First Muslim-majority country to chair the G20
In 2012, Mexico was the first emerging economy to lead the G20. So Turkey is not the first. But those out there with unhealthy “first time ever” obsessions can take solace in Turkey being the first Muslim-majority country to chair the G20. This is one more “first time ever” for you. No one says it out loud, but I can see it in their eyes – everybody is following Turkey with great interest for this reason, if not any other. Turkey is the first Muslim-majority country to lead the G20 process. See, I said it again. That makes 2015 important.
Secondly, the Turkish presidency of the G20 also happens to come at a time when there are major upheavals in the Muslim world. So it is timely. Look where the Arab Spring of 2010 is today. Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Egypt all represent different angles of the same problem. If the 20th century was about the integration of China into the global economy, the 21st century will be about the integration of the Muslim world. And we are just getting started.
Thirdly, in 2016 the Chinese presidency will follow this year's Turkish G20 presidency. In 1907, Japan defeated Russia, in the first-ever Asian war victory over Europe. Its reverberations were felt as far away as the Ottoman Empire at the time - in Istanbul and in Cairo. A Chinese friend of mine was vehemently recounting the issue recently. “You know 1907 was not the first Asian victory over Europe,” he was saying, “You, Turks had the first one ever.” He was talking about 1071, at the battle of Malazgirt. “Turks defeated Byzantium: Asia triumphant over Europe for the first time ever,” he said.
The Turkish G20 presidency encapsulates its objectives in the three “I's”: Inclusiveness, investment and implementation. I was asked whether a fourth one could be added: Identity. Yes and no, if you ask me.
No, as "identity" technically isn’t a G20 issue. Global inequalities, global governance issues and global economic difficulties cut across the barriers of identity. No matter how you define it, there is one big civilization on this blue planet of ours. I do not see any difference between a Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Hindu doctor. Surgeons everywhere have to adhere to the same practice when cutting someone open. It is the same for an engineer constructing a bridge, or running a nuclear power plant. There cannot be a Buddhist version of nuclear physics.
So why are there only three “I’s” for the Turkish G20 presidency? Because the fourth one is silent.