Indian PM Modi warns of 'deep global divisions' at G20 foreign ministers' meeting

India has taken a neutral line on the military crisis in Ukraine

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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged foreign ministers from G20 nations to find a common platform on global issues at the opening of a tense summit in New Delhi on Thursday.

India, which assumed the G20 presidency in December, has refused to take sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and has instead called for a diplomatic solution.

It has also increased its purchases of Russian crude oil.

The gathering of foreign ministers is one of the first high-profile meetings at the forum.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the Indian capital, New Delhi, on Thursday, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart in attendance.

About 40 global delegates, including Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, are participating at New Delhi's special invitation.

Mr Modi called on leaders to not focus on issues that divide countries.

“As the leading economies of the world, we have a responsibility to those who are not in this room,” he said.

“The world looks upon the G20 to ease the challenges of growth, development, economic resilience, financial stability, transnational crime, corruption, terrorism and food and energy security.

“The G20 has 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. We should not focus on what divides us but what unites us.”

Blinken refuses to meet Lavrov

Mr Blinken demanded that Moscow renew a deal to allow exports of Ukrainian grain.

“Russia has deliberately and systematically slowed its pace of inspections, creating a backlog of ships that could be delivering food to the world today,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.

“It is imperative the G20 speak up on behalf of extending and expanding the grain initiative to strengthen food security for the most vulnerable.”

Mr Blinken said he would refuse to see Mr Lavrov because Moscow was not serious about diplomacy to end the war.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock used the forum to address her Russian counterpart Mr Lavrov and call on him to end the war in Ukraine.

India is trying to convince Moscow and Beijing to go along with a consensus on describing Russia’s war in Ukraine, similar to the one reached last November in Bali, Indonesia.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will preside over two sessions of the summit that will focus on six important issues, including rising food and energy prices, growing debt and poor economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, experts believe the summit will be dominated by Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, which entered its second year last week, with about 300,000 people dead on both sides.

India has taken a neutral stance on the military crisis but as global leaders descend on New Delhi, the host nation is caught in an awkward situation, with the US and its western allies pushing to use the platform to denounce Moscow over the crisis.

India's ties with Russia

India has historic ties with Russia and has refused to explicitly condemn it over the Ukraine invasion amid increased trade and fuel deals with Moscow despite western sanctions against the Kremlin.

New Delhi had come up with a chair’s summary at the finance ministers' meeting last week in the southern city of Bengaluru after Russia and China blocked the passage of a joint statement that sought to condemn Moscow and use the word “war” in reference to the military conflict in the Eastern European nation.

The host nation, has tried to focus on issues such as alleviating poverty and climate finance to avoid any diplomatic crisis with either of the warring sides.

Mr Blinken, who arrived in New Delhi after stopovers in former Soviet states Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, close allies of Moscow, will hold talks with Mr Jaishankar but is not expected to meet Mr Lavrov or Mr Qin.

“I think from our perspective, it’s important that the G20 continue to call out Russia on its war of aggression,” media reports quoted a senior State Department official saying before Mr Blinken’s arrival in New Delhi.

The comments came a day after Russia accused the US and its allies of putting the “world on the brink of a disaster” due to their “destructive policies” and hoped that the G20 will be used to make “balanced consensus decisions” for the interests of all humankind.

“We intend to firmly and openly talk about the reasons and instigators of the current serious problems in world politics and the global economy,” the Russian embassy in New Delhi said late on Tuesday.

The meeting is also being watched to see how tension between Washington and Beijing ― Moscow’s close partner ― play out, including over Ukraine and the shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon by the US last month.

Mr Blinken had cancelled his visit to Beijing and the two rival nations had condemned each other over the episode that triggered new tension.

He will also participate in the Raisina Dialogue, India’s premier foreign policy event co-organised by the Foreign Ministry and a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue meeting later this week.

China could face consequences if it decides to start shipping weapons to Russia, the Netherlands' Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Thursday.

“What is important and what I will convey to each of the colleagues, including my Chinese colleague here, is that, you know, the truth here is not somewhere in the middle,” Mr Hoekstra said.

“There is only one country responsible and that is Russia, and therefore all others should clearly refrain from helping out Russia militarily. That will have consequences if countries cross that line, in my opinion.”

Updated: March 02, 2023, 9:57 AM