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Elusive G20 Joint Communique: 19 Meetings In, with Ongoing China and Russia Opposition

Elusive G20 Joint Communique: 19 Meetings In, with Ongoing China and Russia Opposition

A series of contentious issues and disagreements among member nations marked India’s presidency of the G20 meetings. Key areas of contention included climate change and environmental sustainability, with India advocating for a balanced approach that considered the concerns of developing countries. However, differences in priorities and stances on climate-related matters, particularly between developed and developing nations, created significant hurdles.

Additionally, disagreements on trade policies, taxation, and economic strategies further complicated consensus efforts. These differences underscored the challenges of navigating the diverse interests and objectives of G20 member countries during India’s presidency, highlighting the complexity of global economic governance and cooperation on pressing global issues.

The limited attention given to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and adherence to international laws in the ministerial meetings was surprising. Given the gravity of the situation and its implications for global peace and security, many expected a more robust and comprehensive discussion on these topics. The inclusion of only two paragraphs in the final document, drawing from the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration of 2022, may have reflected the challenges in achieving consensus among G20 members with diverse interests and geopolitical considerations. 

It highlights the difficulties in addressing complex and politically sensitive issues within the G20 framework, where finding common ground among member nations can be formidable.

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Paragraph 3: The third paragraph of the ‘outcome document’ clearly illustrates the divisive nature of the discussions surrounding the Russia-Ukraine conflict within the G20. While most members strongly condemned the aggression by the Russian Federation and called for its immediate withdrawal from Ukraine, it is evident that there were dissenting voices and varying assessments of the situation. These differences of opinion likely stem from each member’s unique geopolitical considerations and interests.

The paragraph also acknowledges the limitations of the G20 as a forum for resolving security issues, emphasizing that it is primarily an economic forum. However, it underscores the understanding that security concerns can have profound and far-reaching consequences for the global economy. This acknowledgment reflects the interconnectedness of economic and security issues today, highlighting the need for coordinated efforts to address complex challenges spanning multiple domains.

Paragraph 4: The fourth paragraph of the ‘outcome document’ underscores the importance of upholding international law and the multilateral system as essential pillars for global peace and stability. It emphasizes the commitment to defending the Purposes and Principles outlined in the Charter of the United Nations, which serves as the foundation for international relations and cooperation. Additionally, the paragraph highlights the imperative of adhering to international humanitarian law, which includes safeguarding the protection of civilians and critical infrastructure during armed conflicts. It unequivocally denounces the use or threat of nuclear weapons as inadmissible.

The paragraph emphasizes the centrality of peaceful conflict resolution, crisis management efforts, diplomacy, and dialogue in today’s era. It reiterates the sentiment expressed in the G20 Bali Declaration of 2022, asserting that the present times should not be marked by war. However, it’s noteworthy that the ‘Chair’s summary’ of the ‘outcome document’ indicates that these principles were agreed upon by all member countries except Russia and China, highlighting the continued divergence of views within the G20 on these critical issues.

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The second ministerial meeting of the G20, known as the ‘G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting,’ took place in New Delhi in March 2023. Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for attendees to transcend their differences, the meeting showcased pronounced divisions and vehement disagreements between Western nations and the Russia-China alliance. Unfortunately, this gathering, like the previous one, did not reach a consensus on paragraphs 3 and 4 of the ‘outcome document,’ underscoring the enduring discord among G20 members on crucial global issues.

Following this, a series of other G20 meetings occurred, each dealing with specific topics and challenges:

1. G20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (MACS) held in Varanasi from April 17 to 19, 2023.

2. G20 Development Ministerial Meeting convened in Varanasi on June 12, 2023.

3. G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting held in Hyderabad from June 16 to 17, 2023.

The persistent discord among G20 member countries, particularly between Western nations and the Russia-China alliance, continued to characterize two ministerial meetings held in Varanasi in April and June of the same year. However, the fifth meeting, the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting, witnessed the addition of another paragraph addressing the ‘Black Sea Initiative’ to the document. This paragraph was included in the Chair’s summary despite the absence of consensus among member countries, highlighting the ongoing challenges in reaching common ground on key global issues within the G20.

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Paragraph 5: In the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting, the ‘Black Sea Initiative’ paragraph was introduced to the document, emphasizing the importance of its full and timely implementation by relevant stakeholders. The initiative aimed to reduce global food insecurity and facilitate the uninterrupted flow of food and fertilizers to developing countries in need. However, Russia distanced itself from paragraphs 3, 4, and 5 of the Outcome Document, while China objected to any reference to the Ukraine crisis in the meeting’s outcomes.

The subsequent ministerial meetings, including the G20 Tourism Ministerial Meeting in Goa, the G20 Education Ministers’ Meeting in Pune, and the G20 Research Ministerial Meeting in Mumbai, may have witnessed similar divisions and disagreements among member countries on various global issues, further highlighting the challenges in achieving consensus within the G20 framework.

During the sixth G20 Tourism Ministerial Meeting in Goa on June 21, 2023, China did not raise any objections, while Russia “dissociated itself from the document’s status” due to references to paragraphs 4 and 5. China maintained that G20 technical working groups were not the appropriate forums to discuss geopolitical issues.

From the seventh ministerial meeting onwards, Russia consistently dissociated itself from the war-related paragraphs. At the same time, China reiterated its stance that G20 technical working groups were not suitable platforms for addressing geopolitical issues.

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At the ninth ministerial meeting, the ‘Third G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting’ in Gandhinagar on July 17-18, 2023, Russia raised objections to another significant paragraph related to food and energy crises, in addition to the earlier objections on the war-related paragraphs. China also persisted in its stance.

In a notable development, at the ninth ministerial ‘G20 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting’ in Indore on July 21, 2023, Russia withdrew its objection to the latter of the two paragraphs from the Bali Summit, which included the reference ‘Today’s era must not be one of war.’ However, it raised objections to the first paragraph concerning the Russia-Ukraine war. South Africa also noted that these paragraphs were included in the Chair’s summary, as the Sherpas had not finalized a consensus text yet.

Subsequent ministerial meetings, including those related to energy transitions, disaster risk reduction, environment and climate, anti-corruption, health, digital economy, trade and investment, culture, and chief science advisers, may have continued to experience divisions and disagreements among member countries on various global issues, reflecting the ongoing challenges in achieving consensus within the G20 framework.

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Final Sherpa Track Meeting Ahead of Summit

The ongoing G20 Sherpa meeting in Haryana’s Mewat, the fourth and final Sherpa meeting of the G20 Summit, plays a crucial role in shaping the agenda and discussions for the upcoming G20 Summit scheduled for September 9 to 10 in Delhi.

Regarding the objections raised by China and Russia and the prospects of achieving a final ‘joint communique’ at the leadership level, India’s G20 Sherpa, Amitabh Kant, expressed optimism and hope that all the issues would be resolved. He emphasized that the primary focus would be on development, indicating that the Russia-Ukraine war is not central to the G20 discussions.

The outcome of the Sherpa meetings will play a significant role in determining the extent of consensus and cooperation among G20 member countries during the leadership-level summit in Delhi.

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