G20 Foreign Ministers Meet: No Joint Communiqué
STORIES, ANALYSES, EXPERT VIEWS
Sharp differences on the Russia-Ukraine war between the US-led West on one side and Russia-China on the other, prevented a joint communiqué at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meet Thursday. As a result, the meeting held under India’s presidency, adopted a Chair’s Summary and Outcome document listing various key priorities for the grouping.
While, on the surface, this is a repeat of stated positions, Shubhajit Roy (Associate Editor and Deputy Chief of National Bureau, Indian Express), says “what is significant is that both US and India said that the outcome document was approved by an overwhelming majority. In what marks a calibrated step forward, Washington backed Delhi’s statement that the Chair’s summary – put out by India as Chair of the G-20 — was a product of consensus on a variety of issues.”
This is the second time in a week that the G-20 ministerial has failed to come to a consensus — the G-20 Finance Ministers’ meeting in Bangalore could not come up with a communique. India, as the chair of the G-20 meeting, came with a Chair’s summary.
Differences over paragraphs 3 and 4
After the G-20 ministers’ meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said: ‘There were differences on the Ukraine conflict which we could not reconcile.’ He said that while the Bali declaration had a consensus, some countries felt that it cannot be extrapolated, referring to Russia and China.
However, he sought to clarify that while there was consensus on ’95 per cent' of the issues, there was none on two paragraphs.
The contentious paragraphs in the Chair’s summary are Paras 3 and 4.
Para 3 read: ‘The war in Ukraine has further adversely impacted the global economy. There was a discussion on the issue. We reiterated our national positions as expressed in other fora, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which, in Resolution No. ES-11/1 dated 2 March 2022, as adopted by majority vote (141 votes for, 5 against, 35 abstentions, 12 absent) deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.
'Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognizing that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy.’
And Para 4 read: 'It is essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability. This includes defending all the Purposes and Principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and adhering to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and infrastructure in armed conflicts. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.’
Statements by Antony Blinken and Lavrov
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there is a broad consensus on the Russian-Ukraine war within the G-20 except for two countries which he called ‘outliers’ and ‘holdouts - Russia and China. He said that the US strongly supports India’s agenda for G20.
Lavrov, in his remarks, said: ‘The West has sacrificed to its ambitions in Ukrainian affairs all areas of work that should constitute the core of the G20’s activities…I would like to apologize to the Indian chairmanship and our colleagues from the countries of the Global South for the improper behaviour of some Western delegations that turned the work on the G20 agenda into a farce in an attempt to shift the blame for their economic failures primarily to Russia.’
PM Modi’s statement
Earlier, stressing that “global governance has failed” to prevent wars, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday told the foreign ministers of G20 countries they are meeting at a time of “deep global divisions” and discussions are “affected by the geopolitical tensions of the day”.
Modi told the visiting foreign ministers to draw inspiration from “India’s civilisational ethos” and “to focus not on what divides us, but on what unites us”. He was referring to global challenges of growth, development, economic resilience, transnational crime, corruption, terrorism, and food and energy security.
Multilateralism is in crisis today: Modi, who began the session, said, “We must all acknowledge that multilateralism is in crisis today. The architecture of global governance, created after the Second World War, was to serve two functions. First, to prevent future wars by balancing competing interests. Second, to foster international cooperation on issues of common interests. The experience of the last few years – financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism, and wars – clearly shows that global governance has failed in both its mandates.”
Issues faced by Global South: He also brought up the issues faced by the developing and the less developed countries, widely referred to as the Global South.
He said, “We must also admit that the tragic consequences of this failure are being faced most of all by the developing countries. After years of progress, we are at risk today of moving back on the Sustainable Development Goals. Many developing countries are struggling with unsustainable debt, while trying to ensure food and energy security for their people. They are also the ones most affected by global warming caused by richer countries. This is why India’s G20 Presidency has tried to give a voice to the Global South. No group can claim global leadership without listening to those most affected by its decisions.”
Global challenges: The prime minister, without mentioning the Russia-Ukraine war, said, “You are meeting at a time of deep global divisions. As foreign ministers, it is but natural that your discussions are affected by the geopolitical tensions of the day. We all have our positions and our perspectives on how these tensions should be resolved.”
And, then he called on the G20 countries to focus on the global challenges confronting the world, that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
“However, as the leading economies of the world, we also have a responsibility towards those who are not in this room. The world looks upon the G20 to ease the challenges of growth; development; economic resilience; disaster resilience; financial stability; transnational crime; corruption; terrorism; and food and energy security. In all these areas, the G20 has the capacity to build consensus and deliver concrete results. We should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can. As you meet in the land of Gandhi and the Buddha, I pray that you will draw inspiration from India’s civilisational ethos – to focus not on what divides us, but on what unites us,” he said.
G20 must provide direction to world: EAM Jaishankar
In his remarks at the G20 foreign ministers' meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, without mentioning the Ukraine conflict, said the grouping must find common ground and provide direction to the world though there are some "matters of sharp differences".
"Let us remind ourselves that this grouping bears an exceptional responsibility. We first came together in the midst of a global crisis and are today, once again, actually confronting multiple on," he said.
Jaishankar identified the impact of the Covid pandemic, concerns of fragile supply chains, the knock-on effects of ongoing conflicts and anxiety of debt crises as some of the key challenges.
His comments came amid indication of sharp differences between the West and the Russia-China combine over agreeing on a joint communique at the end of the meeting.
Challenges before the Global South: The discussions at the meeting also included the challenges of food, fertilisers and fuel security. "These are truly make or break issues for developing countries. We heard their concerns directly in January this year through the Voice of Global South Summit," he said. "Indeed, we urge that they be central to any decision making. Along with that, the world must also strive for more reliable and resilient supply chains. Recent experience has underlined the risks of being dependent on limited geographies," Jaishankar added.
The external affairs minister also highlighted the need for putting foucs on "pressing and more systemic challenges that we all confront."
Reform of multilateral institutions: The future of multilateralism, he said “depends very much on our ability to strengthen it in a changing world….”
The minister also referred to the need for reform of multilateral institutions, saying the global architecture is in its eighth decade. "The number of members of the United Nations has quadrupled in this period. It neither reflects today's politics, economics, demographics or aspirations. Since 2005, we have heard sentiments for reform being expressed at the highest level," he said.
"But as we all know, these are not materialised. The reasons are no secret either. The longer we put it off, the more the credibility of multilateralism stands eroded. Global decision making must be democratised if it has to have a future," he added.