New Delhi declaration ‘almost ready’, says India’s G-20 Sherpa, as Ukraine para remains st...

New Delhi declaration ‘almost ready’, says India’s G-20 Sherpa, as Ukraine para remains sticking point

Draft to be handed to leaders to discuss at G-20 summit, as officials downplay issues with China, Xi’s absence; diplomats and officials privy to talks indicated there has been a considerable movement on all the “non-geopolitical issues”

The joint declaration is “almost ready”, said India’s G-20 ‘Sherpa’ Amitabh Kant, indicating that the Sherpas or leaders’ representatives for G-20 countries will now hand over the document to G-20 leaders who begin their summit on September 9 in an effort to close the gaps, mainly over the paragraph on Ukraine. Mr. Kant also downplayed issues with China during the negotiations, and said that while all countries have a “veto power” over the joint statement to be issued, India had been able to bring “every single country” on board with its priorities.

“Our New Delhi declaration is almost ready”, Mr. Kant said at a briefing ahead of the G-20 summit on Friday. “The New Delhi leaders’ declaration which you will see after the Summit, will have the voice of the Global South and developing countries. No document in the world would have such a strong voice for the developing countries,” he added. Speaking about the finance track, Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth, who is also the Co-Chair of the Finance track of negotiations, said the delegates had a particularly “rich and intense” discussion on reform of multilateral development banks including the IMF, and India was “highly hopeful that discourse over the past nine months will get a positive consideration from the leaders.”

As Sherpa negotiations continued on Friday, and were expected to go late into the night, diplomats and officials privy to talks indicated there has been a considerable movement on all the “non-geopolitical issues”, indicating consensus on the language on climate action, finance, phasing out fossil fuels, and over debt restructuring. The final push will now need to come from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other G-20 leaders as they discuss the joint declaration and other issues during two sessions on Saturday, where the membership of the African Union is expected to be cleared. The leaders will meet again on Sunday for one session after which the declaration, if it is agreed upon, will be released. If not, only a Chairman’s Summary and outcome document listing the areas of disagreement and agreement will be put out, which will be a precedent in G-20 history, which has always managed to issue a joint document.

Meanwhile, western leaders landing in Delhi on Friday said they would hold firm on references to Ukraine despite Russia’s objections.

“We hope that it will be possible to have a communique and there is no secret about the position that the EU is defending around the table regarding the war launched by Russia against Ukraine,” said European Council President Charles Michel, at a press conference in Delhi

Geopolitical issues

While China has opposed the insertion of the “Bali paragraphs” from last year’s G-20 summit, objecting to any geopolitical issues in the G-20 statement, Russia has opposed direct criticism of its invasion of Ukraine last year, adding that the impact of sanctions by the Western countries, and arms transfers to Ukraine should be added if the references remained.   “We cannot fall back from what was agreed to in Bali,” a senior Japanese government official told The Hindu. “The price hike in energy and goods has been triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is a blatant violation of international law. It is obviously because of aggression by Russia against Ukraine that the issue of food security has become more important than ever before. We understand the G-20 is about economic issues…. but we cannot [discuss economic issues] without addressing that root cause.”

When asked if China had blocked the joint statement, and whether Chinese President’s absence from the summit was a “spoiler”, the officials present, including Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, Mr. Ajay Seth and G-20 Chief Coordinator Harshvardhan Shringla, avoided any criticism of Beijing, suggesting they are still hopeful of successful negotiations. 

“China is a multilateral player where the issues are very different from bilateral issues. Chinese discuss issues of growth and development from their perspective…. We have been able to work with every single country and bring them on board,” Mr. Kant replied.

China has, however, been among the more difficult negotiators in the talks, according to people familiar with the discussions, on a number of issues beyond Ukraine, and at one point even raised objections to a routine mention in the joint declaration referring to the U.S. hosting the G-20 in 2026 following Brazil in 2024 and South Africa in 2025. In Beijing, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that on the issue of Ukraine, China had participated in the G-20 “Summit document” in an “active and constructive” way. 

“We stand ready to work with the other parties towards positive outcomes at the New Delhi Summit under the principle of consensus building,” said Chinese MFA spokesperson Mao Ning, who also indicated that the Chinese position on climate change stood with developing countries.

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