Ukraine war not a priority of G-20 presidency, says India

Russia, China have rejected language on Ukraine that G-7 nations insist on including; Amitabh Kant says it is at present being discussed ‘bilaterally’, not in full G-20 group; development, African Union membership were more important for India

Updated - July 14, 2023 08:31 am IST

Published - July 13, 2023 09:24 pm IST - HAMPI

India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant. File

India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant. File | Photo Credit: PTI

With little movement on consensus between G-7 countries and Russia and China over a joint statement, India’s G-20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said that the Ukraine war was not on India’s list of priorities for outcomes from its presidency. Instead, India is focused on finalising the language of the “Leader’s Declaration” pertaining to economic and development issues, while leaving the “contentious” issues for later, he said.

Mr. Kant was speaking to journalists at the start of the third meeting of the Sherpas — personal representatives of the heads of government, preparing for the summit — of the G-20 countries and special invitees, being held at the historic temple town of Hampi, in Karnataka.

“The Russia-Ukraine war is not our creation, or that of developing or emerging countries. It is not a priority for us…” Mr. Kant said, listing India’s priorities as “development issues, growth, more financing from multilateral institutions, technological transformations, and supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

AU inclusion is priority

He also said that discussions on language about the Ukraine war was at present being discussed “bilaterally”, and not in the full G-20 group. In the absence of a consensus on the statement to be released at the Delhi Summit, India may be forced — for the first time in G-20 history — to issue only a “Chairman’s Outcome Statement”, which would not be endorsed by other countries.

“Our priority is not war; it may be a priority for someone else. Which is why we will discuss this at the end. Whether we get a solution or not, that doesn’t reflect anything,” said Mr. Kant, indicating that India would seek successes in other spheres, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal for the African Union (African Union) to be inducted as a member of the G-20. At present, the G20 includes the world’s 19 largest economies, with the European Union as the 20th member. In June, Mr. Modi had written to all G-20 leaders, proposing that the African Union — including 54 African countries — be made a full member at the Delhi Summit, slated to be held on September 9 to 10. 

The proposal to include the AU is one of the key changes in the “Revised Draft” text that was shared with the delegations on Thursday. According to sources, the “contentious” paragraphs referring to the Ukraine war have been held for the moment, and the focus of the document is on economic and multilateral initiatives.

Also Read | Divisions between United States-led countries and Russia-China upend India’s attempt to forge consensus at G20 Foreign Ministers

Deadlock on Ukraine

G-20 Sherpas are meeting at the tourist city of Hampi, the 14th-century capital of the Vijayanagar empire, for about 17 hours of talks over three days, officials said. While the last Sherpa meeting will be held just prior to the Summit in September, and the negotiations could continue until the very last minute, the present meeting will attempt to run possible compromise formulae past the various delegations to forge a consensus. 

Talks had broken down in February after Russian and Chinese officials made it clear that they would not sign on to two paragraphs referring to the war in Ukraine that were critical of Russia’s actions, which had been agreed to at the Bali Summit last year. As a result, most statements put out during the Indian presidency refer to the Russian and Chinese dissent in these paragraphs. G-7 countries — most notably the U.S., France, and Canada — have also made it clear that they will not sign on to a joint communique that does not contain the Bali Summit paragraphs. 

 “It’s not an easy job, the Sherpa’s job is a very tough job,” Mr. Kant told journalists at the expansive grounds of the Hotel resort in Hampi where 125 delegates from G-20 countries, special invitees and international organisations are being hosted. 

Bilateral discussions

Meanwhile, Indian diplomats are working with their counterparts from each of the countries on possible options. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who is currently attending the East Asia Summit in Jakarta, met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea and the U.K. on the sidelines of the meeting, to discuss the upcoming G-20 summit, among other issues. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have the opportunity to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Capetown next month, when he attends the BRICS summit, as all BRICS members belong to the G-20 as well.

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