Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
Narendra Modi. File photo

Modi calls for consensus at G20 foreign ministers' meet, avoids reference to Ukraine

As the G20 foreign ministers met under the shadow of fractured East-West relations over the Ukraine conflict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday (March 2) called for building a consensus on pressing global challenges and not allowing differences on geopolitical tensions to affect the over-all cooperation in the grouping.

In his video message at the meeting, Modi also invoked Mahatma Gandhi and Buddha to urge the delegates to draw inspiration from India’s civilizational ethos and “focus not on what divided us, but on what united us.”

Fractured East-West relations over Ukraine war

The foreign ministers from the world’s largest industrialized and developing nations held crucial deliberations on key global challenges that took place in the backdrop of the increasingly bitter rift between the US-led West and the Russia-China combine over the Ukraine conflict.

In their remarks, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, and European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine while China’s Qin Gang referred to the 12-point Chinese peace plan to resolve the conflict.

Also read: India pushes multilateral action for fugitive economic offender extradition at G20 meet

It is learnt that the Indian side has been trying very hard to arrive at a joint communique but several diplomats from the West said the possibility of an agreed text was unlikely due to the fractured East-West relations over the war in Ukraine.

World looks to G20 to ease manifold challenges: Modi

In his address, Modi said the world looks up to the G20 to ease the challenges of growth, development, economic resilience, disaster resilience, financial stability, trans-national crime, corruption, terrorism, and food and energy security.

“In all these areas, the G20 has the capacity to build a consensus and deliver concrete results. We should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can,” Modi said without making any reference to the Ukraine conflict or any other contentious issues.

‘Focus on what unites us’

“As you meet in the land of Gandhi and the Buddha, I pray that you will draw inspiration from India’s civilizational ethos – to focus not on what divides us, but on what unites us,” Modi said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, China’s Qin Gang, the UK’s Cleverly, and European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell are among those attending the meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

“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,” Modi said.

Also read: G20 finance chiefs fail to evolve consensus on Ukraine war

“However, as the leading economies of the world, we also have a responsibility towards those who are not in this room,” he said.

In a tweet, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “I went to the #G20 today with two imperatives: First, to ensure that the G20 – with India at the helm – advances our shared goals, and second, to demonstrate how the U.S., together with our partners, is acting to meet the needs of the world. We succeeded at both.”

Developing nations struggling with unsustainable debt: Modi

In his remarks Modi said multilateralism is in crisis today.

“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,” 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,” he said.

Also read: G20 nations must address challenges confronting global economy: RBI Governor

Modi said many developing countries were 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,” he said.

Modi said no group can claim global leadership without listening to those most affected by its decisions.

The need for resilience

The prime minister also referred to the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters.

“We have seen global supply chains break down during times of stress. We have seen stable economies suddenly overwhelmed by debt and financial crisis. These experiences clearly show the need for resilience in our societies, in our economies, in our healthcare systems, and in our infrastructure,” Modi said.

Also read: G20 for expeditious resolution of debt vulnerabilities faced by low-income nations

Modi said the G20 has a critical role to play in finding the right balance between growth and efficiency on the one hand, and resilience on the other.

“We can reach this balance more easily by working together. That is why your meeting is important. I have full trust in your collective wisdom and ability. I am sure that today’s meeting will be ambitious, inclusive, action-oriented, and will rise above differences,” he said.

G-20 nations must find common ground: Jaishankar

Addressing the meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar urged the grouping to send a collective message affirming its resolve to address the complex global challenges, including that of food and energy security, amid an increasingly bitter rift between the West and the Russia-China combine over the Ukraine conflict.

Without mentioning the Ukraine conflict, he 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. “In considering these issues, we may not all always be of one mind. In fact, there are some matters of sharp differences of opinions and views. Yet, we must find common ground and provide direction, because that is what the world expects of us,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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