Home India G20 Outcome Document: Ukraine Spoiler But Can India Pull It Off?

G20 Outcome Document: Ukraine Spoiler But Can India Pull It Off?

G20 outcome document

NEW DELHI: India will play host to a gathering of the world’s most powerful leaders from Thursday, as U.S. President Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau land in Delhi for the G20 summit. They will be followed by others including Saudi Crown Prince Salman and French President Macron.

Missing will be Russia’s Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, but as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar pointed out in an interview the other day, there have been earlier instances of presidents or prime ministers skipping the meeting, but their representatives would be present: Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Premier Li Qiang of China. Incidentally, Lavrov had represented Putin at the last summit at Bali, Indonesia as well.

The key question is the outcomes document; will there be one given the entrenched positions on Ukraine?

Unless New Delhi manages to convince the rest of the members to agree to an anodyne Leaders Declaration or joint statement that either ignores the issue altogether, or notes that there are differing views on the subject (like the statement issued after the last summit at Bali), it would face a situation where there might not be a joint declaration at all.

The Bali statement came after hectic last-minute parleys with India playing a key role. It noted that “Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy …. Recognizing that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy.”

Can India pull off something like this again? Former deputy national security adviser Pankaj Saran told StratNews Global in an interview that in his view if the U.S. and its allies “agree on a paragraph on Ukraine for the outcomes document, it will probably be for the sake of India, not for the sake of Russia. To prevent embarrassment for India, because of their good relations with India, and the good relations India has with the G7 and the U.S., …. I think there will be hard negotiations underway right till the very end. If it doesn’t happen, India will be happy to live with whatever happens, because beyond a certain point, I don’t think India is going to buckle in.”

Indonesia had gone some way towards mollifying Western sentiment by allowing Ukrainian President Zelensky to address the summit virtually.  But India inviting him to the summit was a no-no given that the G20 is an economic forum and not a platform for conflict resolution.

The consensus among the G20 development ministers is “for an action plan to speed up the sustainable development goals achievement.”

In Delhi the mood is positive, with officials insisting that there would be a joint declaration.  India would also plug for the African Union’s admission to the G20, and play a ‘proactive role’ in highlighting the lack of funding for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the $100 billion dollars promised by the West to help the developing countries fight climate change.

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As the saying goes, the stage is set, let the fight begin!

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In a career spanning over three decades and counting, I’ve been the Foreign Editor of The Telegraph, Outlook Magazine and The New Indian Express. I helped set up rediff.com’s editorial operations in San Jose and New York, helmed sify.com, and was the founder editor of India.com.

My work has featured in national and international publications like the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, Global Times and The Asahi Shimbun. My one constant over all these years, however, has been the attempt to understand rising India’s place in the world.

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