With the Ukraine conflict entering a second year, India will focus on the “substance, not the symbolism” of outcomes at the G-20 summit, Chief Coordinator Harsh Shringla said. In a possible indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin might skip the summit scheduled for September, officials separately said that they hope Mr. Putin will visit India for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, which is tentatively being scheduled for June this year. Mr. Putin had missed attending the G-20 summits in Italy in 2021 and in Indonesia in 2022.
“I don’t think the symbolism matters” said Mr. Shringla, former Foreign Secretary and former Ambassador to the U.S., speaking at the Indo-American Friendship Association, when asked about the difficulties of arranging a joint photo opportunity for all G-20 members. “What is important is that as a group, we strive towards achieving solutions that are much needed in the world today,” he said, adding that it was too early to comment on the specific attendance of any leader.
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Ahead of the virtual ‘Global South Summit’ that will be hosted by India, Mr. Shringla said that the Ukraine conflict has left the developing world with mounting debts, lower revenues and higher import bills, which would be an important subject on the agenda of the conference being organised as a part of India’s G-20 Presidency.
“Many of the developing countries today are facing the impact of higher import bills of food and fuel. At the same time, they are seeing lower revenues from decreasing international demand for goods and services, and lower remittances for many developing countries that rely on remittances tourism etc. for their income,” he added, citing reports that at least 90 developing countries are on the edge of deep indebtedness, and the Summit of the Global South on January 12-13 would address those issues.
India has invited 120 countries to the Global South Summit, which will begin on Thursday with an inaugural speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the “leaders session”, followed by ten online sessions of Finance Ministers, Environment Ministers and Foreign Ministers and others. MEA officials declined to give a list of which countries would participate in the sessions, and whether they included countries like China and Pakistan. The officials said the list of participants and speakers was being finalised and would be announced on Thursday.
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In response to a question by The Hindu on whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would be invited to address the G-20 later this year, as he was by Indonesian President Joko Widodo in 2022, Mr. Shringla said India would make every effort to ensure global “peace and stability” during its year as G-20 President. As Chief Coordinator, Mr. Shringla said he was working on plans for 215 meetings across 56 locations in India.
“On Ukraine, the Prime Minister has said that this is not an era of war, that India believes in peace, and diplomacy and dialogue are the only way out. The Prime Minister also spoke to both President Putin and President Zelensky. As far as we are concerned, anything that we can do to ensure that there is an atmosphere under which we can take forward the larger agenda, which is peace and stability, that is our priority,” he said.