While India’s rise as an emerging market is being appreciated globally, especially the multilateral institutions, it has got an opportunity to lead a meaningful conversation between the global South and North under the G-20 Presidency. But China’s recent utterances and activities show that it is not at ease with India’s rise.
For Beijing, it is difficult to swallow that India is rising in global stature and influence whereas, China is being looked as an autocratic country with an aspiration to be a global power through economic development bereft of elements of sustainable development and with a military expansionist approach, both regionally and globally. Much to its dislike, Beijing could neither pressurise nor allure India to steer ahead its skewed agenda.
India is geared up with organising 215 G-20 summits in 55 venues under its presidency with the objective of sharing its human-centric sustainable development goals by using tech power. The very motto ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ of G-20 led by India is impressive for its intent of inclusiveness encompasses all, leaving none, under its “one earth, one family and one future” notion.
China envies as it feels that India is using G-20 platform to enhance its stature and influence and realize its own political objectives. Further, many of G-20 agenda under Indian presidency offers challenge to Beijing’s designs to be a global power.
As a competing proposition to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), India is to promote a Global Infrastructure Hub (GIH) into a multilateral institution that may have a higher appeal among G-20 members as it could avoid future supply chain disruptions on participating economies. The new Hub would work with organisations like the World Bank and the IMF to increase the scale of sustainable infrastructure & climate resilient financing and include new norms like green infra projects, quite unlike the BRI.
Contrary to Beijing’s confrontationist approach, Indian leadership enjoys the credentials of a consensus builder on global issues – bilateral or multilateral. While forming objectives and their implementation, India takes into consideration perceptions and concerns of all the stakeholders. This was also demonstrated in the last G-20 Summit’s Bali Declaration, promoting to build harmony among G-20 members. This would go a long way in assigning a global role to India.
India considers technology as an instrument of progress, transformation, and inclusiveness. It wants to showcase its achievements in digital infrastructure, emphasising the importance of quality data for a nation’s developmental goals. It wants to share its experiences with all participating countries towards shared and common benefits. This inclusiveness as well common welfare of the world has caught many authoritarian countries off guard. China would especially be more concerned because its tech companies and their products are seen with doubt regarding data security.
At the domestic level, G-20 is an opportunity for India to promote its own development agenda and economic interests like trade, investment, technological cooperation and tourism sector, among others. India’s Tourism Summits under G-20 plan are spread over from Kashmir to Goa so as to showcase the diversity of people, culture and geography of the land. Indian efforts to promote development of Kashmir and other bordering regions with China to a higher pace is irking Beijing. The recent face off at Tawang by Chinese military reflects this sentiment. If there would be need, India would show the international observance that whatever it is doing is well under its own territory unlike China.
There is of course opportunity for India in G-20 Presidency to bring the truth before the advanced and developing countries about myths and lies perpetrated by adversaries for political motives. Some of the non-ministerial level Summits have been planned towards this goal.
The Summit which is going to be held in Siliguri in Indian state of West Bengal is located in the international border intersection of three countries India, Bhutan and Sikkim. Siliguri is in a strategic location and only 127 km from the Doklam area where India-China clash took place. Holding the summit in Siliguri is planned to attract international attention to China’s territorial encroachment in the region and also to boost tourism in this picture square location. It also intends to showcase development in northeastern part of the country, which is hitherto described as less developed.
These efforts may highlight China’s disrespect for territorial integrity of India, especially in the northeast.
There are lots of myths about Kashmir as well. Being a border Union Territory marked by a special history like other princely states of India, it had acceded to India after independence. It has remained an integral part of India since times immemorial. India would hold a summit in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir to remove the myths and lies proliferated by the adversaries and promote tourism industry, giving employment to the local population. It would also showcase developments in the region, essentially initiatives by the Union and local governments in bringing peace and development in the region undermining Chinese and Pakistani propaganda.
Another concern for China and Pakistan is that G-20 gives India an opportunity to be a global leader to build consensus on climate, counter-terrorism and other related issues and seek cooperation from G-20 members including China to resolve these issues.
Islamabad and its protector in the UN are worried more about chances of G-20 cooperation in counter-terrorism and against military expansionism in the continent under the Indian leadership.
Beijing’s ambition to rise as a global power raises many questions on its methods which are often undemocratic and unethical. However, dealing with China would be a “challenge” for India during its G-20 Presidency and New Delhi would adopt a “cautious approach” towards Beijing.
New Delhi’s first priority during its G-20 Presidency is to restore the economic order that provides stability and creates an atmosphere conducive to the growth for Covid-hit economies. Another important priority for India during its Presidency would be to address the issues of concern to the developing world such as energy security, food security, climate security and to see how India’s voice and perspective can be infused into the G-20 in maintaining balanced growth. All this would put India on a higher pedestal as a potential global leader.
It is just the beginning and India’s journey to global leadership would require much more than just sustaining higher growth, building a strong military, and nurturing democracy. It would have to act as a technology hub and a consensus makers on global issues. G-20 is a diverse group of advanced and developing nations and it is rare that an Indian perspective is recognized by a powerful grouping like the G-20.
However, India’s role would enable the G-20 to find a consensus on various issues, says Pankaj Saran, a former Deputy National Security Adviser. Notwithstanding differences of perceptions, Beijing has no option but to deal with India as the G-20 President.