NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.N. chief Antonio Guterres on Wednesday sought India's support in mobilising G20 nations to help out developing countries saddled with debt, with three of India's neighbours already seeking IMF loans as their economies struggle.
India takes over the G20 presidency from Indonesia for a year from Dec 1. India's neighbours Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh have in recent months sought IMF loans as high oil prices complicate efforts to recover from the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I count on India’s support in mobilising G20 countries around debt relief," Guterres told the students and faculty of the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. "Many developing countries are at or near debt distress and require multilateral action, including the expansion and extension of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative."
Established in May 2020 during the pandemic, the initiative allowed nearly 50 countries to suspend $12.9 billion in debt-service payments until the end of last year.
Guterres said climate change was "already a grave threat" to India's economy, agriculture and food sector, and to the health, lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.
"Record-breaking heat waves, droughts and floods in parts of India are causing havoc already," he said. "These are a foretaste of what is to come without much greater global climate action."
He said G20 countries were responsible for 80% of global emissions and must take the lead in cutting those. Rich countries should also financially help developing ones do so, he said.
"I have called for coalitions of support around countries including India, with ambitious plans to accelerate the deployment of renewables," said Guterres, who meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday.
Guterres also urged the country to condemn hate speech unequivocally, protect the rights and freedoms of journalists, human rights activists, students and academics, and ensure the independence of the judiciary.
(Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Lincoln Feast)