Washington, September 10 (IANS) The US conceded space to the host India in the wording of the final Delhi Declaration of G20 on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and lauded Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's diplomatic skills that virtually represented a coup as the final document came out despite fractures in the group.
The declaration earned the praise of the US.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the statement a "significant milestone for India's chairmanship and a vote of confidence that the G20 can come together to address a pressing range of issues."
"The G20 statement includes a set of consequential paragraphs on the war in Ukraine. And from our perspective, it does a very good job of standing up for the principle that states cannot use force to seek territorial acquisition," Sullivan told newspersons.
Still, the language differed from last year's G20 declaration, which stated "most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine." So, in a way, it was a diplomatic coup for India as the host country took a softer line than the Bali G20 one by not calling it a war but saying, "All states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition."
US and western nations wanted stronger language to condemn the aggression on Ukraine as they succeeded in the Bali G20 conference. The Russian invasion was described as a war in the declaration then.
The softer tone in the Delhi declaration showed that US and western allies yielded space to India, the host country, to word it differently which still had the same effect but also gave India the leverage with its long term ally Russia, whose leader Vladimir Putin did not attend, balancing its equations with US and Russia at the same time - a feat pilled of by the foreign office officials under foreign minister S Jaishankar along with trusted allies .
Russia, as a member of the G20, would have to agree on any consensus statement on Ukraine. Russia and China had resisted stronger language in a final statement, making any kind of agreement difficult. No G20 summit has concluded without a joint declaration of some type, media reports said.
Leaders gathered here for the annual Group of 20 summit managed to agree on a joint statement laying out shared views on climate change and economic development but showed the fractures within the group by stopping short of explicitly condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, CNN reported .
Diplomats virtually burnt the midnight oil to sort out what sort of language and phraseography the final draft joint statement required in the lead-up to the summit . Anticipating snags, Indian foreign office officials along with its allies managed to play down the Ukraine situation as a war.
The eventual compromise statement amounted to a coup for the summit’s host, Prime Minister Modi, but still reflected a position far softer than those the US and its Western allies have adopted individually, CNN reported.
US President Joe Biden's hopes of convincing the world's largest economies to rally behind Ukraine during his two-night stay in India for the summit did not bear fruit in the way he wanted, but he still liked the final wording. He also pressed his case for American investment in the developing world.
Even as the summit was midway through on Saturday, the leaders agreed to the joint declaration acknowledging the situation in Ukraine while not papering over the group’s major divides on the issue.
"All states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition," the declaration read, without explicitly singling out Russia for its invasion. The document also stated opposition to the use of nuclear weapons and highlighted the economic effects of the war in an indirect reference to Putin's threat of using nuclear weapons if NATO allies intervened militarily to help Ukraine.
In a reflection of the deep fractures among the G20 nations, the statement acknowledged "there were different views and assessments of the situation", US media reports noted.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko however criticised the declaration. Kiev was not invited by India to the G20 summit.
"Ukraine is grateful to its partners who tried to include strong wording in the text," he wrote on Facebook. "At the same time, the G20 has nothing to be proud of in the part about Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Obviously, the participation of the Ukrainian side would have allowed the participants to better understand the situation. The principle of 'nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine' remains as key as ever," media reports said.
The absence of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin - US President Biden's arch rivals - provided opportunities for Biden to make a more affirmative case at the summit, White House officials said during the summit.
Biden said Saturday he would have welcomed the presence of his Chinese counterpart at the summit, but that positive outcomes were still possible. "It would be nice to have him here but, no, the summit is going well," Biden said when questioned about the impact of Xi's absence.
Biden hoped to leverage on the two leaders absence at the summit to portray the US as a credible counterweight to China’s economic outreach.He announced new plans partnering Europe, the Middle East and Asia to construct a major new transit corridor connecting the regions, thus challenging Beijing's own efforts at expanding global trade with its belt road initiatives.
"India calls upon the world to come together to transform the global trust deficit into one of trust and reliance. This is the time for all of us to move together," Prime Minister Modi said as the gathering got underway.
"Be it the divide between North and South, the distance between the East and West, management of food and fuel, terrorism, cyber security, health, energy or water security, we must find a solid solution to this for future generations," he emphasised. It was a message of unity at a markedly fractured moment for the grouping, the US media observed.
While Biden enjoyed success at other summits convincing European leaders and NATO allies to step up their military support for Ukraine and tighten their punishment of Russia, many nations, particularly in the Global South, weren't convinced. They viewed the billions of dollars in Western assistance pouring into Ukraine sceptically, and sought a more balanced relationship with Moscow, CNN said.
Biden's aides claimed the president welcomed the opportunity to make the case for Ukraine, including to audiences that aren’t necessarily on the same page. “Part of what makes the G20 an appealing format for the United States is it gives us a chance to interact with and work with and take constructive steps with a wider range of countries, including some, frankly, that we don’t see eye to eye with on every issue," US deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told reporters on Saturday.(ends)