The tightrope walk that has been a hallmark of India’s diplomacy since the start of the Ukraine war proved to be the host country’s trump card during the just-concluded G20 summit. The challenge for India was to antagonise neither the US-led West nor old ally Russia over the raging conflict in eastern Europe. New Delhi pulled it off with aplomb. The G20 Leaders’ Declaration — which was adopted by consensus — deftly avoided any mention of the Russian invasion of Ukraine but did make a general call to all nations to follow the principle of respecting each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Much to India’s delight and satisfaction, both Russia and the Western powers claimed that their respective positions on the Ukraine crisis had been vindicated. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who attended the summit in the absence of President Putin, said the West had failed to ‘Ukrainise’ G20 largely due to the efforts by the developing countries. Lauding India’s presidency, he called the summit a ‘breakthrough event’ that had given clear guidelines for achieving goals such as ensuring a balance of interests in the global economy. On the other hand, French President Emmanuel Macron said the declaration had confirmed Russia’s isolation, adding that the bloc was committed to ‘just and lasting’ peace in war-torn Ukraine.
Notably, the declaration released at the G20’s Bali summit last year had condemned ‘in the strongest terms’ Russian aggression against Ukraine. It goes to New Delhi's credit that the Western powers did a climbdown on the conflict this time. Considering India’s growing clout on global platforms, offending or embarrassing the host nation was not an option for the West. A key takeaway from the G20 summit is that India is not a country to be trifled with. The event’s success is also an enthusiastic endorsement of New Delhi’s independent foreign policy.
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