INTERVIEW

Former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu

Former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu

Former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu has been appointed as the Indian Sherpa in G20 forum. In an interview with CSR Times Executive Editor Amit Goenka, he said India’s representation and voice in the forum has
increased over the past five years and he is confident that it will continue to increase under the aegis of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

CSR Times: You were an important Minister in the NDA Governments led by two Prime Ministers—Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi in his first innings, holding key portfolios such as power, railways, commerce and civil aviation. How do you reflect your service to the country during the past two governments?

Suresh Prabhu: It was indeed my good fortune to serve under the able and dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the current Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. I was given a freehand to work in critical ministries such as power, commerce and civil aviation. During my tenure I was able to bring about some important reforms in the ministries for the benefit of the common man. We tried to fast track policymaking, which was the need of the hour. I am very pleased with what I could do and achieve under the leadership of Atal ji and Modi ji during my stint for two terms. I am also confident that the efforts will have their part to play in India’s GDP surpassing the USD 5 trillionmark in the next few years.

CSR Times: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given an important task by appointing you as the Indian Sherpa in G20 forum. What are your responsibilities and how are you planning to deliver on the assigned tasks in G20?

Suresh Prabhu: The Prime Minister is extremely detail-oriented and goes down to planning every minute in whatever he does. When it comes to international summits involving multifarious issues relating to diplomacy and economic aspects, the task is even more challenging. Therefore, global leaders applaud our Prime Minister for his skills and in-depth analysis while defending our country’s interests. Just after taking over the mantle as Prime Minister for a second term, Modi ji had to attend the G20 summit at Osaka in Japan from June 27-29. Owing to my previous experience as Sherpa in the first term, the Prime Minister appointed me as the Sherpa for the G20 summit. A Sherpa is amongst the closest associate and a personal representative of a head of state. The Sherpa is entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the ground for all international summits attended by Heads of State.

CSR Times: The common belief is that G20 is a club of superrich countries which address their own economic issues for their own interest. Countrie like India do not have much voice at this international forum. What’s your take on this persisting reality?

Suresh Prabhu: Since G20 has been established in 1999, it was elevated from a forum of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to that of Heads of State/ Government to effectively respond to the global financial crisis of 2008. Since then it has emerged as the premier global forum for international economic cooperation. G20 members represent around 85 per cent of global gross domestic product, over 75 per cent of global trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population. Therefore, it is not true to characterize G20 as a motely club of superrich countries and leaders but a forum of cross-sections of continents and population. For the G20 Osaka summit, India had listed a wide range of issues such as terrorism, global security, global slowdown, multilateralism, environment and energy and fate of economic fugitives as key issues for discussions. In the recent past, G20 summits have become more frequent with heads of nations taking part to discuss policy pertaining to promotion of international financial stability. G20 leaders meet annually at the G20 Summit. Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meet regularly. G20 ministerial meetings on trade, health, employment, agriculture also occur at each G20 summit. G20 engagement groups maintain a dialogue with policymakers. These groups represent civil society, business and labour leaders, the scientific and research community, think-tanks, women, and youth. In each of these, India’s representation and voice has increased over the past five years and I am confident that it will continue to increase under the aegisof the Prime Minister.

CSR Times: What were the takeaways of the Osaka G20 summit which concluded in June 2019?

 Suresh Prabhu: The Osaka summit was centred around the theme “Human centred future society”. The issues under discussion at the summit included free trade and economic growth, global economy including taxation, finance, digital economy and artificial intelligence; inclusive and sustainable world; energy and environment, Society 5.0, quality infrastructure, global health, ageing, climate change, and marine plastic waste. The summit provided India with a platform to highlight specifics under energy security, financial stability, disaster resilient infrastructure, WTO reforms, countering terrorism, return of economic fugitives, food security, democratization of technologies and portable social security schemes.

To highlight a few, the fight against corruption at all levels was discussed by all G20 countries, and each country ensured that steps are being taken to solve the problem. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised the issue of the delay in bringing to justice people committing economic crimes. The Indian Government has since passed a law to crack down on fugitive economic offenders who refused to come back to the country to avoid investigation by Indian authorities.

Furthering the infusion of technology which has created a multitude of economic opportunities was discussed, and furthering efforts to help bridge the digital divide and improve the quality of life was also highlighted at the summit. India reiterated its strong belief that climate change was a reality and the biggest threat to humanity. The nation is focused on adopting a sustainable mode of development in all aspects.

CSR Times: With scrapping up of Article 370 to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India, the region is poised for a double-digit growth. Do you wish to extend the invite to G20 countries to take part in the progress and prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir? What’s happening in Jammu and Kashmir is not just a political decision but also an economic decision thus providing a fillip to the growth in this beleaguered state. Do you have some important initiatives on hand?

 Suresh Prabhu: Removing Article 370 has been a bold decision of the government which was long overdue and as we see the whole country has stood behind it. I am not directly involved with the decision-making process but you would agree that the international community has fully endorsed Prime Minister Modi’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir.

CSR Times: Is India hosting G20 summit in 2022 in New Delhi? What is the specific agenda for 2022 summit?

 Suresh Prabhu: India will host the G20 summit in 2022, when the country celebrates its 75th year of independence.To mark the momentous occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had appealed to the G20 members to allow India to have the summit in New Delhi, which was unanimously endorsed by member countries. Regarding the agenda, the prevailing geopolitical, economic, environmental and any other issues which might arise by then are expected to dominate the proceedings.