As envoy says G-20 summit is key event for Russia, Putin visit now a possibility

Russian Deputy Ambassador Roman Babushkin accuses U.S. of trying to weaken India-Russia ties

Updated - July 07, 2023 12:19 am IST

Published - July 06, 2023 05:43 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin. File

Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The G20 summit in India is one of the “most important” events for Moscow, said a senior Russian diplomat, indicating the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could attend the summit, which would be the first time he would come face to face with western leaders since the war in Ukraine began.

Answering questions at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) weekly briefing, the MEA spokesperson too said that the government “looks forward to welcoming Mr. Putin” at the G20 summit in Delhi on September 9-10.

Explained | All about the G20: History of the forum and India’s presidency

“As far as the G20 Summit is concerned, we take it as one of the most important events this year, and all preparations are going on. Usually, plans of the President are announced in due course,” said Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin, who is acting Ambassador at present, in a written interview with The Hindu.

In 2022, Mr. Putin had skipped the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, given the war in Ukraine and threats from Western leaders to boycott his appearance, and sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his place.

While Mr. Babushkin said that Russia was “determined to support the Indian Presidency to ensure the success of the G20 Summit”, the diplomat did not hold out hope that Russia and China would agree to the draft statement — which could result in a failure to issue a joint communique, a first in the G20 grouping’s history.

Opinion | India’s G20 presidency and food security

Ahead of next week’s G-20 Sherpa meeting in Hampi, where top negotiators led by India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant will try to hammer out a consensus on a joint statement ahead of the Summit in September, Mr. Babushkin said that unless “all countries are on board” there can be no consensus. He claimed that Russia and China’s stand against including the Ukraine war in the text, was understood by the other members of the G-20.

When asked why Russia and China were holding up the consensus on the Delhi statement, given that they had signed on to similar paragraphs about Ukraine in last year’s G-20 Bali summit statement, the envoy said that that it was the Western States that were “undermining” India’s presidency by “politicising” the G20 that is meant to discuss economic issues.

“The Western choice for upscaling geopolitical tensions makes the so-called ‘Bali consensus’, which was a huge compromise from the Russian Side last year, even more irrelevant,” Mr. Babushkin replied. “This understanding is shared by all non-G7 members, although most of them prefer to keep quiet publicly….If [Western countries] want Ukraine to be part of the G20 agenda, then why not mention their infamous Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and other campaigns [as well],” he asked.

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin and briefed him about his visit to Washington, where a major GE-HAL MoU on jet engine technology had been announced, paving the way for technology transfers from the U.S. to India. Mr. Babushkin said that as a “global power pursuing diversified foreign policy according to its national interests”, India’s partnership with the U.S. is natural, and Russia would not comment on another bilateral relationship.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. is preoccupied with this very purpose to get Russia out of India, weaken our cooperation and involve India in its geopolitical games,” he added, however, referring to U.S. sanctions against Russia, despite which India’s oil imports have taken two-way trade to $44.4 billion.

“Whatever the U.S. is offering to India in the defence area, it cannot match the level and depth of the Russian-Indian cooperation,” Mr. Babushkin wrote in replies to The Hindu.

When asked if delays in the S-400 Triumf missile system deliveries to India indicated India-Russia defence ties would be affected by the Ukraine war, the envoy said all difficulties would be resolved to “mutual satisfaction”. “We are committed to implementing all agreements including the contract for the supply of advanced S-400 “Triumf” air defence systems according to our obligations,” he added.

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