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Bali conclave opens under shadow of Russia-Ukraine war; Modi says G20 summit in India will send out message of peace

New Delhi suggested that the G20 joint communiqué should avoid blaming anyone for the conflict, but underline that it was not the era of war
Last Updated : 15 November 2022, 07:57 IST

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Even as the Russia-Ukraine conflict overshadowed the G20 summit at Bali in Indonesia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called for truce and expressed confidence that all leaders of the bloc would agree to send out “a strong message of peace” when he would host them in India in September 2023.

“I have repeatedly said that we have to find a way to return to the path of ceasefire and diplomacy in Ukraine,” Modi said at the first session of the 17th G20 summit being hosted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo. He, however, avoided referring to Russia, which ahead of the summit opposed the move by the United States and the other western nations to shift the focus of the G20 – hitherto primarily a forum for international economic and financial cooperation – to peace and security.

“I am confident that next year when the G20 meets in the holy land of Buddha and Gandhi, we will all agree to convey a strong message of peace to the world,” said Modi, who will take over the G20 presidency from Widodo at the end of the summit in Bali on Wednesday. He will hold the presidency for a year from December 1 and will host the 18th summit of the bloc in New Delhi on September 9 and 10 next year.

“Climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, the developments in Ukraine, and the global problems associated with it – all these together have caused havoc in the world. Global supply chains are in ruins,” Modi said during the G20 summit’s first session, which focussed on food and energy security. “There is a crisis of essentials, essential goods all over the world. The challenge for the poor citizens of every country is more severe. Everyday life was already a struggle for them. They do not have the financial capacity to deal with the double whammy (Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine conflict).”

He said that the world leaders had failed to make suitable reforms in the United Nations and the other multilateral institutions, which had been unsuccessful in adequately responding to the crises. “Therefore, today the world has greater expectations from the G20, the relevance of our group has become more significant.”

The prime minister on Tuesday recalled how the world leaders had made “a serious effort to take the path of peace” after the second world war had wreaked havoc in the last century. “Now it's our turn. The onus of creating a new world order for the post-Covid period lies on our shoulders,” he said, adding: “The need of the hour is to show concrete and collective resolve to ensure peace, harmony and security in the world.”

The 17th G20 summit is the first conclave of the leaders of the bloc after Russia launched its “special military operations” in Ukraine on February 24 last. The acrimony between Moscow and the western nations, led by the United States, over the Russia-Ukraine conflict overshadowed the summit. Though the summit already commenced, uncertainty continued to loom large over the joint communiqué to be adopted on Wednesday. The negotiators could not narrow down differences over the text with Russia steadfastly resisting the attempts by the US and the other western nations to incorporate harsh condemnations for the former Soviet Union nation’s military aggression against Ukraine.

New Delhi suggested that the G20 joint communiqué should avoid blaming anyone for the conflict, but underline that it was not the era of war – a message Modi, himself, had conveyed to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at Samarkand in Uzbekistan on September 16, underlining return to dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the conflict. India also joined Brazil and Saudi Arabia and several other nations to suggest a toned-down reference to the Russia-Ukraine war in the proposed “Bali Declaration” of the G20, limiting only to expressing concerns over the conflict and the consequent food and energy crises and inflation and its adverse impact on the post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

Indonesia’s G20 presidency over the past 12 months was plagued by escalating tension between Russia and the western nations, led by the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, over the former Soviet Union nation’s military aggression against Ukraine. The president of the South-East Asian nations visited both Moscow and Kyiv earlier this year, but failed to broker peace or save the summit in Bali from being overshadowed by the growing tension between the western nations and Russia.

New Delhi has been maintaining a delicate balance between its decades-old defence cooperation with Russia and its growing strategic convergence with the US, the UK, Japan, Australia and France in the Indo-Pacific region. It is likely to continue its balancing act after Modi takes over the G20 presidency from Widodo on Wednesday, as the tension between Russia and the US-led West is now set to spill over to its G20 presidency.

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Published 15 November 2022, 07:55 IST

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