India’s G20 Presidency
By Dr. D.K. Giri
(Prof. International Relations, JIMMC)
The G20 year under India’s leadership has begun. People from across various sectors – government and non-governmental, business, and social – are pooling into make the year memorable and worthwhile. The events leading up to the Summit are being planned. These have also begun to take place. In this column last week, I sought to lay out a new ethic for global governance. In this piece, I like to adumbrate a few ideas that could shape policies across the country. India as the President of G20 could introduce them in various events around the Summit.
First and foremost, there should be prudent and pragmatic energy policies across the world. At present, there is a universal fight for fossil fuels with horrible consequences. The Ukraine war, although not caused by an energy conflict, is being influenced by energy concerns. There is a need for immediate shift to renewable energies as against the big lobbies operating in favour of gigantic oil companies. The poor and developing countries should have equal and affordable access to energy resources. The rich and powerful countries should not continue to impose their models of growth based on heavy technologies ruthlessly exploiting the nature.
India has a strong tradition of living in harmony with nature and many Indian beliefs and practices emphasise the importance of preserving the natural environment. India could give a push for renewable energy cutting out rhetoric, promote sustainability and environmental security and encourage other countries to respect nature, live with it and not control or try to conquer it. That leads to the second idea of how a human-centric and nature-friendly approach to economic planning and political management could be fostered.
Third, paying attention to the social development based on family systems, social harmony, cultural accommodation, and religious co-existence. It is popularly held that a country is a family of families. That logic can be extended beyond the countries too. This is in keeping with the slogan, which is deeply meaningful and emotional, enunciated by India for the 2023 Summit of g20 which is ‘one earth, one family, one future’. Despite massive developments in economy, technology and indeed other sectors, societies are torn apart by jealousy, hatred, and violence. This is a paradoxical paradigm – the development and decay embedded in our current governance models. This also reflects the profound remark made by Maxim Gorky, “man has learnt to fly like bird in the air and swim like a fish in water but fails to learn live peacefully with his neighbour”.
Such familial culture is unique to India. The structure of Indian families is such that they manifest a loving hierarchal authority vested in the head of a family who is usually the father or in his absence the first-born. At the same time, there is a process of consultation with each of the family members as a decision is taken; the family is imbued with a spirit of mutual sacrifice, best exemplified in the ‘apple story’ circulating in the development sector.
The story goes, an apple was found by the father of a poor family, who did not eat it as he thought that his wife was preparing food for everybody in the family, and she should have it. The wife thought that it is her son who is growing without sufficient food, so he should have it in full instead of cutting it into pieces. The son thought that his mother is always kind to him and often prefers him to the daughter. This is both a Freudian affinity between opposite sexes as well as a so-called preference for the male child. So, he gave the apple to the daughter, who in her mind thought that it is the father who is toiling and fending for everyone in the family. So, for his energy, the father should have it. So, the apple comes back to father. This family feeling has more than one manifestation. One, it is sacrifice, second, it validates the proverbial wisdom, love begets love.
In addition, the importance of family is reflected in the respect for elderly. In India, the elderly are often respected and honoured for their wisdom and experience. India could promote inter-generational respect and the value of older people in society. Giving the strong bond in family, old-age homes are not a widespread practice in India. People would like to keep their elderly and look after them at homes.
All in all, Indian spirituality is deep which advocates tolerance, accommodation, reconciliation and synthesis of competing ideas. The last cultural principle is unique to India. Once Netaji Subhash Bose prophetically remarked, “Britain has given to the world Parliament, Russia – the October Revolution, France- liberty, equality and fraternity, USA – value of enterprise, Spain –Picasso, Germany – Karl Marx; if India has to offer anything to the world in the 21st Century, it is her culture of synthesis.
This is what could be championed by India around G20 in terms of laying out social and political structures for creating that synthesis. This will eliminate violent confrontation and wars by contending forces. This will obviate the process of dialogue and discussions. This will be the tool for conflict resolution. All these deftly deployed could eliminate bilateral conflicts including the horrible ongoing warin Ukraine.
The above input into international politics and governance could be authentically developed from and backed by Indian spiritual knowledge and traditions. Indian spiritual gurus have made a big impact in international societies. There are robust spiritual Indian-international bodies that could be encouraged to give a hand to Indian government in spreading the message of tolerance, co-existence and synthesis of conflicting ideas, transcending into higher reality. Organisation like ISKCON and a few others with bases across the world could assist the Government of India.
The other social values and practices that India could showcase include; diversity and inclusivity; India is known for its diverse, cultural, religious and linguistic heritage, it could use its G20 presidency to showcase its commitment to and promote these values globally; a spirit of volunteering – India has a rich tradition of volunteering and community service with many people taking individual and social responsibility and an active role in improving their communities. It could encourage more and more people around the world to get involved in voluntary and community service.
Fourth is the question of governance. This is a big question. How do we set up political systems that prevent collusion between big corporate, media and centralised political power that denies the redistribution of resources, finances and knowledge across the world. There is almost a convoluted conspiracy by these forces to impose a pattern of growth for the poor and weak countries that turns them into proverbial ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’. Such governance models are unsustainable as they create unethical and unacceptable divide among countries and people within a country. Also, they favour centralisation and pathological gigantism which devours diversities of small and medium enterprises. While the big could be better, the small is also beautiful as E.F. Schumacher prophetically propounded. Hope, the Government of India takes on board such fresh perspectives from different quarters to give a special Indian touch to G20 presidency, 2023. — INFA