Former commerce minister Suresh Prabhu has been appointed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's sherpa for the G20 summit. A sherpa is a personal representative of a head of state who prepares ground for him or her at international summits. The prime minister is attending the meeting at Osaka in Japan from June 27-29.
Prabhu, in PM Modi's second term, was apparently not inducted into the cabinet under pressure from alliance partner Shiv Sena. He had started his career with this regional party from Maharashtra and it is well known that Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray is not fond of him. He had switched over to the BJP in November 2014 to join the Union cabinet. After he was not given a Cabinet berth this time, speculations were rife about his political journey, and there were reports of his appointment either in the PMO (head of trade negotiations, on the lines of the USTR in the US) or as NITI Aayog Vice Chairman.
Prabhu, as commerce minister, was applauded for his skills and the way he defended India's stance in the World Trade Organization meeting at Buenos Aires, Argentina, and didn't give in to the US pressure. Interestingly, just before joining the cabinet in 2014, he was given the role of sherpa for the G20 meeting in Australia. Considered close to the prime minister, he continues to be a Rajya Sabha MP.
For this G20 meeting, Prabhu has listed terrorism, global security, global slowdown, multilateralism, environment and energy and fate of economic fugitives as key issues for discussions. He has said that global trade and fate of national economies are interlinked and slowdown in global trade reflects in a slowing domestic economy. "The NDA government believes in removal of hurdles to free trade," he added.
Collectively, the G20 economies account for nearly 90 per cent of the gross world product, 80 per cent world trade, two-third population and approximately half of the world's land area.
Sources in Ministry of External Affairs told BT that PM Modi will also meet US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the meeting. Over the last six months, the US has pushed India to cut down oil imports from Iran, back off from the deal to buy S-400 from Russia, not go ahead with plans for data localisation and not build a public sector credit register. US retail players like Amazon and Walmart are also feeling the pinch of India's retail and ecommerce policies. Most of these things had come in when Prabhu was the minister. This will help him in his role as a sherpa at the G20 meeting.