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G20 summit adopts New Delhi Declaration, calls for peace in Ukraine

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With induction of African Union, G20 becomes G21…

New Delhi: India on Saturday pulled off a big diplomatic win after the G20 summit adopted a consensus declaration overcoming major differences on the Russia-Ukraine war, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for ending the “global trust deficit”. Modi also announced that the African Union was admitted as G20’s permanent member.

Asserting that “today’s era must not be of war”, the New Delhi G20 Summit Leaders’ Declaration under India’s presidency called on all States to uphold the principles of international law, including territorial integrity and sovereignty and pitched for initiatives for “comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine”. “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

The announcement about a consensus on the 37-page declaration and its subsequent adoption was made by Prime Minister Modi at the start of the second session on the opening day of the two-day summit of the grouping of major developed and developing countries. It came hours after India circulated a new text to the member countries to describe the Ukraine conflict.

“Friends, we have just got good news, with the hard work of our teams, and with the cooperation of you all, there is consensus on the New Delhi G20 Summit Leaders’ Declaration,” Modi said.

“I announce that this declaration is adopted,” he said, and banged the gavel thrice.

“History has been created with the adoption of the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration. United in consensus and spirit, we pledge to work collaboratively for a better, more prosperous, and harmonious future. My gratitude to all fellow G20 members for their support and cooperation,” Modi said later on X.

The G20 leaders also condemned terrorism in all its forms and called for strengthening of efforts to increase the effectiveness of international cooperation to deny terrorist groups safe haven, freedom of operations as well as financial, material or political support. “It constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.”

They also called for a strong, sustainable, and inclusive growth as an answer to the uneven recovery the world has seen from the pandemic-infused plunder, and flagged the need for trillions of dollars for countries to meet their climate goals and clean energy technologies.

On other issues, the G20 grouping strongly deplored all acts of religious hatred against persons, religious symbols and holy books. They emphasised the freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.

In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Modi urged world leaders to turn the “global trust deficit” into trust and confidence and announced that the African Union has been granted permanent membership of the grouping.

All member countries of the G20 accepted Modi’s proposal to bring the 55-member African Union (AU) to the high table of the world’s top economies in a significant milestone under India’s G20 presidency.

Modi said the African Union becoming a member will strengthen the G20 and also the voice of the Global South. The union collectively has a GDP of nearly USD 3 trillion and a population of around 1.4 billion. It is the first expansion of the G20 since its inception in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis.

“It is time for all of us to walk together for global good,” Modi said while addressing the ‘One Earth’ session of the 18th G20 summit and the first to be hosted by India.

The leaders attending the two-day summit included US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

However, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin skipped the summit.

“Following the Covid pandemic, the world faced a new challenge of trust deficit and unfortunately, the wars have further deepened this,” Modi said addressing the gathering at the swanky new exhibition-cum-convention centre Bharat Mandapam.

“But we must remember that if we can defeat a pandemic like Covid, we can also win over the challenge of this trust deficit. Today, as the president of the G20, India calls upon the entire world to turn this global trust deficit into trust and confidence,” said Modi, who was identified as the leader representing ‘Bharat’ at the summit.

“This is a time when age-old challenges are calling for new solutions from us. And therefore, with a human-centric approach, we have to move forward to fulfill our responsibilities.”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar while responding to a question on the change in language referring to the Ukraine conflict in the New Delhi Declaration from the G20 position in the Bali document, said, “Regarding the change in language on the Russia-Ukraine conflict from the Bali Declaration – Bali was Bali, New Delhi is Delhi. Many things have happened since the Bali Declaration.”

“One should not have a theological view of this. The New Delhi Declaration responds to the situation as it stands today. The New Delhi Declaration responds to the concerns of today just like the Bali Declaration responded to the concerns of that time.”

The G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration adopted last year said, “We reiterated our national positions as expressed in other fora, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which, in Resolution No. ES-11/1 dated 2 March 2022, as adopted by majority vote (141 votes for, 5 against, 35 abstentions, 12 absent) deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.”

It had also said, “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine.”

Jaishankar also responded to a question on how difficult it was to arrive at a consensus on the Ukraine conflict. “This is a declaration of 83 paras, there are a lot of subjects covered, but obviously because of the ongoing conflict and the different views on it, considerable time was spent in the last few days with regard to geopolitical issues which were mostly centred around the war in Ukraine,” he said.

Asked which countries helped forge a consensus on the Ukraine conflict, Jaishankar said,” Actually… Everybody helped. Everybody came together to forge a consensus, but emerging markets took a particular lead on this and many of us have a strong history of working together. Bear in mind that actually, you have four developing countries in succession for the G20 presidency…Indonesia, us, Brazil and South Africa.”

Describing the negotiations on the wordings of the Ukraine conflict as “tough and ruthless”, India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said it went on for days and the issue was clinched because of the leadership of the prime minister.

“We had to say, the leader wants it and this has to be delivered.”

Kant said the Declaration focusses on strong and sustainable growth, accelerating progress on sustainable development goals, green development pact, and reinvigorating multilateralism.

In a series of posts on X, he said the Declaration was historical and path-breaking with “100 percent consensus” on all developmental and geo-political issues.

“The new geopolitical paragraphs are a powerful call for the planet, people, peace and prosperity in today’s world.”

According to a report by Russian news agency TASS, Svetlana Lukash, Russia’s sherpa in the G20, told a news conference that the negotiations on the Ukrainian issue at the G20 summit in New Delhi were very complicated, but the collective position of the BRICS countries worked,

Emphasising the importance of sustaining food and energy security, the G20 leaders also called for the “cessation of military destruction or other attacks on relevant infrastructure”.

The biggest question that loomed over the Delhi summit was whether it would be able to come out with a joint leaders’ declaration in view of the sharp differences between the West and the Russia-China combine on the text to describe the Ukraine conflict in the document.

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