Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks on a wide range of issues, including on India’s vision for a sustainable, inclusive and equitable world. Extracts:
Q: The G20 Presidency has given India the opportunity to promote its vision for a sustainable, inclusive and equitable world, and to raise its profile as a leader in the Indo-Pacific region. With just days left for the summit, please share your thoughts on achievements of Indian Presidency.
A: To answer this question, we need to set the context on two aspects. The first is on the formation of the G20. Second is the context in which India got the G20 Presidency.
The genesis of the G20 was at the end of the last century. The major economies of the world got together with a vision of a collective and coordinated response to economic crises. Its salience grew even more during the global economic crisis in the first decade of the 21st century.
But when the pandemic struck, the world understood that in addition to the economic challenges, there were also other important and immediate challenges impacting humanity.
By this time, the world was already taking note of India's human-centric model of development. Whether it was economic growth, technological progress, institutional delivery or social infrastructure, they were all being taken to the last mile, ensuring none was left behind.
There was greater awareness of these massive strides being taken by India. It was acknowledged that the country which used to be seen just as a large market had become a part of the solutions to the global challenges.
Looking at India's experience, it was recognized that a human-centric approach works even during a crisis. India's response to the pandemic through a clear and coordinated approach, direct assistance to the most vulnerable using technology, coming up with vaccines and running the world's largest vaccine drive, and sharing medicines and vaccines with nearly 150 countries were noted and well appreciated.
By the time India became the president of G20, our words and vision for the world were not being taken merely as ideas but as a roadmap for the future.
Before we complete our G20 presidency, over 1 lakh delegates will have visited India. They have been going to different regions, witnessing our demography, democracy and diversity. They are also seeing how a fourth D, development, has been empowering the people over the last decade. There is a growing understanding that many of the solutions that the world needs are already being successfully implemented in our country, with speed and scale.
Many positive impacts are coming out of India's G20 Presidency. Some of them are very close to my heart.
The shift to a human-centric approach has begun globally and we are playing the role of a catalyst.
The effort towards greater inclusion for the Global South, especially Africa in global affairs has gained momentum.
India's G20 presidency has also sowed the seeds of confidence in the countries of the so-called 'Third World'. They are gaining greater confidence to shape the direction of the world in the coming years on many issues such as climate change and global institutional reforms.
We will move faster towards a more representative and inclusive order where every voice is heard.
Further, all this will happen with the cooperation of the developed countries, because today, they are acknowledging the potential of the Global South more than ever before and recognizing the aspirations of these countries as a force for the global good.
Q: You launched the Solar Alliance a few years ago. Now you are proposing a bio-fuel alliance, which we believe you will unveil at G20. What is the objective and how will it help import-dependent countries like India on energy security?
A: There is a big difference between the world of the 20th century and the 21st century. The world is more interconnected and interdependent, and rightly so. But we must understand that in an interconnected and interdependent world, the greater the capacities and capabilities of the countries around the world, the greater the global resilience.
When the links in a chain are weak, each crisis further weakens the complete chain. But when the links are strong, the global chain can handle any crisis, utilizing each other's strengths.
In a way, this thought can also be seen in Mahatma Gandhi's vision of self-sufficiency, which continues to be relevant at a global level too.
Further, the protection and preservation of our planet for our future generations is a shared responsibility that needs to be given top priority.
We have been making great progress in climate-centric initiatives within India.
India ramped up its solar energy capacity 20-fold in just a few years. India is among the top four nations in the world in terms of wind energy.
In the electric vehicle revolution, India is playing an important role in both innovation and adoption.
We are perhaps the first among the G20 countries to have achieved our climate targets 9 years ahead of the scheduled date. Our action against single-use plastic has been recognized across the world. We have also made great strides in safe sanitation and cleanliness.
Naturally, we have moved from being just a member of global efforts to playing a leading role in many initiatives. Initiatives like the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure are bringing countries together for
the planet. The ISA has got a great response with over 100 countries joining it!
Our Mission LiFE initiative focuses on Lifestyle for Environment. Today, in each society we have people who are health conscious. What they buy, what they eat, what they do each decision is based on how it serves their health. Their choices are not only guided by how it will affect them today but also by the long-term impact. Similarly, people across the world can come together to become planet conscious. Each lifestyle decision can be made based on what impact it will have on the planet in the long term.
