G20: Harsh V Shringla is chief coordinator of the G20

Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla, who will retire at the end of this month, was appointed chief coordinator of India’s G20 on Saturday, as the country assumes the G20 presidency later this year after the summit in Indonesia and is preparing to host the 2023 event amid a new political geo-order.

His term will begin on May 1 and remain in office until December 2023. The Chief G20 Coordinator is a secretary-level position. ET was the first to report that Shringla will be named to the position.

The G20 Summit will be India’s largest multilateral event in recent years and will simultaneously bring together all P5 (US-Russia-China-UK-France) delegations to India.

Shringla over the past two years, while cultivating ties with all major powers and neighbours, has spearheaded efforts to evacuate Indians stranded overseas during Covid as well as from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

The pandemic has been the greatest shock to the international system since World War II. Led by Shringla, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded.

Having a wealth of previous experience in the neighborhood, Shringla’s tenure has naturally seen a renewed focus on India’s Neighborhood First Policy. His frequent engagement – five visits in two years – was key to the success of the President’s and Prime Minister’s visits to Bangladesh in 2021. His visits to Afghanistan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka, in the middle of COVID-19, reaffirmed India’s commitment to support its neighbors as they face the negative impact of the pandemic.

His visit to Nepal, India’s first high-level visit after Nepal released its new political map, helped ease tensions and mend ties with a key neighbour. Relations have improved since Prime Minister Modi hosted the Prime Minister of Nepal (in April 2022).

Myanmar posed a difficult challenge after the military coup in February 2021. Foreign Minister Shringla’s visit in December 2021, India’s only high-level visit since the coup, provided a ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders in Myanmar. He took advantage of this visit to also underline India’s serious security problems vis-à-vis the military regime.

Outside the quarter, relations with the United States received constant attention from Foreign Secretary Shringla. He remained productively engaged with key American interlocutors, including Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Beigun in the Trump administration and later Wendy Sherman in the Biden administration. Several visits to the United States provided an opportunity to interact with a range of senior US administration officials on important bilateral issues ranging from trade and investment to disarmament and international security.

He also visited Russia to hold consultations with the Foreign Ministry and interacted with senior officials, including the Russian Foreign Minister, and think tanks and played a key role in the success of the President Vladimir Putin in India in December 2021.

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs is always accessible, open to new ideas; imperturbable under pressure – during the Covid period; a firm, firm but just hand in the management of the ministry. His visit to Moscow in February 2021 was a huge success,” Venkatesh Varma, India’s former envoy to Russia, told ET DB.

“His professionalism was well appreciated in Moscow; he fully supported engagement in the Far East and devised new avenues of engagement that focused on Buddhism as a constraining factor.

The past two years have seen the Quad level rise to the Leader level. As India’s Quad Sherpa, Foreign Minister Shringla laid the groundwork for important Quad initiatives launched by the four leaders in areas such as vaccines, new and emerging technologies and climate.

The concept of Indo-Pacific has imposed itself in recent years, particularly in Europe. This has prompted India to promote greater engagement with the EU in this region. The Foreign Minister’s visits to France, Germany and the UK were aimed at explaining India’s approach to the Indo-Pacific and enhancing cooperation with the EU in this region . A related initiative was the first India-France-Australia trilateral dialogue, co-chaired by Foreign Minister Shringla, to enhance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. He has also been a regular participant in Indo-Pacific Coordination Calls hosted by the United States.

Shringla’s tenure as foreign minister coincided with India’s election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He oversaw the election campaign with India securing 184 out of 192 votes. He closely supervised and guided India’s position on different issues within the UNSC. He also participated in and chaired several important UN Security Council meetings, including the one that passed the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 2593 on the Afghan. Shringla was closely involved in organizing the historic UNSC maritime security meeting chaired by Prime Minister Modi.

Shringla also had to deal with the unprecedented situation on the India-China border. Attempts at a resolution required considerable attention from the Foreign Secretary, who was an important part of the China Study Group tasked with formulating India’s negotiating position and strategy on the issue.

Shringla has been an important member of the Prime Minister’s delegation in all key bilateral and multilateral engagements. In addition to assisting the Prime Minister during the virtual summits, the Minister of Foreign Affairs accompanied him on crucial visits to attend the G20 summit and the COP 26 summits.

One of the main priorities of the Shringla was the promotion of the 3 Ts – Commerce, Tourism and Technology. Under his initiative, performance on this aspect has now become an important part of the assessment of Indian diplomatic missions abroad.

Shringla has focused on explaining and demystifying foreign policy for the general public. To this end, he addressed a large number of gatherings in universities, think tanks, chambers of commerce and public institutions.