Chief Coordinator of India's G20 Presidency Harsh Vardhan Shringla speaks to WION in Delhi. WION
Ahead of the G20 summit that India will be hosting, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Chief Coordinator of India's G20 Presidency, has reiterated New Delhi's steadfast commitment to inclusive global governance and its unwavering support for the Global South. Speaking to WION diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Shringla articulated India's perspective on the presence of the African Union at the G20 grouping, emphasizing that, "In the realm of global governance, it's imperative that international organizations represent the realities of the 21st century." He further highlighted, saying, "The Prime Minister's proposal to G20 leaders to include the African Union as a permanent invitation in the G20 process is only reflective of our own position. We do believe that the African Union with its 54 members, with tremendous potential for the future, has to be a part of any international governance process, starting with an influential grouping like the G20."
India's commitment to the Global South was another key aspect of Shringla's address. He underlined, "India has always given high importance to our partners in the Global South." To ensure that the voices and concerns of these nations are heard and integrated into global deliberations, India organized the voice of the Global South Summit earlier this year. Shringla spoke about the importance of this initiative, particularly in light of the challenges posed by the post-COVID-19 pandemic world and the current geopolitical tensions. "It enabled us to understand the concerns that were there within the global South, which were quite considerable," he stated.
Turning the spotlight onto India's G20 Presidency, Shringla talked about an array of initiatives. These encompassed a global family philosophy, "vasudhaiva kutumbakam," an emphasis on promoting millets, advocating for sustainable lifestyles, reducing disaster risks, nurturing startups through "startup 20," fostering cybersecurity collaboration, and supporting chief scientists. Shringla expressed confidence that these contributions would leave a lasting legacy, asserting, "I think it will indeed be a legacy that will benefit all of mankind." Here's the full interview:
WION: India is getting ready to host the mega summit, what kind of preparations are underway?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: If you are not seeing me very perturbed, it's because preparations for the G20 Summit started well, earlier, probably one and a half years earlier. We were already looking at many of the logistical and other aspects relating to the summit. So how do you organize a successful summit? We have to keep in mind that we have never been president of the G20. Before is the first time in our history that we would receive such a large number of heads of state and government of such important and influential global players. So, how do we prepare for that situation, how do we prepare to ensure that the arrangements for such a critical event are not only conducive but in the best possible manner? So these arrangements, as I said, have been made well on time. Right now we're looking at some of the finishing touches. There is has also been a great deal of coordination. It's been a whole of government approach. In many senses, it's involved the whole of-society approach. We've got, we've been fortunate to get guidance from the Prime Minister himself. Many of the ministers have been very directly hands-on, External Affairs Minister has taken a very active role. We have a coordination committee headed by the principal secretary. And as you saw, we had the ninth meeting of the Coordination Committee, which includes all the important players in that process, the NSA, the cabinet secretary, all the important secretaries are part of the process. So there's a great deal of coordination on what is done, and so whichever different aspect, or agency of the government is involved, they are co-opted into this process. And so when it comes to decision making, an implementation of those decisions, it's a very well coordinated process. And so I think we are well placed today, as the summit will take place in less than a week's time from now. I think we are very confident that we have the means to achieve a very, very successful, sort of impeccable as the Prime Minister describes an impeccable and uniquely Indian presidency and Summit.
WION: So when it comes to participation, we have seen reports many leaders have confirmed that, Russian president is not coming because he's preoccupied, I would say to use the term. There are reports on China as well. Do you think the absence of two countries will make the grouping G18? What's your view about it?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: No, I'm not aware of, you know, the exact let's say attendance in terms of leaders. That's done by the protocol and others who deal with it. But the important thing is that we expect a very large number of leaders of the G20 process, every country will be represented officially at the G20. And we will have not only as I said our G 20. partners, we will also have invited countries that have been, that we have extended invitations specially to attend the G 20. We will also have the heads of international and regional organizations like the UN, IMF, World Bank, ASEAN the African Union, so it will be a very broadly representative group and I can assure you that every organization, and every country will be represented.
WION: Sir, you mentioned what African Union, now this is looking like a big substantive outcome from India's presidency. How do you see India's focus essentially being putting Africa at the high table, where we have seen at various organizations, including the UNSC the absence of Africa?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: Well, we've always maintained that for global governance, and for for international organizations to be successful in fulfilling their mandate. They must be broadly representative of the realities of the 21st century. And certainly, when we have maintained that position, I think it is important for us to also be able to practice it when possible. And so the Prime Minister's proposal to G 20 leaders to include the African Union as a permanent invitation in the G 20 process, I think is only reflective of our own position that has remained consistent over the years. And we do believe that the African Union with its 54 members, with tremendous potential for the future has to be a part of any international governance process, starting with an influential grouping like the G20.