Now, the biofuel alliance is another step in this direction.
Such alliances are aimed at creating options for developing countries to advance their energy transitions. Biofuels are also important from the perspective of a circular economy. Markets, trade, technology, and policy all aspects of international cooperation are crucial in creating such opportunities.
Such alternatives can enhance energy security, create opportunities for domestic industry, and create green jobs all crucial elements in ensuring a transition that leaves no one behind.
Q: More than 200 sectoral meetings took place in India during 2023 ranging from tourism to health, climate change to health, women empowerment to energy transition. How many of them have produced concrete outcomes to your satisfaction? Are there some areas where you see we could have done more?
A: There are two aspects to this answer. The first is that you must ask me the question about outcomes in December, after our term ends. Moreover, in keeping with the sanctity of the upcoming Summit, it would not be correct on my part to spell out details right now.
But there is another aspect that I would certainly like to speak about. Many important issues have been taken up over the last year.
In the spirit of taking the entire One Earth along as One Family towards One Future that is sustainable and equitable, several issues have been discussed and taken forward.
There are various levels at which meetings have happened in the G20.
An important kind is the Ministerial meeting since it is high-profile and has a great chance of immediate policy impact. Let me give you some examples from the Ministerial meetings.
Over 13 Ministerial meetings have been organised and several successful outcomes have been adopted.
One of the priorities of our Presidency was to accelerate climate action by democratizing it. Focusing on lifestyle impact on climate, through Mission LiFE, is a way of truly democratizing this issue because the power to make a positive impact on the planet is there with every individual. At the Development Ministers Meeting, G20 adopted the Action Plan to accelerate progress on SDGs and Lifestyles for Sustainable Development.
Similarly, the Agriculture Ministers successfully adopted Deccan High Level Principles on Food Security and Nutrition. These will help alleviate global hunger and malnutrition. Given our passion for our sustainable superfood, Shree Anna, the Agriculture Ministers also launched the international initiative for research on millets and other ancient grains while also bringing focus on the importance of climatesmart and digital approach to agriculture.
The Ministerial Conference on Women's Empowerment built consensus on bridging the gender digital divide, reducing gaps in labour force participation and enabling a larger role for women in positions of leadership and decision-making.
The Energy Ministers have also delivered consensus on the high-level principles for hydrogen and have laid a foundation for establishing the Global Biofuels Alliance, amongst several other outcomes.
The Environment and Climate Ministers have made progress on the launch of an industry-led Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Industry Coalition while setting an ambitious target of achieving a 50 per cent reduction in land degradation by 2040.
The Labour and Employment ministers also achieved consensus for developing an international reference for the classification of occupations to enable mutual recognition of skills across borders. This will help demand to meet supply, and help industries find human capital.
The Trade and Investment Ministers have also adopted high-level principles for the digitalisation of trade documents, which will boost trade and contribute to Ease of Doing Business.
These are just some of the important developments. Across domains, there are many more. In the coming years, these will prove to be pivotal for the direction that the world takes.
Q: When you set the 2070 goal you saw fossil fuels playing a dominant role in countries like India, which was frowned upon by the West. But most of the countries in the world realized the importance of fossil fuels post Ukraine conflict with some in Europe switching back to coal and gas. How do you see the climate change targets progressing in the post-Ukraine war era?
A: Our principle is simple – diversity is our best bet, whether in society or in terms of our energy mix. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Given the different pathways countries are on, our pathways for energy transition will be different.
Despite having 17% of the world’s population, India’s historic share in cumulative emissions has been less than 5%. Yet, we have left no stone unturned in meeting our climate goals. I have already spoken about our various achievements in this domain in my reply to an earlier question. So, we are certainly on track while also tailoring in various factors needed to ensure growth.
As for the future of the fight against climate change, I am extremely positive about it. We are working with other nations to alter the approach from a restrictive to a constructive approach. Rather than focusing purely on the approach of don’t do this or that, we want to bring in an attitude that makes people and nations aware of what they can do and help them with that, in terms of finance, technology and other resources.