The G20 declaration, which hit snags on the language to describe the Ukraine war, amounted to a “coup” for host Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The final compromise statement reflected a stand far softer than those the US and its Western allies have adopted on Russia, the world media said on Sunday.
India managed to hammer out an unexpected consensus among the G20 countries on the contentious issue of Ukraine through a series of hectic negotiations with emerging economies such as Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia playing a leading role in reaching the breakthrough on the first day itself.
Leaders gathered for the two-day annual Group of 20 Summit managed to agree on a ‘G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration’ laying out shared views on climate change and economic development but showed the fractures within the group by stopping short of explicitly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Diplomats had been working furiously to draft a final joint statement in the lead-up to the summit but hit snags on language to describe the Ukraine war.
The New York Times said a painstakingly negotiated declaration Saturday evening at the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi omitted any condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or its brutal conduct of the war, instead lamenting the “suffering” of the Ukrainian people.
This year there were low expectations that the divided group would reach any sort of consensus with Ukraine, it said.
“The eventual compromise statement amounted to a coup for the summit’s host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but still reflected a position far softer (than) those the United States and its Western allies have adopted individually,” CNN commented.
The G20 summit in New Delhi was one of the most complicated in the history of the bloc, Russia’s G20 sherpa, Svetlana Lukash, said on Saturday.
“I believe that it was probably one of the most complicated G20 summits in the almost 15-year history of the forum’s existence. It took almost 20 days before the summit and five days here on the ground to agree on a declaration,” Lukash was quoted as saying by Russia’s official Tass news agency.
The New York Times also highlighted a project announced during the summit to create a rail and shipping corridor linking India to the Middle East and, eventually, Europe.
The paper said though the project lacked key details, including a time frame or budget, it represented much softer than usual rhetoric about Russia from US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders, who have spent the better part of two years spending billions on arming Ukraine and burning untold domestic political capital building support for the war.
Biden spent most of his time at the summit quietly nurturing his relationship with Narendra Modi, it said.
“Biden, like previous presidents, is trying to bring India closer,” the paper quoted Richard N. Haass, a foreign policy veteran and former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, as saying.
“He’s having limited success, but that’s the nature of the relationship. That’s baked into the cake here,” Haass said.
India’s G20 presidency comes at a moment of contradiction for the country: Its rise to a bigger role on the world stage coincides with increasing divisions at home, the paper said.
The Delhi declaration appears designed to allow both the West and Russia to find positives. But in the process, it has used language that is not as strong in its condemnation of Moscow as it was in Bali last year, BBC said.
Importantly, the declaration specifies “the war in Ukraine” rather than “the war against Ukraine.” This choice of words could have increased the likelihood of Russia endorsing the declaration.
Ukraine – which took part in the Bali summit – was not invited this year, and its response to the declaration has been critical, it said.
The British public broadcaster also highlighted the Ukrainian foreign ministry’s reaction on X, formerly known as Twitter that “in terms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, G20 has nothing to be proud of.”
The other big news came when Modi formally invited the African Union (AU) to become a permanent member of the G20.
“Delhi prioritised elevating the voices of these nations as the foundation of its presidency, and in the near future, it is poised to reap the rewards of this strategic choice as it vies with China for influence across Asia and Africa,” it said.
The declaration signifies a major win for India, which holds this year’s G20 presidency, The Guardian newspaper said.
It has been a particularly challenging year for the group, which represents the world’s largest economies, as Russia and China had proved intransigent in discussions around the Ukraine war, climate and energy, derailing attempts for a consensus in previous ministerial meetings, it said.
Modi wanted to show he could bridge global divides at this G20 in Delhi. The fact he’s reached a consensus on the first day of this G20 is proof he can, Sky News said in an article titled ‘Modi will count G20 consensus as a win – but it shows how low the bar for success is’ “Ukraine was always going to be the sticking point. What he’s avoided is what would have been an unprecedented failure – coming out of this summit with no agreement,” it said.
“But be in no doubt, the paragraph on the Ukraine war is a watered-down version of what was agreed in Bali last year,” it said.
“What is perhaps most revealing in the language of this declaration though is the assertion that “G20 is not the place to resolve geopolitical issues”. That is an overt acknowledgement of the limitations of this group,” it added.
The softer language showed the deepening fractures among leaders of the world’s top economies as the 19-month-long war dragged on in Eastern Europe, The USA Today wrote.
Anthony Albanese hailed the G20 summit for delivering what he described as the harshest international rebuke yet of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, even as the leaders’ declaration watered down its comments on the conflict and the statement drew praise from Moscow, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said.
But the G20’s language was softer than last year’s statement in Bali, dropping a direct reference to the “war against Ukraine” and a paragraph that said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine”, it said.
While Indian Prime Minister Modi avoided the embarrassment of presiding over the first G20 summit not to issue a joint declaration, the negotiations went on until the last minute after weeks of calls from the US and Europe for the group of the world’s largest economies to take a stronger stance on the conflict, it said.
Modi has spent the summit burnishing India’s global image and attempting to shift the spotlight of the G20 away from Ukraine and towards trade, infrastructure investment and climate change, it added.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper in an article ‘G20 declaration on Ukraine — hype or reality?, said, “The joint declaration didn’t condemn Russia and appeared to be of a piece with the recent visit to Kyiv by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken where he failed to air standard western invectives for Moscow or President Vladimir Putin.
“Instead, Mr Blinken focused on the human trauma of the war and on the task of rebuilding from the rubble ahead,” it said.
“On this particular G20 outing, even the muscular American media accompanying their president were astonished at being kept out of Mr Biden’s meeting with Mr Modi. If the joint declaration in Delhi triggers prospects for peace in Europe, part of the credit would be claimed by Mr Modi justifiably,” the paper said.
South African media mostly focused on the African Union becoming a G20 member.
A South African foreign ministry spokesperson welcomed the news report about the G20 agreeing to make the African bloc a member along the lines of the EU.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking to burnish India’s credentials as a major power, announced the African Union’s membership in the G20 on par with the European Union, News24 said.