India is hosting the G20 Summit this year. Just like when Indonesia hosted it at the end of last year, the issue of the Russia-Ukraine war is said to loom over the meeting in India.
According to VOA Indonesia, on Saturday (9/9/2023), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is hosting this year, has promised that the Ukraine issue will not overshadow his focus on the needs of developing countries in the Global South. However, the Ukraine conflict has proven difficult to ignore.
“New Delhi does not want to divert attention from the main agenda, which is addressing the concerns of the South countries,” said Nazia Hussain, a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“So, even though there will be discussions about the issues arising from the war – security and supply chain disruptions, energy security, and food supplies – the focus should remain on how to mitigate the impact of the war rather than debating the geopolitical/security aspects of the war.”
As G20 leaders began arriving on Friday (8/9), Indian diplomats were still trying to find compromise language for a joint communique.
Russia and China, Moscow’s most important supporters in the war against Ukraine, have rejected a draft law that refers to Ukraine stating “most members strongly condemn the war,” using the same language they signed last year at the G20 Summit in Bali.
Meanwhile, the European Union stated that the compromise language suggested by India was not strong enough to be approved. Similarly, the UK stated that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to press G20 members to take stronger action against Russia’s invasion.
Ending the summit without a communique would underscore the tension between major world powers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a speech at the Bali Summit via video last year, but Modi has confirmed that Ukraine was not invited to participate in this year’s event.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to keep Ukraine engaged in the discussions, telling Zelenskyy through a video call posted by leaders on Instagram, “I’m disappointed you’re not here, but as you know, we will speak strongly for you.”
Without Xi and Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly decided not to attend the G20 Summit in person but instead sent lower-ranking officials.
Russia and China did not cite reasons for their leaders’ absence, but both appear to be placing greater emphasis on the BRICS group of like-minded nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
The BRICS group at its summit last month agreed to expand its membership to include Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
China’s relations with India remain tense due to an ongoing border dispute, but despite this, there was a decision to send Prime Minister Li Qiang rather than Xi.
India’s Relationship with Moscow
India also has a historical relationship with Moscow but maintains good relations with the United States as well. Modi hopes to use his country’s influence to bridge the gap between the wealthy countries that have united to impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine war and the Southern countries.
About half of the G20 countries are in the Global South – depending on how one defines it – and Modi hopes to add the African Union as a member of the bloc.
In preparation, he held a virtual “Voice of the Global South” meeting in January and emphasized important issues for developing countries, including alternative fuels like hydrogen, resource efficiency, developing a common framework for digital public infrastructure, and food security.
“For Southern countries, the Indian presidency is seen as a great opportunity to meet development needs, especially as Brazil and South Africa will take over G20 leadership from India in 2024 and 2025,” Hussain said.
European Council President Charles Michel told reporters on Friday that it is important to appreciate India because New Delhi has been working “actively, sometimes quietly” to maximize the chances of achieving a joint communique.
Michel expressed hope that the G20 Summit would be productive.
“I don’t think the G20 will solve all the world’s problems in two days,” he said. “But I think it can be a bold step in the right direction, and we should make an effort to make it happen and support the Indian presidency.”