Rajat Sharma

Can India as G20 president end Russia-Ukraine war?

akbIndia on Wednesday was handed over the presidency of G20 at the closing ceremony of Bali summit. Indonesian President Joko Widodo handed over the presidency of the world’s most powerful grouping to Prime Minister Narendra Modi amidst cheers from all those present.

G20 group includes the world’s major and emerging economies, and it accounts for nearly 85 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, 75 per cent of world trade and nearly two-thirds of the world’s population.

G20 includes India, USA, UK, European Union, China, Russia, France, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and South Africa.

After taking over the G20 presidency, Narendra Modi told the august gathering: “India is taking charge of the G20 at a time when the world is simultaneously grappling with geopolitical tensions, economic slowdown, rising food and energy prices, and the long-term ill-effects of the pandemic. At such a time, the world is looking at G-20 with hope. Today, I want to assure that India’s G20 presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented.”

Describing India as the ‘Mother of Democracy’, Modi said: “It is a proud occasion for every Indian that India is assuming the G20 presidency. We will organize G20 meetings in different cities and states of India and our guests will get the full experience of India’s amazing diversity, inclusive traditions and cultural richness. ….Together we will make G20 a catalyst for global change.”

On Wednesday morning, before the closing ceremony, Modi, along with other G20 leaders visited the famous Mangrove forests in Bali, as part of global conservation efforts. India has more than 55 mangrove species spread over 5,000 sq. km. These mangroves across the world , with their rich biodiversity serve as effective carbon sinks to check climate change.

The war clouds of Ukraine hovered over the G20 summit in Bali as reports came that a missile has struck a village in eastern Poland killing two people. Though Russia has denied that it has attacked Poland, US President Joe Biden has called an urgent meeting of G7 and Nato countries to discuss the emerging situation.

On the first day of Bali summit, PM Narendra Modi raised the Ukraine issue. He said: “I have repeatedly said that we have to find a way to return to the path of ceasefire and diplomacy in Ukraine. Over the past century, the Second World War wreaked havoc in the world. After that, the leaders of that time made a serious effort to take the path of peace. Now it’s our turn.”

“The onus of creating a new world order for the post-Covid period lies on our shoulders. The need of the hour is to show concrete and collective resolve to ensure peace, harmony and security in the world. I am confident that next year when the G20 meets in the holy land of Buddha and Gandhi, we will agree to convey a strong message of peace to the world.”

Modi said: “Climate change, Covid pandemic, developments in Ukraine, and the global problems associated with it, all these together have caused havoc in the world. Global supply chains are in ruins. There is a crisis of essentials, essential goods all over the world. The challenge for poor citizens of every country is more severe.”

In other words, PM Modi was clearly telling the leaders of the West, China and Russia sitting at the summit that war will not benefit any one, and if we all need to help humanity and make the earth a paradise, peace and brotherhood is essential. Modi also told the leaders that the Ukraine war must end soon, and all major powers should find a way out. He said, India was ready to play a lead role in ending the war.

Modi told the Bali summit that it was India which ensured food security for its 1.3 billion citizens when the pandemic was at its zenith. “At the same time”, he said, “India supplied foodgrains to many countries in need. The current shortage of fertilizers in terms of food security can cause a huge crisis. Today’s fertilizer shortage can cause tomorrow’s food crisis. We should all agree to maintain supply chain of both ferilizers and foodgrains stable and assured”.

Modi also told the G20 leaders how India supplied Covid vaccines to countries who were in dire need. Today when the world economy is facing crisis, he said, India has emerged as a bright example for big powers, he said.

Modi had bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz, British prime minister Rishi Sunak, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

At the dinner on the first day of summit, Modi was speaking to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken when Xi Jinping walked in. Modi greeted Xi and shook hands with him. This was the first meeting between Modi and Xi since the Galwan valley clash in Ladakh. Both the leaders spoke to each other smilingly for a few minutes. Modi and Xi had attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand this year, but the two did not meet at that time.

Modi took time out to address Indian community members in Bali on Tuesday. Among the audience were a large number of Muslims, some of them holding the tricolour and Modi’s picture. Some of them greeted the PM by chanting ‘Modi, Modi’. In his speech, Modi recalled the thousand years old cultural links and maritime trade between India and Indonesia.

He said, if India has the holy river Ganga, Indonesia has Tirta Gangga, a former royal palace in Bali, with its lavishly decorate water garden. If India has the Himalayas, Indonesia has the Agung Parbat (Mount Agung). If in India, all auspicious work begins with prayers to Lord Ganesha, Indonesia has the image of Ganesha on its currency. Modi said, Indonesia, despite being the world’s most populated Muslim nation, has traditions and customs similar to those in India. He said, people in Indonesia observe fast on Full Moon and Ekadashi, like Indians.

Modi also told the Indian community members that India has undergone a sea change. “We no more think small. New India has now set big targets and achieves them. In the last eight years, we built 55,000 km of highways, built houses for a population equal to that of Australia, opened bank accounts for a population equal to that of the US, and provided Ayushman Bharat health service to a population equal to that of the European Union…. Earlier India used to look at the world for assistance, now the world looks at India for help.”
Modi said, “the speed and scale of India’s progress has taken a quantum jump, but we have not forgotten to take pride in our past. Like the Indonesians, despite being an Islamic country, have preserved their traditions, we in India are also doing the same.”

Nearly 1.5 lakh Indians live in Indonesia. Both countries have a trade worth nearly 20 billion dollars. Indonesia is India’s second biggest trading partner in South East Asia. Indonesia has shown interest in buying Tejas fighter aircraft and Brahmos supersonic missiles ffrom India. In Bali, Modi said, there was a time when India used to purchase all its defence equipment from abroad, but now other countries have come forward to buy Tejas aircraft and Brahmos missiles from India.

On Indonesian soil, Modi stood and told the world where India stands today and in which field India leads the rest of the world. Modi reminded G20 leaders that India is the world’s fastest growing economy. But he also told them that India is part of the world which is now facing economic crisis.

Modi understands that India’s inflation rate today may be lower than that of European countries, but the coming months could spell trouble for India, if the world economic crisis persists. After taking over the G20 presidency, the responsibility of Indian Prime Minister has grown manifold.

Most of the major economies that are part of G20 are facing two big crises: Russia-Ukraine war and the economic consequences of that war. Modi has clearly enunciated the path of how to tackle both these crises.

The first objective is to end the war in Ukraine, at the earliest. As the new president of G20 group, India is ready to take the lead. If Modi manages to find a way out of the Russia-Ukraine war in the coming weeks, the world can heave a sigh of relief and India’s prestige will be enhanced.

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