India is putting together this year its largest entourage of ministers, policymakers and business leaders for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting at Davos – with Prime Minister Modi addressing the opening plenary session at the prime event.
The Davos meeting marks attendance of the richest and most powerful among the elite from across the world to discuss global economics and politics. This year's theme is "Creating a shared future in a fractured world,” highlighting the need for collaborative and integrated action to address the multitudinal scale of challenges that our world faces today.
Forums with international repute evolve over a period of time, just like other organizations. The World Economic Forum too has widened its ambit since 1971 – from discussions limited to global economic change to include political and social change as well. This broadening has been brought by an emphasis on dialogue and consensus between conflicting agendas.
The growing unification within the world economy has helped India establish itself as an emerging market economy to a considerable extent. With elite economic powers now recognizing India's presence worldwide in major sectors, it is useful to understand the stature of our participation in forums at the global level in view of erratic global developments that have become a common spectacle today.
It is after a gap of 20 years that an Indian prime minister will be attending WEF's annual meeting, the last being H.D. Deve Gowda in 1997. With recent economic reforms as the background and the Goods & Services Tax and demonetization as the front-runners, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to echo his vision of a new and transformed India by 2022 at this global stage while taking on issues relating to economic imbalances, terrorism, and cyber threats.
He is the chief marketing person of India's narrative on national and foreign policies, entrusted with the responsibility of making sure that the message is received. The accompanying ministers, businessmen and civil society leaders too would be elaborating on the efforts made in the last three-and-a-half-years in several sessions.
This move comes at a time when there's optimism surrounding the Indian sentiment towards economic growth and social advancement. The insightful interactions with top-notch world leaders at forums like the WEF make room for some of the best learnings and showcasing one's own experiences to foster greater connectivity and cordial relations.
While targeting global forums, India can lay out its position in today's world order; represent the willingness to take the lead and send out a categorical message across the global community regarding the creation of a conducive environment for doing business, and emerge as a potential partner in steering global economic growth.
Reflecting upon this view, the government is preparing for the commemorative two-day Indo-ASEAN summit to be led by Narendra Modi in Delhi from Jan. 25. The summit will see the participation of all 10 ASEAN countries. This can prove to be an opportunity for our country to present itself as a powerful confederate to these countries in areas of strategic regional connectivity and target global positioning as well.
However, India decided to give a miss at the Asian Financial Forum, the 11th edition of which (in Hong Kong earlier). The AFF features the world's most powerful business and financial players discussing ideas and the developments in dynamic Asian markets. It is not to say that non-participation at the AFF this year reflects India's weak stance on intensifying its global presence as the reasons for non-participation are not clear.
If we look at the ramifications of such global and national forums, one can assert that these conversations and dialogues help in moving one step forward towards higher integration of thoughts and experiences. There are several other platforms even at the national level, like the National Competitiveness Forum, aiming to drive India's productivity, competitiveness and leadership in global markets through its activities, and Thinkers Sandbox, a thought leadership platform, to name a few.
Forums like these can help our country commandeer a resilient narrative both nationally and internationally.
The average Indian here would think and say: "What's the point in all this?" He may have never heard of a place like Davos and is very likely to think that it is nothing but a scheme by the world's most powerful elite. As a matter of fact, there may not be big boost decisions affecting his routine activities from such dialogues. Sill, in a place where global tensions arise with a blink of an eye, it is a solace that there are neutral platforms where discussions will not turn unpleasant.
(Dr. Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. The views expressed are personal. Bhawna Kakkar is researcher, Institute for Competitiveness, India)