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Indonesian chairmanship of G20 is an opportunity for India, rising responsibility for Global South

(File) The G-20 Leaders toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Image courtesy: Twitter/@g20org

Indonesia is prepared now to host the G20 Summit in November n the paradise island of Bali. With this, the G20 Summit and leadership come closer to India.

The world of the G20 that Indonesia inherited from Italy, altered, calling for new enthusiasm and dexterity. In 2023 they will host several ASEAN-centric institutions including East Asia Summit. In such meetings, the responsibility of chairmanship beholds them as the Ukraine crisis has made the US and the G7 countries aggressive. The Taiwan crisis accentuated tension within the Indo-Pacific with at least two Quad partners — the US and Japan — more vehemently standing up to Chinese intent.

It is to Indonesia’s credit that they stuck by the original agenda. They keep trying to focus the G20 on it while dealing with emergent issues simultaneously. It is not easy for them because when they had ministerial meetings in Bali, several G7 countries walked out of meetings where Russian representatives were present.

In some cases, a joint communique could not be issued. This remains an anxiety for Indonesia. They do not want walkouts or specific issues which they do not want to focus on directly at the G20. They would like their visitors to be good guests and attend the dinners and the meetings, say what they like and then agree on as much as they can. In a conversation with the Indonesian ambassador Ina H Krishnamurthi, she said in the Indonesian view, G20 unlike ASEAN is not an institution which needs to take firm decisions. It is a policy discussion arrangement in which differences could be accepted. Realising these anxieties, Indonesia is considering that instead of attempting an agreed joint communique of the G20, they will follow the ASEAN precedent of a chairman’s summary which will bring in all aspects of the discussion. In Indonesian fashion, the summary will be palpable and focused.

They should draw some sustenance from the fact that at the Cambodian meetings of foreign ministers of the EAS and ARF, the walkouts were fewer. The G7 members attended meetings and dinners, though there were occasional times when the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers were missing but this was more attributed to meetings being held rather than any walkouts.

For all hosts, particularly the extremely gracious Indonesians and others in ASEAN, such walkouts jar at their basic cultural attributes and hurts them more than real events elsewhere. This can be an asset if other countries understand the value of a host.

Indonesia has several expectations attached to it. As the largest country of ASEAN, it has always played a positive role in creating a better impact whenever it chaired ASEAN and EAS or APEC.

It last chaired ASEAN in 2011 and APEC IN 2013. There is a sense of history that whenever ASEAN is chaired by Indonesia positive developments occur. This is now to be stretched to their chairmanship of the G20. Besides the NAM Summit 1992 that they held, the G20 is the most important in recent times. Hence the burden of expectations that they will have a healing hand on the world as the G20 chair is certainly there.

The great challenges are those enumerated in earlier paragraphs. The cleaved world, the challenge of polarisation, the willingness to set aside post-pandemic recovery and the merits of globalisation in favour of sanctions and a reordering of the world economy more for strategic than economic reasons. The consequent energy, fertiliser, and food crisis is causing a rethink in the Indo-Pacific, Africa and in Europe. It has a serious impact on the Global South.

A great opportunity is for Indonesia to intensify consultation with its successors as G20 Chairman — India, Brazil and possibly South Africa. They will chair in successive years means that for four years the Global South has a good opportunity to deal with the current situation and give themselves a better world than what the big powers are providing them. This requires closer coordination.

There is a troika discussion and there are buildups on earlier arrangements by the next chair. The balance of nine developing and 11 developed countries within the G20 is pushed more by the developed countries agenda. It is time for the chain of G20 Global South chairs to perhaps craft a balanced initiative because in the current situation, some of the leading countries of the world are quite willing to wreck G20. For the Global South, it could be a panacea, lest we fall fully into the new Rift Valley being created by bipolarism. Therefore this is a great opportunity for Indonesia, India, Brazil and South Africa to expand their coordination and cooperation.

They should particularly look at enlarging cooperation among themselves, which has been at a lower ebb than many others. Each of these four countries have large markets of the Global South attached to them for which they can draw sustenance and provide support, whether it is food security, vaccine initiatives, resilient value chains and focus on renewable energy and digital economy. These can all be done among them by pooling their resources and talents and seeking complementarity rather than competitiveness.

This does not mean that they need to give up their existing partnerships but resilient value chains mean adding more value chains which are less dependent on the vagaries of particular partners. It is for them then to engage with other partners around them, to take this G20 initiative forward.

This would require the creation of a fund which these four countries should lead and not depend only on the G7 or China. BRI decisions are made by China. The building back better approach of the G7 has not yet taken off. Therefore it is for the Global South to come together to fund their ideas forward and then ask the other existing structures of financing to join them on their priorities rather than the other way around.

India has three important initiatives in this: the Coalition for Disaster Resilient infrastructure, the International Solar Alliance and the Indo-Pacific Oceans initiative. Indonesia is cooperating with IPOI. South Africa can easily be brought in. Brazil is a member of CDRI and ISA but neither Indonesia nor South Africa is.

Efforts to bring these countries together and assimilate similar initiatives should be sought. The idea is not to do everything all together, but to set up a new fund among themselves, which will not be beholden to their strategic partners who are breaking up the world, but focus on creating a really better world where the merits of globalisation promised to them are not thwarted. This is the big opportunity coming our way through the chairmanship of Indonesia at G20.

The writer is a former Ambassador to Germany, Indonesia & ASEAN, Ethiopia & the African Union. Views expressed are personal.

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