Amid divergence on Ukraine, India succeeds in raising core issues

The G-20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Thursday was unable to come out with a joint communique due to sharp differences over the Ukraine conflict despite persistent efforts by host India to build consensus. So, the meeting, held under India’s presidency, adopted a Chair’s Summary and Outcome document. But amid all the war of words between the US-led West and Russia over the Ukraine war, New Delhi succeeded in highlighting the real and core global issues during the conclave.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also made it a point to raise all the key global and regional issues during bilateral meetings with his counterparts from US, China and Russia on the sidelines of the foreign ministers’ meet. Jaishankar in his opening address emphatically underlined the need for respecting sovereignty and integrity of other countries. This was also included in the Chair’s Summary and Outcome to which all foreign ministers agreed. The issue of terrorism was highlighted by India during the conclave. “There were a large number of issues where there was agreement, “ Jaishankar said.  Jaishankar also said the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting unequivocally condemned terrorism.
At the very outset, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unequivocally, emphatically and strongly highlighted all the global issues that were on the list of the agenda for the G-20 FMs’ meeting. PM Modi urged world leaders to find “common ground” on divisive issues. In what reaffirmed his image as a global leader and a peacemaker, PM Modi told the countries of the group to draw inspiration from India’s civilizational ethos.
Addressing the ministers ahead of the meeting, PM Modi said that global governance has failed in its mandates. He stressed that global governance has failed to prevent wars. Without mincing words, PM Modi said that they are meeting at a time of deep global divisions and discussions are affected by the geopolitical tensions of the day. In a significant message having far-reaching implications, PM Modi told the visiting foreign ministers to draw inspiration from India’s civilizational ethos and to focus not on what divides us, but on what unites us.
He referred to global challenges of growth, development, economic resilience, transnational crime, corruption, terrorism, food and energy. “We must all acknowledge that multilateralism is in crisis today. The architecture of global governance, created after the Second World War, was to serve two functions. First, to prevent future wars by balancing competing interests, and second, to foster international cooperation on issues of common interests. The experience of the last five years—financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism, and wars– clearly shows that global governance has failed in both its mandates.”
In his remarks at the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, without mentioning the Ukraine conflict, said the grouping must find common ground and provide direction to the world though there are some “matters of sharp differences”. “Let us remind ourselves that this grouping bears an exceptional responsibility. We first came together in the midst of a global crisis and are today, once again, actually confronting multiple on,” he said. During the meeting, EAM Jaishankar echoed bringing urgent reforms to the United States National Security Council (UNSC). “The number of members of the United Nations has quadrupled in this period. It neither reflects today›s politics, economics, demographics or aspirations. Since 2005, we have heard sentiments for reform being expressed at the highest level,” he said.
“But as we all know, these are not materialised. The reasons are no secret either. The longer we put it off, the more the credibility of multilateralism stands eroded. Global decision-making must be democratised if it has to have a future,” he added. The external affairs minister said the G20 countries “individually and collectively” have an obligation to contribute to international growth and prosperity. “Today›s situation demands that we continue to live up to our international responsibilities. The G20 must be sensitive to the priorities and economic concerns of all our partners, especially those more vulnerable,” he said.
The external affairs minister said the Outcome Document and the Chair’s Summary reflected the G20’s resolve to deal with pressing global challenges.
Sources told The Daily Guardian that EAM Jaishankar worked hard to persuade the leaders for a consensus on various issues to be included in the document. Finally, the top diplomats and foreign ministers were united on most of the issues that India highlighted. Jaishankar said the Outcome Document and the Chair’s Summary reflected the G20’s resolve to deal with pressing global challenges. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lauded India’s “responsible stand” on key global agendas. Addressing a conference after the meeting, Sergey Lavrov said, “Russia’s relationship with India is described as a ‘privileged strategic partnership’. This reflects the special character of the relationship. We appreciate the responsible stand India is taking on key global agendas.”
The Russian foreign minister accused the West of trying to “divide geopolitical picture”. “It is high time to reform the UN Security Council,” Sergey Lavrov said, endorsing Jaishankar’s views. “It is in the UN charter that every state must adhere to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any other state.” This was another point Lavrov made echoing Jaishankar’s views.  He further claimed, “This invasion (of Ukraine as per the West) reflects the reaction to the war the West was preparing for many years and that is why it was arming the Ukrainian regime.
Referring to PM Modi’s address, Sergey Lavrov said the PM had presented “a balanced and responsible position.” “He (PM Modi) was not just speaking about some isolated individual situation, because the West is trying to divide the geopolitical picture. Mr Modi gave an assessment of the situation across the globe,” the Russian foreign minister said.
Sources said that several countries advocated New Delhi to force Moscow to initiate peace talks with its neighbouring nation. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken lambasted his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, for “overlooking” the concerns raised by the G20 countries. Blinken said that meeting had been marred by “Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war”. On this, Lavrov accused the West of blackmail and threats.
Though angry exchanges took place over Russia’s war in Ukraine, the foreign ministers of the G-20 nations made their points on the issues which India raised. Most of them echoed India’s point that the war should be stopped immediately and the problems between Russia and Ukraine should be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue. Top diplomatic sources told TDG that the Indian side brought the focus of the G20 meeting back on the issues affecting the developing countries. However, there could not be consensus on the Ukraine issue. Jaishankar remarked, “We tried but the gap between the countries was too much”.
A footnote in the summary document stated that two paragraphs about the war, which it said were adapted from the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration in November last year, were agreed to by all member countries except Russia and China. India as chair of the foreign ministers’ meeting, highlighted the impact that the Ukraine conflict has had on the Global South. Jaishankar said, “India has been saying very strongly since a year that for much of the Global South this is a make-or—break issue. The costs of fuel, food and availability of fertilizer are extremely pressing issues.” He said many countries of the Global South are struggling with debt and have been severely impacted by the pandemic. Jaishankar said that it was not realistic and credible to talk about the future of the global economy or multilateral order if you are not able to really address the focus on the issues of those who are most in need.

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