New Delhi, September 10
The most complex part of the entire G20 process — unanimity on geopolitical issues in the joint declaration — was clinched over 200 hours of non-stop negotiations, 300 bilateral meetings and 15 drafts, says India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant about the unanimous declaration in which, as per sources, the West was seen to have taken a step back from its insistence on criticising Russia.
The sticking point was the confrontation on Russia-Ukraine, Kant tweeted, crediting two Indian diplomats posted in his office — Eenam Gambhir and Nag Naidu — for their tenacity in negotiations. “The process was cumbersome and hard, that’s why the Indian presidency has done a tremendous job to get a consensus text,” noted a European diplomat. Well versed in the art of dogged negotiation of texts due to stints at the UN, they along with two more diplomats, Abhay Thakur and Ashish Sinha, were the behind-the-scenes negotiators who brought home to their other G20 interlocutors the “direction by the leader’’ to clinch a unanimous joint declaration, said Kant.
The main push was given by India, China, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa with a “strong history of working together”, according to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. They also brought into focus the fact that four emerging countries have been heading the G20 in succession — Indonesia (2022), India (2023), Brazil (2024) and South Africa (2025).
Another diplomat involved in the negotiations also said the main impetus came from India, South Africa and Brazil, which insisted that the focus should be on all global issues. Ukraine was left deeply dissatisfied and said there was “nothing to be proud of”, according to a statement by its Foreign Ministry. The perceived slight to the Ukrainian cause came after the G20 did not permit President Volodymir Zelenskyy to join the summit. He was unable to give even a video address he gave at the last summit in Bali.
Battling charges that the West was unable to include language critical of Russia, diplomatic sources pointed at two reasons. One, there would have been a rift between IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and the western group had the logjam over Ukraine continued. India would have been the first to be upset had unanimity not been allowed to prevail. The next two G20 chairs — Brazil and South Africa — also would have had their presidencies blighted by the Ukraine issue.
“It is much broader than the geopolitical part on which we spent a lot of time. It is well rounded and a good stepping stone for Brazil's presidency,” said a western diplomat, who claimed that Russia’s position was even more challenging than at the previous Bali summit. It had lesser support and was isolated, he added.
The second was the western apprehension that if there was no joint declaration, G20 would begin to be seen as a moribund organisation. The question marks on the future of G20 would have encouraged Russia and China to build up BRICS as the alternative.
200 hours of non-stop negotiations
15 drafts framed ahead of the consensus
India’s 4 negotiators
- The prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict remained the sticking point for the unanimous declaration
- India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant credits 2 diplomats in his office — Eenam Gambhir and Nag Naidu — with the success of the negotiations
- Were assisted by two more diplomats, Abhay Thakur and Ashish Sinha, in the behind-the-scenes negotiations
Over to Brazil
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday passed the G20 gavel to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in a symbolic handing over of the bloc’s presidency to the South American nation. The next G20 summit will be held in Rio de Janeiro in November 2024.
Need cooperation, not conflict: Silva
“Geopolitical issues shouldn’t hijack the discussions at G20. We need peace and cooperation, not conflict. The path that will take us from Delhi to Rio de Janeiro will require lot of commitment from everyone.” — Luiz Lula da Silva, Brazilian Prez
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