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India’s Leadership In The Governance Of Global South

-By Ravi Srivastava

(This article has also been featured by a National Magazine on 15th July 2023.)

a 3 mins read.

Challenging Times

Global South in last decade appears to be gaining greater prominence and there are rightful reasons for it too. Not exactly defined on the cardinal basis neither it exclusively represents everything South of Equator. The term is a broader and a rather politically correct one which quickly replaced references to Third World countries or even East and West. It roughly divides the world as half in North and South but isn’t an exact representation of geographical contours. Neither it’s an exclusive divide as a fair number of countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia falling in the region are actually part of the “Rich North”.

It was only in the latter half of the last century that most of the countries in Global South attained independence, this was a momentous occasion for the people who had gained the capacity to decide their own future. The value and potential of Global South was not something new to the developed world. The raw materials, minerals and most important of all labour was all available in abundance. It was a very attractive proposition, in fact these were the aspects which was magnetic for imperial powers as they landed with a commercial agenda but felt occupation made better business sense!

While aspirations of these developing economies in Global South grew sky high what was missing in many cases were adequate planning and safeguards. Most of the countries in the rush to attract quick investments failed to plan for contingencies like financial, environmental and even manipulation. It created severe discontent locally resulting in change of political discourse to outright civil wars. Global South expansively divided by versatile geography realised it is bonded by strong similarities of challenges. The region subsequently grew wiser in the choices it has to make and support it needs.

Historical Connect

India since it’s independence has maintained a non-partisan outlook, it didn’t adopt any power block for immediate gains. It’s non alignment approach ensured it maintained a balanced view on most of the teething global issues. India in the last decade especially, has pushed it’s engagements across the globe and majorly with the Global South. It maintained active participation in various multilateral forums primarily with SCO, BRICS, IBSA, G20, G77 and interaction with major regional groupings like ASEAN, FIPIC, SICA and Caribbean countries represented by CARICOM. The G20 presidency offered a special opportunity for India to formalise challenges of Global South and seek out collective solution from some of the leading powers and economies of the world.

India’s approach of multilateralism, non-intervention, climate challenges, supply chain security and vaccine support during Covid pandemic has all closely echoed with the interests of the Global South. India displayed it’s strong commitment towards the region as it hosted Voice of Global South Summit, in January this year which drew 125 countries. The consultations were meant for agenda setting of G20. It unambiguously highlighted the importance India has attached to the Global South and it’s willingness to walk that extra mile for representing critical concerns of the region.

Growth Model

India also brings unique capabilities most valued in the emerging economies of Global South. It has demonstrated that imaginative policies, resolute implementation and government participation can bring in tremendous results. It strengthened various regulatory frameworks before taking steps towards ease of doing business. India improved it’s ranking by 79 pts in ease of doing business index and stood at 63rd position as per 2020 report. It carried out massive drive for biometric registrations before connecting individuals to plethora of digitised government schemes, India has 1.22 billion people or 90% of it’s population covered with Aadhar. It integrated it’s population with banking system through massive Jan Dhan Yojna, today 99% household has access to banking in India as per survey carried by People Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE) while global average is still 70%. India enhanced access and affordability to internet before rolling out digital economic tools like UPI, telemedicine, e-commerce. Estimates suggests India will record 90% digital transactions by 2026-27. While UPI is slated to cross 1 billion transactions everyday by that time. By 2030 India’s eCommerce market is expected to cross $350 billion a six-fold growth from current state. These are massive figures which has been globally acknowledged and proved India’s growth story is as robust as it is resilient.

India stood to voice it’s clear concerns on climate identifying developed world as principal polluters. India brought in economic partnership models without predatory loan conditions. India pushed for a multilateral world order to reflect new realities and aspirations of global order. All these were the most pressing concern for Global South which started representing itself more as block rather than a heterogenous arrangement. PM addresses at the opening session of Voice of Global South Summit 2023 via video conferencing on January 12, 2023.

India’s Leadership

Leadership role for India within Global South was neither planned nor deliberately imposed upon. This has been a most natural manifestation of India’s role of taking everyone together as manifested in it’s age old principles of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and it’s G20 presidency. India never shied away from taking principled approach on multilateral forums nor from extending support at the time of distress. India’s balancing act in global geopolitics can be a lesson worth emulating. It avoided taking sides in Ukraine war but made sure humanitarian aid reaches Kiev. India’s growing economic stature and enhancing clout in the world affairs places it in an exciting spot to become the voice for Global South with a capacity to favourably influence the outcome.

India’s ability to mesh this loose grouping together is unmatched not just because it carried great goodwill in the majority of capitals but also as it holds tremendous capacity to share the benefit of growth with it’s partners. India grew into being World’s fifth largest economy while maintaining it’s democratic credentials in very challenging security environment. It’s fair to say India exactly understands the ‘complex dynamics” of Global South. India doesn’t want to hand over monetary aid only but wish to build-up capacity for sustainable development. India is not looking for commercial gains but provide solutions which impact the basic necessities. A new perspective is being infused in the global governance as India moved from  “non-alignment” to “multi-alignment”. India’s own push for discarding colonial symbols and legacy has strongly resonated with countries of Global South. As India carries it’s engagement with Global South forward it will see aggressive disruptions. On the plus side India continues to gain greater acceptability to represent the challenges of Global South and seek their just redressals. India can stitch together a huge representation of humanity, resources and economic opportunities which cannot be ignored anymore. If the World has to grow it has to grow together, there isn’t any alternate to that. India has taken admirable steps towards closer integration of Global South, it needs to remain watchful that it’s initiatives doesn’t become a “we versus them”; but acts as connecting bridge over turbulent geopolitical waters!

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