The Narenda Modi regime is planning to convert two global events, the Group of Twenty (G20) meeting and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, scheduled to be held in India next year, into major events, with an eye on the 2024 parliamentary elections.
In the past, Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi had hosted global events to build a domestic image as international leaders.
Prime Minister Modi, however, took a different route to build a global image among expatriates. He held a series of roadshows and public meetings abroad, stirring a frenzy among non-resident Indians (NRIs).
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In the US, he held a joint ‘Howdy Modi’ rally with President Donald Trump in 2019, when the Republican leader was running for a second term. The hype spread a belief that Modi could not only conquer his home turf but also influence American presidential elections.
Modi’s global image
This time, however, Modi is planning to turn inward to stamp his image as a global leader by hosting two strategic events in India. In the past, he had invited a large number of global leaders on public occasions such as his swearing-in ceremony and Republic Day functions. Besides, he held several bilateral meetings and a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mahabalipuram, near Chennai.
The two events in 2023 are likely to have a different flavour as India would be taking over as President of G20 and Chairman of SCO.
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Indian diplomats have begun the background preparations for inviting US President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and heads of the UK, German, French and Italian governments.
Former foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, a confidant of Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, is the coordinator for the G20 summit, a newly created role. Amitabh Kant, former CEO of Niti Aayog, is India’s G20 Sherpa during its presidency year.
The G20 is a large group. Besides India are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the EU.
India is assuming the G20 presidency for one year from December 1, 2022 to November 30, 2023. Under its presidency, India is expected to host over 200 G20 meetings across the country, beginning December 2022. The G20 Leaders’ Summit at the level of Heads of State/Government is scheduled to be held on September 9 and 10 in Delhi.
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The G20 is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s major developed and developing economies. Collectively, it accounts for 85% of global GDP, 75% of international trade and two-thirds of the world population, making it the premier forum for international economic cooperation.
India is currently part of the G20 Troika (current, previous and incoming G20 presidencies), which also includes Indonesia and Italy. During its presidency, India will be part of the Troika with Indonesia and Brazil. For the first time, the Troika would consist of three developing countries and emerging economies, offering them a greater voice.
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What the G20 currently comprises
- Finance Track, with eight work streams (Global Macroeconomic Policies, Infrastructure Financing, International Financial Architecture, Sustainable Finance, Financial Inclusion, Health Finance, International Taxation, Financial Sector Reforms).
- Sherpa Track, with 12 work streams (Anti-corruption, Agriculture, Culture, Development, Digital Economy, Employment, Environment and Climate, Education, Energy Transition, Health, Trade and Investment, Tourism).
- Ten Engagement Groups of private sector/civil society/independent bodies (Business 20, Civil 20, Labour 20, Parliament 20, Science 20, Supreme Audit Institutions 20, Think 20, Urban 20, Women 20 and Youth 20).
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In addition to G20 members, there has been a tradition of the G20 presidency inviting some guest countries and International Organisations (IOs) to its meetings and summit. Accordingly, in addition to regular IOs (UN, IMF, World Bank, WHO, WTO, ILO, FSB and OECD) and chairs of Regional Organisations (AU, AUDA-NEPAD and ASEAN), India will be inviting Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and UAE as guest countries. It will also invite ISA (International Solar Alliance), CDRI (Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure) and ADB (Asian Development Bank) as guest IOs.
Meetings in new Parliament building
India is still in the process of firming its priorities. Meanwhile, ongoing conversations revolve around inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth; LiFE (Lifestyle For Environment); women’s empowerment; digital public infrastructure and tech-enabled development in areas ranging from health, agriculture and education to commerce among other things.
The government would showcase 5G rollout, optical fibre network, progress in animation, graphics and also artificial intelligence as some of its successes. The idea is to get the attention of the young constituency.
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Before the summit, the government plans to move into new Parliament chambers in the Central Vista. The mega events in the presence of world leaders are aimed at dazzling the domestic audience. At least five top world leaders are likely to address a joint session of Parliament in the new building.
SCO meet in Bengaluru or Thiruvananthapuram
The BJP will launch a parallel campaign to capitalise on these events that would keep its main vote catcher Modi in the spotlight. It will try to use the occasion to its advantage while facing elections to eight Assemblies due in 2023.
Modi is keen to hold the SCO meeting either in Bengaluru or Thiruvananthapuram, obviously keeping in mind regional politics.
In the Samarkand, Uzbekistan meet, Modi managed to draw the attention of Western media by bluntly telling Putin that, “this is not the time for war, especially with Ukraine.” The West lapped up this opportunity. The White House and French president endorsed the statement.
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Early 2023, India is expecting a state visit by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Modi in turn would visit Australia in February to attend the Quad meeting. During the bilateral talks, Modi, who had struck a personal rapport with Liberal party leader Scott Morrison, would ensure a policy continuity with the new regime headed by Labour leader Albanese. The Quad will dwell at length ways to check Chinese attempts to step up its influence in the region.
With general elections only 15 months away, the BJP will try to extract maximum mileage from these prestigious events with a spotlight on Modi.
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