Regional Integration is Essential for South Asia’s Development: Amitabh Kant

January 17, 2023

New Delhi: The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) is organising the 14 South Asia Conference on ‘Think20@G20: Towards a Resilient South Asia’, on 17-18 January 2023, as a special Think20 side event.

In his Welcome Address, T20 Chair of G20 India and Director General, MP-IDSA, Amb Sujan R. Chinoy welcomed the G20 India Sherpa, Mr Amitabh Kant. He reflected upon India’s role and vision as G20 Chair. As a country accounting for about 70 percent of the region’s area, population, GDP and defence expenditure, India has a special role to play in the region’s growth and development. This impulse can be stronger if we share the vision of common prosperity, said Amb Chinoy.

Highlighting poverty, climate change, natural disasters, and food and energy security as challenges before South Asia, Amb Chinoy observed that cooperation on these issues would ensure the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He said that the South Asian countries should look at India’s G20 Presidency as their shared presidency and contribute to the discussions on how to enrich the T20/G20 agenda.

Reinforcing India’s advocacy for reformed multilateralism including that of the UN, Amb Chinoy said that the G20 has a genuine opportunity to work alongside the existing system and provide an opportunity to all major nations and economies to step away from the gridlock of geopolitical differences. The Think20 must come up with ways to address the stasis in multilateralism and to nudge forward the reforms of the global decision-making architecture.

Speaking further on PM Modi’s concept of Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE), Amb Chinoy said greater weightage should prioritise ethics and values over country-specific interests and the profit principle. He referred to PM Modi’s vision of inclusivity and gender equality.

Delivering the Inaugural Address, Mr Amitabh Kant, Sherpa, G20 India, fervently advocated that ‘regional integration’ was essential for South Asia’s development. The South-Asian region remains the least integrated region in the world, with little intra-regional trade, he said. The South Asian countries must have a regional strategic approach towards creating a common developmental model to strengthen the supply structure, diminish border impediments and boost trade, he observed.   

Citing the examples of Americas, South East Asia and Europe, he said that these regions are developed because of enhanced intra-regional trade, investment and tourism. Similarly, South Asia needs to push for greater trade, investments and tourism within the region through collaborative efforts, he said.

Delving further into India’s role as G20 Chair, he said that the country has received G20 responsibility at a time when the world is infested with problems like recession, climate change, geo-political crisis of food etc, worsened by the impact of the COVID Pandemic. However, India endeavours to become the ‘Voice of the Global South’ and work towards accelerating the pace of global economy. India will continue to push for inclusive resilience, growth and stability throughout the region during its tenure as G20 Chair, he added.

The G20 Sherpa also pushed for financial inclusion of women through better nutrition, education and opportunities to elevate them into positions of leadership. He said the region cannot grow until a conscious policy is put into place to promote employment for women and to empower them.

The South Asia Conference series, which commenced in 2007, has acquired a unique stature as an important Track II initiative, bringing together academics, experts, policy makers, practitioners and media representatives from India’s neighbouring countries in a common endeavour to deepen mutual understanding and cooperation on issues of mutual interest and concern.

This year the South Asia Conference has been infused with the theme of G20 process. A large number of experts and speakers from South Asian Nations, including Myanmar are participating in the two-day conference, which also includes a Special Address by T7 (of G7) Chair, Mr Tetsushi Sonobe and a special Ambassadors’ session. Senior officials of the G20 Secretariat, including Chief Coordinator, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla also addressed the gathering.