Government to hold ‘off-site’ in Andamans as it prepares for G20 presidency

G20 ambassadors to be flown to the Andaman & Nicobar Islands later this month for the Ministry of External Affairs and ‘Sherpa’ briefing on logistics for 2023

Updated - November 17, 2022 11:26 pm IST

Published - November 17, 2022 09:02 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo take part in the handover ceremony at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, on November 16, 2022.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo take part in the handover ceremony at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, on November 16, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

Days ahead of taking over the G20 Presidency formally, the government plans to fly diplomats from all missions of G20 countries, invitees and United Nations agencies, for a special briefing by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the G20 Secretariat to a resort in the Andaman Islands, officials told The Hindu. The “off-site” for about 30-40 diplomats would take place at the Havelock Islands Taj Exotica hotel on November 25-27, where G20 ‘Sherpa’ Amitabh Kant, ‘Sous Sherpa’ Abhay Thakur, and the G20 National Coordinator, former Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla, will give them a preview of India’s plans for the next year of its Presidency.

They will also hold an “interactive” meeting with the diplomats, to take in ideas from them to build the policy agenda for the event on various issues, including trade and investment, climate change, food and energy security and health, as well as all the major items on the agenda for the grouping of the world’s most advanced economies.

The MEA declined to comment about the off-site plan, and officials said many of the details are still being worked out. According to the tentative programme, the diplomatic contingent will be taken by a special chartered flight to Port Blair on November 25, and will visit the ‘Kala Pani’ or Cellular Jail museum dedicated to freedom fighters. They will be taken by ferries to the Havelock Island hotel, where G20 meetings will be held the next day, and would return to Delhi on November 27.

“This will be, in a sense, the first ever G20 meeting India holds, as we will hear about the plans for the process. Logistically, the Indian government’s plans to hold meetings in different cities won’t be easy, but it is a good opportunity for India to showcase different parts of the country,” one of the G20 Ambassadors attending the off-site told The Hindu.

The delegates at the off-site will include G20 countries, as well as some Ambassadors and High Commissioners from India’s special invitees — Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and the U.A.E. In addition, the UN Resident Coordinator Shombi Sharp, and heads of other multilateral agencies, have also accepted the invitation to travel to the Andamans. The Ambassadors of Indonesia, Ina Krisnamurthi, and Brazil, Andre Aranha Correa Do Lago, who make up the troika of countries hosting the G20 before and after India respectively, will constitute the core group of countries involved in planning the G20 agenda, and are expected to attend. Among other invitees, The Hindu has learnt that the Ambassadors and High Commissioners of several countries, including Russia, Turkey, Australia, Germany, Mexico, Singapore, United Kingdom, etc., have already indicated their acceptance, while some like France, Italy, Japan will send deputies, and others like the U.S., China, the U.A.E. and Bangladesh will send other officials as they don’t have an accredited Ambassador at present.

The meeting in the Andamans will prepare the way for the schedule of G20 technical and Ministerial meetings over the next 10 months, leading up to the G20 summit in September 2023, which will be held in Delhi. The government has already announced that in a departure from previous G20s, that stick to a single venue for most events, it hopes to hold the 200 or so G20 official meetings in about 50 locations, including all the States and Union Territories of India. Another key decision was to hold the G20 summit in September, rather than November, given the levels of pollution in Delhi due to crop burning at the later time.

“The idea is to hold preparatory meetings on a pan India basis. Venues will be decided on certain criteria like the availability of accommodation and connectivity. State governments are part of the consultative process,” an official involved in the planning told The Hindu.

The next event, and the first after India formally takes over the Presidency will see the Sherpas of all G20 delegate countries travelling to Udaipur in Rajasthan from December 4-7, one of the 50 cities that have been identified by the G20 Secretariat for the major meetings. A previous plan to hold a high-profile G20 meeting in Srinagar was put off after it generated a controversy, particularly among Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries and China, and officials confirmed that while a “technical” meeting may be held in Kashmir, senior official and Ministerial meetings will be held at other venues.

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