With the one-year anniversary of Ukraine war next week, India’s top diplomatic machinery has been working the phones and racking up air-miles to ensure a smooth G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM) on March 1, less than a week later, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to leaders of the U.S., France and Spain this week, National Security Advisory Ajit Doval has returned from high-profile visits to Washington, London and Moscow, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is in Australia this weekend, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra visited Dhaka, and Minister of State (MoS) V. Muraleedharan who has been in Australia, will travel to Singapore this week, all countries invited to this year’s G-20 events.
“Judging by the difficulties Indonesia faced last year, where G7 countries did not attend the reception held in Bali ahead of the FMM in July 2022, and the Russian FM then walked out after delivering his speech, the atmosphere at the Delhi FMM is likely to be even more tense,” said one G-20 diplomat privy to the talks. Another diplomat pointed to the fact that there have been no formal “family photos” or group photos at any of the G-20 events in either Indonesia last year, or the events in India held in various cities thus far.
Also of significance will be the statement that comes out of the G-20 Finance Ministers’ Meeting on February 23-25, the first ministerial event in the Indian G-20 calendar, that will be held in Bengaluru. Given that the meeting will coincide with the first anniversary of the Ukraine war, that has led to economic worries and issues over food and energy security, officials said that the event will be an important precursor to the FMM.
Sources say the government’s priority is that the G-20 FMM passes without any awkward moments or walkouts, given growing global polarisation between the G-7 and European Union and Russia. All eyes will be on how many countries vote in favour of a draft resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that will see a “just and lasting peace”, and call on Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw its forces from Ukraine. India, that has abstained from roughly two dozen votes on the Ukraine war in all including at the UN Security Council, UNGA, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Human Rights Council, is expected to continue to walk the tightrope, although diplomatic sources said a final decision will be made closer to the date.
According to the schedule shared with members of the G-20 as well as special invitee countries Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and UAE, the G-20 FMM event will kick off with a dinner on March 1, and discussions will be held on March 2 over three sessions to finalise the agenda for the Summit in September. While the EU+G7 countries have been introducing comments condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine at all working group meetings held in India thus far, India will seek a consensus that tones down the messaging at the G-20 meeting.
An earlier plan to hold the FMM at the G-20 main venue at Pragati Maidan has been shelved as the construction is not complete yet. The meeting on June 2, which will be held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Cultural Centre instead, will be followed by all Ministers present attending the inaugural event of the Raisina Dialogues conference, hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and think tank ORF. Many of the G-20 Foreign Ministers will stay on for the Raisina Dialogue on March 3-4. In addition, Foreign Ministers of Austria, Denmark, Latvia, Czech Republic and many others are expected to travel to India for the conference.
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In addition, Italian PM Georgia Meloni and Foreign Ministers of Austria, Denmark, Latvia, Czech Republic and many others are expected to travel to India for the conference. An earlier plan for French President Emmanuel Macron to officiate as the chief guest at Raisina has however, been dropped due to scheduling issues, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has reportedly pulled out in protest over references to Iranian protests in the Raisina conference publicity video.