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Blue Economy: Challenges & Opportunities                           

Creating awareness regarding underwater domain amidst India’s Presidency for G20

By: Nishtha Vishwakarma

  • India will chair over 200 meetings that aim to secure the economic growth and prosperity of the nations that are part of the G20
  • G20 members represent more than 80% of the world’s GDP, 75% of international trade, and 60% of the world’s population
  • India’s G20 Presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented
  • India must consider introducing the UDA Framework for comprehensive policy and technology intervention during its ongoing presidency of the G20
  • The Indo-Pacific strategic space must be included in the implementation of the UDA Framework

India has assumed the presidency

On December 1, 2022, India assumed the G20 Presidency from Indonesia and the moment was historic. With this, India will chair over 200 meetings that aim to secure the economic growth and prosperity of the nations that are part of this grouping. Now, before we delve deeper into the concept of G20 and its significance for Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA), let us first understand some basic concepts related to G20.  

The G20, or Group of Twenty, is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s 20 major developed and developing economies. This makes it the premier forum for international economic cooperation. It is worth noting that G20 members represent more than 80% of the world’s GDP, 75% of international trade, and 60% of the world’s population.

“While the country was being handed over the presidency for G20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India’s G20 Presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented. He further noted that the country is taking the charge at a time when the world is grappling with some major geopolitical events, economic slowdowns, and rising food and energy prices. “

G20 was formed in the wake of the financial crisis that swept through southeast Asian economies in the late 1990s as a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors. However, it was upgraded in 2007 to include heads of state and governments. During and after the 2008 financial crisis, the G20’s coordinated efforts helped tamp down panic and were able the restore economic growth.

The G20 also invites non-member countries, including Bangladesh, Singapore, Spain, and Nigeria, besides international organizations such as the United Nations, World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

All G20 meetings that have happened till now under India’s G20 Presidency

To mark the first day of India’s Presidency, numerous activities were planned. Earlier in the day, a special University Connect event was organized, which virtually brought together students from 75 universities across the country. External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister P.K. Mishra were among the distinguished speakers at the event. The University Connect event is aimed at engaging the youth in G20 activities. School students were also involved through special G20 sessions in various schools.

The first Sherpa meeting was held in Udaipur, Rajasthan in early December 2022. The meeting saw full and active participation by G20 members, 9 Guest Countries, and 14 International Organizations. With a blend of productive discussions on an action-oriented decisive agenda and a unique cultural experience of the many flavors of Rajasthan, the first Sherpa meeting set the tone for forthcoming meetings in 32 different G20 workstreams, including the Sherpa Track, Finance Track, and Engagement Groups. The substantive discussions on prevailing global challenges, and the warm hospitality with the motto ‘Atithi Devo Bhava,’ resonated throughout the G20 Sherpas meeting.

Thereafter, the first meeting of the G20 Development Working Group was held in Mumbai, which was followed by the 1st Joint Finance and Health Task Force meeting which was held virtually. India also hosted the first G20 Finance and Central Bank Deputies meeting under the G20 presidency in Bengaluru, Karnataka on December 14, 2022. The first Global Partnership and Financial Inclusion meeting was held in Kolkata from January 9 to January 11, 2023. The next important meetings are scheduled to be held in Pune, Maharashtra. 

G20’s stand on the Indo-Pacific

Most of the European leaders and US leaders take G20 as a platform to emphasize the importance of the Indo-Pacific and engage with regional leaders. In the previous G20 Summit which was held in Bali, Indonesia in November 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron met with the leaders of India, Indonesia, and South Korea, and each time he referred to the Indo-Pacific and highlighted French commitment to stability and cooperation in the region. 

It was observed in the previous G20 Summit that European Union is also keen to engage with G20 members of the Indo-Pacific.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, where the two leaders discussed climate issues as well as Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific. In its Indo-Pacific strategy published in September 2022, the EU has made clear the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region for the EU, and it states that the EU will intensify dialogues and cooperation with partners on the same. “

AUKUS, the recent pact between the US, UK, and Australia had seemingly caused a diplomatic faux pas among the western partners engaged in the Indo-Pacific. The deal to build nuclear submarines for Australia in practice had replaced an existing deal Australia had with France. This resulted in Paris criticizing the others for lack of communication over the issues. A day before the Bali G20 Summit, US President Joe Biden was keen to repair the cracks that were formed, and the US leader underscored how important the relationship with France is, including as a partner in the Indo-Pacific.

A joint statement from the leaders said they recognize “the importance of robust collaboration in the Indo-Pacific, particularly growing economic and strategic challenges there.”

India’s SAGAR Vision and significance of UDA Framework in the Indo-Pacific region

India has made significant attempts in governance and global power play to realize the maritime potential of being a nation with a strategic location. Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) in 2015 to prioritize a regional foreign policy outlook.

The SAGAR vision addresses for critical aspects:

  • Acknowledges the growth potential that Indian Ocean Region (IOR) offers
  • Recognizes the security concerns that exist in the IOR
  • Maritime heritage India had in the past and could be revived with appropriate policy intervention
  • Requirement of coordination among the nations in the region

The underwater domain has massive importance from a security perspective as well as for reasons related to the Blue Economy, also the ongoing Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is inadequate to address the ground realities.

“Experts have claimed that India is in a good position to implement the Under Domain Awareness (UDA) Framework and it must be driven by a nuanced approach to manage the challenges and opportunities in the IOR. The UDA Framework provides policy and technology interventions along with the acoustic capacity and capability building required to manage the specific tropical littoral challenges and opportunities.”

India must consider introducing the UDA Framework for comprehensive policy and technology intervention during its ongoing presidency of the G20. The Indo-Pacific strategic space must be included for the implementation of the UDA Framework as this will allow all the members of the G20 to participate in the summit enthusiastically.

“The G20 should be the correct forum to progress the UDA Framework in the Indo-Pacific region for a safe, secure, and sustainable growth model for all. “

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About The Author

Nishtha Vishwakarma

Nishtha works in the communications and advocacy team of the Maritime Research Centre (MRC), Pune, and is also the Editor of the UDA Digest e-magazine. She is an experienced Communications professional with a demonstrated history of working in the public policy and advocacy domain. She completed her post-graduation in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at XIC, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Further, she works as a Media Researcher at a renowned media institution.