Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies began arriving in New Delhi on Friday for their annual gathering as negotiators struggled to bridge differences over the war in Ukraine, seeking to build consensus for a successful summit host India wants.
Slums, monkeys and stray dogs have been removed from the streets of the Indian capital and businesses, offices and schools were closed in the central business and government district as part of security measures to ensure the two-day summit runs smoothly.
But the gathering risks being derailed by deeper and more entrenched divisions over Russia’s war, hurting progress on issues such as food security, debt distress and cooperation on climate change.
It is also expected to be dominated by the West and its allies. Chinese President Xi Jinping is skipping the meeting and sending Premier Li Qiang instead, while Russia’s Vladimir Putin will also be absent.
The summit will still be the most high-powered gathering ever in India with U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman and Japan’s Fumio Kishida, among others, confirming participation.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “call out” Russia over its invasion and use its clout to help end the war, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.
The hardened stance on the war has prevented agreement on even a single communique at the ministerial meetings during India’s G20 presidency so far this year, leaving it to the leaders to find a way around, if possible.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who is in New Delhi ahead of Biden’s arrival on Friday, said Washington is willing to work with India to help craft a communique at the end of the summit but it would be a challenge.
“So I understand that this is challenging to craft such language, but I know the negotiators are discussing it, and working hard to do so and we stand ready certainly to work with India to try to craft communique that successfully addresses this concern,” Yellen told reporters at a briefing.
The most important thing that can be done to support global economic growth is for Russia to end its brutal war in Ukraine, she said.
The IMF has forecast lower growth for most G20 nations this year than in 2022.
LANGUAGE ON WAR
European Council President Charles Michel echoed that view.
It is difficult to predict whether leaders will reach a consensus on a declaration but EU will support efforts made by India for a final communique, Michel told reporters in New Delhi.
Michel said Moscow is violating the UN charter and must stop attacking Ukrainian cities.
G20 sherpas or negotiators have made progress on most issues but the main point sticking point is the language in the leaders’ declaration on the war, four Indian government sources told Reuters.
Western countries want a strong condemnation of the invasion as a condition for agreeing to a Delhi declaration. India has suggested that the G20, while condemning the suffering caused by Russia’s invasion, also reflect Moscow and Beijing’s view that the forum is not the place for geopolitics.
In addition, there is some disagreement on climate change cooperation, the sherpas added.
The group has been divided on commitments to phasing down fossil-fuel use, increasing renewable energy targets and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Modi’s government is projecting India’s presidency of the group and the summit as a showcase for the country’s fast-growing economy and its rising position in the geo-political pecking order.
New Delhi has been decked up for the gathering with a brand new summit venue, fountains, flowerpots and illumination along major thoroughfares, alongside thousands of armed security personnel standing guard.