WION: So you must be part of so many conversations all throughout the year, what kind of conversation took place? There must be consensus on several topics India must propose. There must be some challenges as well if you can talk about if you can sum it up, how difficult these conversations are.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: Well, I think the G 20 Sherpa has already spoken on this issue. He is leading the negotiation process. For any process that involves consensus, it means that every member within that group has to agree to any initiative that is taken. And from that perspective, I think any negotiating process will have its own challenges. But I think from that perspective, I also understand that we have had a singular success in terms of the outreach and in terms of the ability to garner the necessary support for the document which is really the outcome of negotiations and discussions and deliberations over almost a year.
WION: And are you hopeful of a joint statement...
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: I see absolutely no reason to speculate on that. I think we will definitely have an outcome document. And we have, as I said, had excellent discussions over the course of the last nine or 10 months with our G 20 partners, there are a lot of substantive outcomes that are there in that document. Essentially, the world is looking at the G20 to provide solutions to global challenges under India's presidency and the G20 is one of the few groupings that can contribute in a very concrete manner to towards global, macro economic and financial stability. So the G 20 has to rise up to the task and I have no doubt that each and every one of the G 20 member states understands this, and understands the importance of the G 20 providing a strong and coherent message to the rest of the world in alleviating the global situation and contributing to that process.
WION: Global South is another topic that India has been focusing on. How does India bring the voice of the global south at this high table? How does the summit on Global South feed into India's presidency and the summit, which India will be hosting next few days?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: So, India has always I think, given high importance to our partners in the Global South. It is in that context that the Prime Minister reached out to leaders of the developing world and 125 countries joined us in what we call the voice of Global South Summit. And this was held well before we took on our presidency or before we took on our presidency so that we could get the views, concerns and expectations of our partners in the global south and factor those in, internalize those in our deliberations under our G-20 presidency. And I think that was a very useful exercise because it enabled us to understand the concerns that were there within the global South, which were quite considerable, as you can imagine, in today's situation, which is post the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of the current geopolitical tensions that prevail, developing countries are feeling the brunt of any of those situations. And they clearly had their own concerns which they voiced to us. And if you look at our broad priorities under the presidency, whether it is the process of providing momentum to the SDG process, whether it is in terms of encouraging digital transformations through digital public infrastructure, whether it's strengthening multilateral development banks, whether it is in fostering accelerated sustainable and inclusive growth, or whether it is in terms of, you know, a green development pact in terms of the lifestyle for environment, in terms of circular economy, in terms of energy transitions, and women-led development, I think these are the priorities that ready are those of the of the Global South. And so that imprint I think, will be very strong. And I think undoubtedly, when we have an outcome, it would be very clear that the G 20 members, whether developed countries or the largest emerging economies have all been one mind that we must work towards the global common good and the G 20 must contribute towards a human-centric globalization.
WION: So India has also invited nine countries. These are countries like UAE Singapore, their African countries, as well. I think this is the first time that so many African countries will be present at the high table. So if you can give perhaps a rationale or an idea on it..
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: In every country, the host has the prerogative to invite a certain number of countries. Have focused on some of our partners, We have Bangladesh from our neighbourhood, we have Mauritius, another neighbour of ours in the Indian Ocean, and we have, as you say largest representation from Africa, Egypt, Comoros, South Africa, Mauritius well represented in our Presidency. We've also included, you know, some of our partners from the Gulf, UAE and Oman. And we've also included the ADB, the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure as international and regional organizations. And I think from that perspective, our presidency has been as inclusive as possible. We've tried to include as many countries in that process. We've also tried to include countries that are not part of the G20 process in our meetings. So wherever a country could contribute to a certain issue that was under discussion, we invited that country, had an interest we invited them. We've invited all of our immediate neighbours in many of our meetings. So from that perspective, I think we have tried to make our presidency both representative and inclusive.
WION: So my last question to you is post the G 20. Summit, How do you see the Indian imprint on global governance and global architecture which is now shaping up very fast?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: Well, if you look at our theme, "vasudhaiva kutumbakam", it is a philosophy that has always been part of India's engagement to the wider world. And today's context, I think, we are putting it in a manner that is very, very relevant to the world we see today. How can we work collaboratively to create a new global order that reflects the concept of one earth one family one future, unless we work together we are not going to have a future that will be you know, one that we would like to see for our children and grandchildren and future generations. So our appeal to not only our G 20 partners, but the rest of the world is that follow our example of working for the global common good with during COVID, whether it's in the post-COVID period, how can we work to use our experience our achievements, you know, to help other countries to create a world order that is that is based on greater cooperation, and one that I think takes into account the serious concerns of the developing world, the Global South. And I think that is the imprint that we would certainly leave behind in the G 20. And that imprint, which we have, I think created will also be carried forward by many of our partners, whether it's Brazil or South Africa, and no doubt that legacy will be there to stay. India's initiatives on the global high table, whether it is the concept of "vasudhaiva kutumbakam", the larger philosophy, whether it's in the concept of millets, whether it's in the concept of lifestyle for Environment and Sustainable Development, whether it is in the concept of disaster relief reduction, or startup 20 or even collaboration on the cybersecurity, or chief scientists, etc. whatever contributions were made in this endeavour will remain and will continue. And I think it will indeed be a legacy that will benefit all of mankind.