations to alter the approach from a restrictive to a constructive approach. Rather than focusing purely on the approach of don’t do this or that, we want to bring in an attitude that makes people and nations aware of what they can do and help them with that, in terms of finance, technology and other resources.
Q: Cyber crimes have added a new dimension to the fight against money laundering and terrorism. On a scale of 1 to 10 where should G-20 be placing it and where it is presently.
Cyber threats are to be taken very seriously. One angle of their adverse impact is the financial losses they cause. The World Bank estimates that cyber-attacks could have caused losses of around $5.2 trillion to the world during 2019-2023.
But their impact goes beyond just financial aspects into activities that are deeply worrying. These can have social and geopolitical implications. Cyberterrorism, online radicalization, use of networked platforms to move funds from money laundering to drugs and terrorism – are just the tip of the iceberg.
Cyberspace has introduced an entirely new dimension to the battle against illicit financial activities and terrorism. Terrorist organizations are using technology for radicalisation, moving money from money laundering and drugs into terror funding, and capitalizing on emerging digital avenues such as the dark net, metaverse, and cryptocurrency platforms to fulfil their nefarious aims.
Further, they can also have implications for the social fabric of nations. The spread of ‘deep fakes’ can cause chaos and loss of credibility of news sources. Fake news and deep fakes can be used to fuel social unrest. So, it is of concern to every group, every nation, and every family. That is why we have taken this up as a priority. We hosted a G20 Conference on Crime and Security in the age of NFTs, Artificial Intelligence and Metaverse. During this conference, concern was expressed over malicious cyber activities contrary to established norms, principles and rules of cyberspace and international law. It was stressed that coordination on prevention and mitigation strategies is needed. Emphasis was placed on the need to achieve a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes.
There may be many domains in which global cooperation is desirable. But in the domain of cyber security, global cooperation is not only desirable but is inevitable. Because the threat dynamics are distributed – handlers are somewhere, assets are somewhere else, they are speaking through servers hosted in a third place, and their funding could come from a completely different region. Unless all the nations in the chain cooperate, very little is possible.
Q: The UN is increasingly being seen as a talk shop, which has failed to resolve most pressing issues facing the world. Can G-20 be a platform to reinvent multilateral institutions to make them more relevant to today's challenges and give India its rightful place in the global order. How important is the media’s role in highlighting this.
Today’s world is a multipolar world where institutions are extremely important for a rules-based order that is fair and sensitive to all concerns. However, institutions can retain relevance only when they change with the times. A mid-20th century approach cannot serve the world in the 21st century. So, our international institutions need to recognize changing realities, expand their decision-making forums, relook at their priorities and ensure representation of voices that matter.
When this is not done on time, then smaller or regional forums begin to attain more importance. The G20 is certainly one of the institutions that is being looked at with hope by many countries. Because the world is looking for actions and outcomes, no matter where they come from. India’s Presidency of the G-20 has come at such a juncture. In this context, India's position within the global framework becomes especially pertinent. As a diverse nation, the Mother of Democracy, the home to one of the world’s largest populations of youth, and the growth engine of the world, India has a lot to contribute to the shaping of the future of the world. The G20 has provided a platform for India to further its human-centric vision and also collaboratively work towards innovative solutions to problems that are faced by humanity as a whole.