March 30, 2023

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G20: A major test for Indian diplomacy as US, Chinese and Russian ministers meet in Delhi

New Delhi (CNN) The foreign ministers of the world’s largest economies met in New Delhi, paving the way for a major test in the… Indian diplomacy as it tries to overcome tensions over Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

At the second high-level ministerial meeting under India’s G20 presidency this year, the country’s foreign minister, Subrahmanam Jaishankar, will meet his US, Chinese and Russian counterparts on Thursday, hoping to find enough common ground to deliver a joint statement. at the top end.

The world’s largest democracy, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, has been keen to position itself as Leader of emerging and developing countries – often referred to as Global South – At a time when rising food and energy prices as a result of the war are hurting consumers who are already suffering from rising costs and inflation.

Those sentiments were front and center during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inaugural remarks on Thursday, when he said the impacts of wars, terrorism, climate change, pandemics and the financial crisis were “primarily faced by developing countries”.

“After years of progress, we are today at risk of returning to the Sustainable Development Goals. Many developing countries are struggling with unsustainable debt,” Modi said.

Flags of the G20 in New Delhi on February 28, 2023.

But analysts say India’s bid to advance its agenda has been complicated by persistent divisions over the war.

Those differences came to the fore in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru last month, when the G20 finance chiefs failed to agree on a statement after their meeting. Russia and China refused to sign the joint statement criticizing Moscow’s invasion. That left India issuing a “Chairman’s Summary and Outcome Document” which summarized two days of talks and acknowledged the differences.

Throughout the war, analysts say, New Delhi has deftly balanced its relations with Russia and the West, with Modi emerging as a leader courted on all sides.

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But as the war enters its second year, and tensions continue to mount, pressure may mount on countries, including India, to take a more assertive stance against Russia – putting Modi’s statecraft to the test.

Acknowledging that the war has led to “deep global divisions”, Modi encouraged the foreign ministers to put aside differences during their meeting on Thursday.

“We should not allow issues that we cannot solve together to stand in the way of those that we can solve,” Modi said. “I am sure that today’s meeting will be ambitious, inclusive, action-oriented and will transcend differences.”

Budget law in India

Arguably India’s most famous event this year, the G-20 summit has been heavily promoted domestically, with sprawling billboards showing Modi’s face across the country. Roads were cleaned and buildings freshly painted before the VIP visit.

It takes place in the “mother of democracies” under Modi, and his political allies have been keen to bolster his international credentials, and portray him as a major player in the global system.

Last year’s G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, Indonesia, issued a joint declaration that echoed what Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin weeks earlier on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan.

“Today’s afternoon should not be a war,” she said. Which prompted the media and officials in India The claim that India played a vital role in bridging differences between isolated Russia and the United States and its allies.

A board decorated with flowers welcomes foreign ministers in New Delhi, India, on February 28, 2023.

Analysts say India prides itself on its ability to balance relations. The country, like China, has refused to condemn Moscow’s brutal attack on Ukraine in several UN resolutions. Instead of severing economic ties with the Kremlin, India has worked to undermine Western sanctions by increasing its purchases of Russian oil, coal and fertilizer.

But unlike China, India has drawn closer to the West—particularly the United States—despite ties to Russia.

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New Delhi’s relations with Moscow date back to the Cold War, and the country remains highly dependent on the Kremlin for military hardware — a vital link given the ongoing tensions between India and China over their shared Himalayan border.

The United States and India have taken steps in recent months to strengthen their defense partnership, as both sides try to counter the rise of an increasingly assertive China.

Daniel Markey, senior adviser on South Asia, told the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) that while India’s leaders “would like to facilitate an end to this conflict that preserves New Delhi’s relations with both Washington and Moscow and ends the disruption of the global economy,” India “didn’t have” Any special influence” with Russia or Ukraine would make a settlement likely.

“I think other world leaders are equally interested in playing a diplomatic role in making peace. So when Putin sits down at the negotiating table and if he so desires, he will have no shortage of diplomats to hope to help,” he said.

However, as Putin’s aggression continues to throw the global economy into disarray, India has signaled its intention to raise many concerns faced by the global south, including climate challenges and food and energy security, according to Modi’s opening speech.

“The world looks to the G20 to mitigate the challenges of growth and development, economic resilience and resilience to disasters, financial stability, transnational crime, corruption, terrorism, food and energy security,” Modi said.

Navigate the tensions

While Modi’s government appears eager to prioritize domestic challenges, experts say tensions between the United States, Russia and China may sideline these issues, which have increased recently over Washington’s concerns that Beijing is considering sending deadly aid to the Kremlin’s faltering war effort.

Speaking to reporters last week, Ramin Toloy, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Trade Affairs, said that while Secretary of State Antony Blinken will highlight his efforts to address food and energy security issues, he will “also underscore the damage that Russia’s war of aggression has caused.”

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Toloy said Blinken would “encourage all G20 partners to redouble their calls for a just, peaceful, and lasting end to the Kremlin’s war, consistent with the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

At the same time, Russia in statement It accused the United States and the European Union on Wednesday of “terrorism”, noting that it is “set to clearly state Russia’s assessments” of the current food and energy crisis.

Russia said, referring to the difficulties that New Delhi may face during the meeting.

India, Markey said, had “worked very hard not to get caught in one side or the other”. He added that the country cannot “afford to be alienated by Russia or the United States, and Modi does not want to discuss war to force any difficult decisions or divert attention from other issues, such as green and sustainable economic development.”

But with relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorating after the US military shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon that had flown over US soil, New Delhi will have to carefully lead difficult negotiations between conflicting viewpoints.

China maintains that the balloon, which was shot down by US forces in February, was a civilian research aircraft that accidentally veered off course, and the fallout prompted Blinken to postpone a planned visit to Beijing.

With differences likely to surface during Thursday’s ministerial meeting, analysts said India may see even limited progress as a victory.

“It is likely that any joint announcement will be portrayed in the Indian media as a diplomatic achievement,” said Markey. But its broader significance would be limited.