TODAY -

For PM Modi, G20 leadership has come at the right time

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi *



For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leadership of the G20 grouping could not have come at a better time – as it presents to him an opportunity to showcase his global leadership position and give his admirers a lot to crow about even as the country is beset with a host of problems on the economic front as India his battles inflation like the rest of the world.

A little comfort it is for the common man in India that inflation is a global phenomenon as it does not help him in any concrete way or be comforting him to know this ground reality. The Union Government, citing this, sounds somewhat similar to the previous Congress Governments' alibi about foreign hand, and global pressures, for economic ills plaguing the Nation then.

But, what the G20 presidency presents to Modi and his supporters is a chance to hammer home the point that the entire world was looking to Modiji in the time of trouble as India gets to head the world's richest and powerful group of Nations. The next year's show–of G20 meet in India–comes just at the right time as the Government, and the BJP, in this order, can milk the event for the spin off benefits it gives in domestic politics.

For sure, sections of the county's populace are excited at the presidency of the G20 grouping, a ceremonial position no doubt, but it does give India a chance that the world will be listening to its voice on several issues with a tad more seriousness and its views could also be accommodated in articulating global position on any issue.

It is this window of opportunity that Prime Minister Modi would be placed to exploit fully to his benefit in domestic politics, it adds to the perception of the Prime Minister being viewed as the Vishwa Guru. Already, Prime Minister Modi's sobering and sagacious suggestion on the futility of war–articulated through his by now famous quo.

`Today's era must be of war' – is an indication of how seriously the world is expected to hear and listen to him, on any issue. The photos emerging out of the Bali congregation of G20 heads of State are powerful images being presented by the BJP and its supporters as India becoming the world leader (Vishwa guru).

The fact that the G20 will function out from a headquarters in New Delhi, as it does not have a permanent secretariat, adds to the overall impression that could be created as it would function as the administrative nerve centre for the grouping.

As the head of the grouping, Prime Minister Modi will be the man in charge of convening meetings and in general be the person carrying out management of activities of G20–something that he excels in, in thinking out of the box for creating events and impression on a scale that not many fathom at this moment. For the record, G20, established in 1999 as G7, the group has grown to include 19 Nations and the European Union.

It is a group that focuses on economic cooperation, the world's finances and sustainable development. Politics is not something that is associated with this grouping which deliberates on the economic problems and tries to find out acceptable and workable solutions.

From the practical politics point of view, domestically, all this gives the Prime Minister and the Central Government an opportunity to present a face of India to the world, and to the country, the Nation on the move during the annual summit likely to be held next September (which would be on the eve of 2024 Lok Sabha general elections, so to speak).

The fact that India continues to be the fastest growing large economy in the world, and that it is forecast to become the third largest economy in the near future, will of course be counted, and propagated, the achievements of the Modi Government.

And if the Modi Government can focus on economy, tame domestic inflation, provide some relief to the common man on the prices of essentials and work out a strategy of ensuring growth-with-jobs as against an apparent jobless growth that we are witnessing–as evident from the rising profits of the corporate sector amid job cuts and shrinking outputs–it would be successfully blunting the Opposition onslaught effectively.

But this is easier said than done. It can be seen that India has assumed the leadership of the G20, when the G20 is itself in a crisis–given the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which itself has adversely affected the global economy. Russia is a member of the G20 while Ukraine is not. Although politics is not on the agenda of the G20, it sure does have its impact on the overall positions taken by the respective Nations, with the effect that at present Russia is fighting the combined might of the US, UK, France, and Germany besides other NATO members in Europe.

Russia fmds only China on its side in any global association, including the 020. One good thing for India, and the G20 with India as the leader, is that India has been neutral in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine but can India use this position to mediate and get the two Nations to resolve this difference through negotiations. This, of course, presents the biggest challenge for any world lead., and in case Prime Minister Modi manages to bring the warring sides to reason, the world will remember it for a long, long time to come.

At the recently concluded Bali Summit of G20, the leaders were unanimous that the war was having its negative impact on the world's economy. The declaration issued at the Summit read that the war was "causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy—constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks."

Besides, it noted that security issues can have significant consequences for global economy. Unfortunately, Russia-Ukraine tensions were not the only one dogging the global community as China too presents causes for worry with its friction with many Nations surrounding it–including stress with our own country–and its off and on relations with the United States and the West.

The G20 Bali summit did present US President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping a chance for holding an independent meeting, but nothing concrete in terms of solution emerged, including on the Taiwan issue. If anything, a video capturing the relationship between Chinese President and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed how tempers remain frayed between the two Nations.

So, it must be kept in mind that India's leadership of G20 grouping was coming at such a juncture. But the fact that the position has been offered to India itself, although critics may argue that it was a rotational responsibility, is sure a huge brownie point for Prime Minister Modi. And this, for sure, is going to be exploited to the hilt by the BJP's poll campaigners.

And the fact that September 2023 G20 Summit planned for Delhi, gives an opportunity to stage an event and "market" it in domestic politics and for perception building within the country. Already statements from BJP leaders and his admirers on television and social media proclaim that Prime Minister Modi was accepted as a world leader and was beyond reproach and criticism.


* Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country.
He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer and Hindustan Times.
He can be reached on kvlakshman(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 20 2022.



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