Doval in Jeddah for 2-day NSA conference on Ukraine

Ukraine officials to pitch for support from Global South, India keen to push for G-20 consensus

August 05, 2023 09:12 pm | Updated 09:12 pm IST - NEW DELHI

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval being welcomed  by Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Suhel Khan and Consul General Mohammed Shahid Alam at the Jeddah Airport on Saturday.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval being welcomed by Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Suhel Khan and Consul General Mohammed Shahid Alam at the Jeddah Airport on Saturday. | Photo Credit: ANI

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval joined NSAs from other nations on Saturday at a peace conference on the Ukraine conflict hosted by Saudi Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, where the government also hopes to build some consensus for a G-20 declaration at next month’s Delhi summit, which is currently at an impasse.

Participants at the Jeddah conference include United States NSA Jake Sullivan and Chinese Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui. The event will be addressed by Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, and builds on an earlier effort hosted by the Danish Foreign Minister in June this year, which was attended by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Secretary (West) Sanjay Verma.

Russia has not been invited to the conference, but a Kremlin statement said that it would “keep an eye” on the proceedings.

Wooing the Global South

In particular, the conference is expected to make a pitch to Global South countries — including India, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico — that have thus far kept a “neutral stance”, to take a keener interest in pushing for an end to the conflict that began in February 2022.

“The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) looks forward that this meeting contributes to reinforcing dialogue and cooperation through deliberations at the international level on the ways to ensure a solution for the crisis through political and diplomatic means and in a way that strengthens international peace and security, sparing the world further humanitarian, security, and economic repercussions of the crisis,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.

However, the U.S. State department said in a briefing that the conference would stress the “importance that Ukraine be in the driver’s seat when it comes to any potential diplomatic resolution to this war”, while Mr. Yermak, the Ukrainian Presidential advisor, said it was aimed at “uniting the whole world around Ukraine”. Ukraine is also keen on support for its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s “peace formula”, which includes a pullout of Russian troops, and hopes to host its own conference later this year.

“India’s participation is in consonance with our long-standing position, that dialogue and diplomacy is the way forward,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday, announcing the NSA’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

Seeking G-20 consensus

Mr. Doval landed in Jeddah on Saturday, and is expected to meet with his counterparts on the sidelines of the weekend conference. His visit comes three months after his last visit to Jeddah, where he met his counterparts from the U.S., the UAE, and the KSA for quadrilateral talks; and weeks after a visit to South Africa, where he attended a meeting to prepare for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s travel for the BRICS summit on August 22, along with counterparts from Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa. 

While the meeting in Jeddah is focused on the future of the Ukraine conflict, New Delhi has also been keen to bring all sides on board its Leaders Declaration for the G-20 summit that India is hosting in September. No G-20 ministerial meeting has yet managed to issue a joint statement, owing to differences between G-7 countries and the Russia-China combine over including language specific to the Ukraine conflict. If the two sides cannot agree on a statement before the G-20 summit ends on September 10, it would become the first summit in the group’s history without a Leaders Declaration, an outcome that India would like to avoid.

India has thus far turned down Mr. Zelenskyy’s requests to address the G-20 summit, but has stepped up diplomatic engagement with Kyiv in the last few weeks. It sent Mr. Verma, the most senior official to visit Ukraine since the war began, for Foreign Office consultations there in July this year.

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