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Dr Singh's could be the voice of reason in G20 cacophony

Last updated on: November 10, 2010 08:38 IST

Dr Singh's could be the voice of reason in G20 cacophony

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Saisuresh Sivaswamy in New Delhi

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, embarking on his first international visit since United States President Barack Obama's endorsement of India's qualification to sit at the global high table, could as well face the first test of his government's multilateral policies at the G20 summit to be held on Thursday and Friday in Seoul.

Not that the group of 19 nations (the European Union making it 20) is starved of issues.

The United States would like trade surplus nations like Germany to agree to a cutoff on the deficit/surplus.

Germany, on the other hand, finds the US Fed Reserve's recent action of pumping in $600 million dollars into the economy, known as 'quantitative easing', outrageous as it alters the international trade rules in favour of Washington, DC.

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Image: Prime minister Manmohan Singh.

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President Obama did point out in New Delhi on Monday that the US Fed Reserve does not work to the government's diktat, although both of them would like the economy to turn around.

The US also believes that China has artificially kept the yuan's value down in order to power its export engine, a charge that Beijing resolutely denies. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao made it clear that India was not for naming any country.

It is in the midst of these fractious exchanges that India, led by its sober prime minister, will hope to make its voice heard.

But indications as of Tuesday evening did not paint too optimistic a picture of the outcome on Friday.

A joint communique is scheduled for Friday evening after the deliberations, but it is anyone's guess if it will be able to bridge the chasm among various viewpoints.

Prime Minister Singh has a busy schedule after reaching Seoul late on Wednesday.

Apart from the summit, he is also expected to hold bilaterals with Brazil, the United Kingdom and Canada - more could be added to the list as the day progresses.

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Image: President Barack Obama at the Gandhi Museum in Mumbai on Nov 6, 2010.
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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The thrust of the multilaterals is development, apart from the obvious ones like reducing volatility in the international financial markets, the mandate for the future etc.

Among the invitee nations at the summit are Spain, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Singapore.

The G20 represents 85 per cent of the world's gross domestic product, but also speaks for barely 15 per cent of the globe. The challenge, clearly, is to focus on the underdeveloped nations who form the bulk.

In a sense, it is a microcosm of India's challenges - how to ensure that the fruits of development, seen to be benefitting a small influential pyramid at the top, trickles down to the teeming masses.

And it is here that Prime Minister Singh's voice, and prescription, becomes crucial. Whether it will be drowned out in the sharp exchanges, remains to be seen.


Image: A police officer riding a motorcycle is reflected on a sculpture as he patrols in front of the Coex Convention Centre, the venue of the G20 summit, in Seoul.
Photographs: Jo Yong-Ha/Reuters
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