India’s G20 and Cuba’s G77: Bridging the Gaps | The Financial Express

India’s G20 and Cuba’s G77: Bridging the Gaps

India and Cuba have historically had friendly relations and their prospects appear to be positive.

India’s G20 and Cuba’s G77: Bridging the Gaps
Cuba could tap into India’s expertise and experience in building consensus.

By Dr Asif Iqbal, 

India and Cuba have the presidencies of G20 and G77 this year. India has headed the G77 more than
once since the Group started in 1964. It is for the first time that the Republic of Cuba will head the Group as its president. While India and Cuban bilateralism is close and is growing closer, can both the countries, in their respective presidential terms this year, bring these two groups together, notionally as well as operationally, to make them complementary players? This is an assumption which is worth pondering over.

Let us examine the possibility of the above formulation from three angles. First, how strong is the India- Cuba relation in terms of mutual need and interdependence? The strength of this relation will bear upon the interactions between both the blocs-G20 and G77. Second, can India help Cuba, as the president of G20, the past president of G77, and a friend of Cuba, in navigating the G77 countries towards a coherent and confident voice of the South. India should like to do that as only recently, New Delhi demonstrated the political will in reorganising the South into a close-knit collective staking their claim and space for a just and an equitable world order.

The G77 is a coalition of developing countries from the South established in 1964 at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). They were 77 countries with a common objective of promoting their collective economic interest. It has grown to be 134 counties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the conference of ‘Voice of South’, which comprises many of these countries, had declared, “Your problems are India’s problems, and your priorities are our priorities”. Third, what are the areas of convergence and complementarities between these two blocs?

India and Cuba have historically had friendly relations and their prospects appear to be positive. Both countries have cooperated on a range of issues including de-colonisation, non-alignment, and against racism and imperialism. India was the second Asian country to recognise the Cuban Revolutionary Government of 1959. With the visit of the Cuban revolutionary leader, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara visited India in the same year and met Indian Prime Minister Nehru. The following year, India and Cuba began diplomatic contacts. Only last week Che’s daughter Aleida Guevara was in India receiving warm welcome from many admirers of her martyred father.

India has recently extended medical assistance and training to Cuba. New Delhi has also extended the timely Line of Credit (LOC) of 100 million Euro to help Cuba tide over their food shortages by buying rice from India. Although the trade volume between these countries is limited at present, prospects are indeed bright. India could leverage on its good relations with Cuba in expanding her footprints in Latin America. Also, India could cash on Cuba’s location and proximity with the USA for exploring trade opportunities. Cuba has good relations with China and Russia. India could use that goodwill in running the SCO- the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation of which India is the Current president until September this year.

How could India, as the president of G20 help Cuba? At the same time, how could Cuba draw on the experience of India in running G77 in the past? To start with, India could be the bridge between both the blocs, G20 comprising the rich and the middle-income countries and G77, a group of 134 underdeveloped and developing countries. The gaps existing in multiple sectors in both these blocs often put the G77 at a disadvantageous position as they fail to bargain for fairness, justice and equity. India could foster close cooperation between two blocs. New Delhi could advocate the inclusion of G77 issues and concerns into the G20 agenda- poverty reduction, mitigating the negative and unequal impact of climate change, food security, digital divide, restructuring global debt and building resilience in Global trade by creating options for supply chains etc. India could do so by nudging the G20 to provide technical and financial assistance, building capacities, advocating ambitious climate actions in terms of technical and financial assistance to tackle climate crises, and debt relief measures.

Cuba could tap into India’s expertise and experience in building consensus. This is an important skill for any country to have in leading a large group as it enables the members to present a united front.

Second, Cuba could draw on India’s efforts in promoting economic development through South-South cooperation. Note that close interaction among G77 countries has been defocussed in the race for rubbing shoulders with the ‘rich and powerful’ where the terms of negotiations are often unequal. India has been a strong advocate of the importance of increased trade between the G77 countries as well as of multilateralism within G77 and in the UN. Cuba has a similar approach refusing to acquiesce in domination by ‘big powers.’ Both countries leading the two blocs could emphasize upon the concept and strategy of multilateralism.

Both G20 and G77 are well-advised to work in harmony. There are several areas that call for convergence in planning and execution of projects. Trade and investment, an open and balanced trading system is a necessary condition for spurring economic growth and development. Likewise, cooperation is needed in the areas of climate change, infrastructure development, capacity building, health and food security. All these were encapsulated in the MDGs, now SDGs, which are the collective objectives of the world set by the United Nations.

Notably, G77 consists of two-third countries of the world. It represents the interests and concerns of most of the world population which is disproportionately impacted by poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment.

The future of this group will be shaped by several factors including the ongoing challenges facing these countries; the need to promote sustainable economic growth and development, to address the impact of climate changes, the changing political, economic and security landscape and the capacity to adapt to these changes.

In order to help Cuba in navigating the G77 through these challenges facing its members, India could share its expertise and experience- diplomatic, economic, technical, and above all, mediatory leadership. In addition to intergovernmental cooperation, the non-governmental organisations working on track-II diplomacy and international business could step in to give a hand to Cuba. Cuba Day was celebrated in New Delhi on 24 January with a non-governmental initiative, coordinated by the Indian Economic and Trade Organisation (IETO) which has been closely working with the Cuban government and business essentially to promote India-Cuba business relations. In the presidency years of both countries of G20 and G77 which constitute the population of almost the entire world, all possible help from any quarters will contribute to the effective handling of the promising as well as the demanding tasks at hand.

Finally, a synergetic cooperation between the government, business and civil societies within and across the countries represented in these blocs will promote peace, security and prosperity for all.

The author is President, Indian Economic Trade Organization.

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First published on: 30-01-2023 at 16:25 IST