Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya has described his two-and-a-half year tenure ‘a dream come true’, saying that it was a very courageous move on part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have appointed ‘an outsider’ at such a high position. Panagariya, the first Vice Chairman of the Niti Aayog, had written to the Prime Minister that he be relived of his duties by August 31 as his leave from Columbia University is coming to end. “It has been a true privilege for me to serve under you these past two and a half years. I would like to say that this has been dream come true but even that would fall short of what has happened. For opportunity and experience you have made possible have been well beyond anything I had dreamt. “No previous leader has shown the courage to appoint ‘an outsider’ at this level in the government of India,” he said. He further said: “When we last met, I had mentioned that my leave from Columbia University will soon be ending and that, after two and a half years, my wife is keen to return closer to children. Accordingly, I am writing to request that I may be relived of my duties as the Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog by August 31.” Panagariya also suggested to the Prime Minister, who is the Chairman of Niti Aayog, to find a full-time Sherpa for G20 talks as India’s role is expanding in the global arena. “During the past two years, the responsibilities of the Niti Aayog have multiplied at a fast pace. This has meant rapidly rising demands on the time of Vice Chairman.
“Simultaneously, under your leadership, the stature of India on the global stage has rapidly risen…this means that going forward, the word of G20 Sherpa would expand.This means that going forward, the work of G20 Sherpa would expand. To ensure that work of Niti Aayog and G20 engagements receive due attention, it may be worth considering separating these roles in the future,” he said. “A full-time G20 Sherpa would, in any case, be a necessity if India were to host the G20 summit in the future,” he added. Sherpas, who are representatives of leaders of G20 member countries, coordinate on the agenda of a summit. As per the practice, the deputy chairman of the erstwhile Planning Commission used to be the Sherpa for G20 talks.
During the UPA regime, former deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia was Sherpa for G20 talks. Panagariya was India’s Sherpa for the 12th G20 summit held on July 7-8 in Hamburg, a major port city in Northern Germany.
The G20 is the central forum for international cooperation on financial and economic issues. The G20 nations account for more than 80 per cent of gross world product and three-quarters of global trade and are home to almost two- thirds of the world’s population.