2024: Resolutions for India Amid Global Disorder

Shankkar Aiyar
5 min readJan 1, 2024

As the world enters 2024, a confluence of emergent crises is triggering a spectre of angst and cynicism. The context carries implications for India — on how it propels its potential as it navigates its way in an interdependent world. Success rests on crafting a consensus among parties on what constitutes national interest.

By Shankkar Aiyar | The Third Eye | Published: 31st December 2023 |

The world is at an inflection point in time and events. As the planet flips the Gregorian calendar and ushers in 2024, a confluence of emergent crises is triggering a spectre of angst and cynicism. The endlessness of wars and the redefinition of national interest haunt the prospects of growth. There is a growing belief that the rules-based world order is unravelling seemingly into global disorder.

Image of the Indian Flag used for representational purpose | The New Indian Express | Photo | Pexels

The context carries implications for India on how it propels its potential as it navigates its way in an interdependent world. As we enter an intensely political year dotted by elections in major economies, the asymmetries of geopolitics play out. India will have to hedge and openly punt its options.

A useful lens to frame the circumstance for debate is the tradition of New Year resolutions harking back to Babylon. The essence of the tradition is reflection, recognition and restoration. The key to success lies in the art of crafting a consensus — on issues of national import and in the geopolitical arena on the challenges of preserving and leveraging the rules-based order.

Here are a few resolutions, beginning with reforms at multilateral agencies tasked with scaffolding the rules-based world order India is invested in.

Rally Global South for UN reforms, defang the veto ghetto: The United Nations is a rare institution which de-rates its relevance regularly. There are over 30 conflict zones dotting the world. Nobody expects a winner in the war in Ukraine and almost everybody wants the war in Gaza to end. Peace is tangled in binding and non-binding resolutions, and crippled by veto wielders who represent less than a sixth of the global population. India can rally the Global South as it did in G20 to forge an accord for equitable representation and reforms in the UN and rid the ghetto of veto.

Build shields for sticks, stones and words: India’s rise naturally triggers scrutiny and threats as domestic politics influences geopolitics. There is a need to rethink the template of actions and a calibration of responses. In the age of sentiment analysis, sticks and stones will hurt bones and words can sully branding. India needs to expand the presence of its foreign service cadre across the globe to collaborate on and co-create definitions that matter. For instance, what constitutes terrorism and an articulation of the distance between dissent and diabolical threats. This calls for setting up active shields, contesting shibboleths and exposing duplicity.

Create a coalition to rescue WTO and multilateralism: The World Trade Organization’s obituary has been written since the failed Doha ministerial. The idea of free trade has been abandoned by its evangelists who now pray at the parish of protectionism. The WTO is paralysed by its structure — its appellate body has been dead since 2020 and arbitration is limited to cosy trading blocs. Like at the Cancun ministerial, India needs to build a coalition of economies to revive WTO’s legitimacy. A good first step would be to host the next ministerial and drive the agenda.

Lead the recast of IMF and World Bank: The Bretton Woods twins founded in 1944 served the purpose of the time. The roles need redefinition to suit new realities. India is a leader in digital infrastructure, and is the fifth largest economy. As a voice for the Global South, it has the opportunity to collaborate and present a new architecture. The IMF needs to evolve beyond bailouts, plot data to predict incoming crises and design policies for resilience. The World Bank, the recast of which has been debated since 2007, should be repositioned to fund the transition of economies.

Accelerate unfinished agenda, demography is not destiny: As it partners for change globally, India needs to build capacity and resilience at home to sustain growth. India’s working age population will not decline for another four decades, UN estimates show. But demography is not destiny. India needs to invest in human capital to ready it for disruptive shifts in business models. The promise of higher spending in health and education (3 percent and 6 per cent of GDP) is yet to be fulfilled. In the age of ‘guarantees’, will political parties agree to commit funding for health, education and skilling?

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Address job creation: Unemployment is a top concern in opinion polls. The latest Periodic Labour Force Survey shows over 45 percent of workers depend on a sixth of national income derived from agriculture and only 11 percent on manufacturing jobs. Structurally, just 20.8 percent of workers are on regular wages, 22 percent are casual labourers. The upside of the demographic bulge depends on reforms in labour laws and regulations by state governments and alignment of policies such as PLI schemes with investment summits. And yes, a better mapping of job creation, a task fit for Niti Aayog, will help.

India is poised at the intersection of promise and performance. Success rests on an agreement among parties on what constitutes national interest. This requires the restoration of dialogue in domestic politics — the spectacle witnessed in parliament and the suzerainty of party interests are worrisome. On November 4, 1948, B R Ambedkar observed that if things go wrong it will not be due to a bad Constitution, but because “man was vile”. The good fellas in India’s political class must show up.

Shankkar Aiyar, political economy analyst, is author of ‘Accidental India’, ‘Aadhaar: A Biometric History of India’s 12-Digit Revolution’ and ‘The Gated Republic –India’s Public Policy Failures and Private Solutions’.

You can email him at shankkar.aiyar@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @ShankkarAiyar. This column was first published here. His previous columns can be found here.

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Shankkar Aiyar

Journalist-Analyst. Author of ‘Accidental India, ‘Áadhaar: A Biometric History’ and ‘The Gated Republic’. Studying how politics rules the economics of people!