New Delhi: For the second year running, there will be no ‘family photo’ of attending G20 foreign ministers, with G7 members unwilling to share a frame with their Russian counterpart.
Last year, the standalone G20 meeting for foreign ministers at Bali in Indonesia, took place just five months after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Not surprisingly, there had been a strict boycott by western countries, with western delegations walking out when the Russian foreign minister was due to speak. There had been no ‘family photo’ – a customary photo-op of the principal participants at a high-level diplomatic meeting.
A similar situation has also unfolded during this iteration of the G20, which India is hosting.
Due to the G-7’s insistence, there was no family photo after the day-long ministerial meeting on Wednesday, March 1, it is learnt.
Similarly, the gala dinner hosted by India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar at Taj Palace to mark the start of the ministerial event on Tuesday evening also had a clear policy that any photographs would carefully not show the Russian delegation member in the vicinity of any western delegation members.
At the #G20FMM, we welcomed our guests today evening with a performance that highlighted the richness of Indian culture.
The performance centered on the festival of Holi. pic.twitter.com/iKi5NYBbLj
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) March 1, 2023
The external affairs minister tweeted photos of the dinner late at night on Tuesday. The photographs mainly featured dancers, with one of them showing dancers in Kashmiri costumes. A single image of the ministerial guests enjoying the cultural offering was ambiguous enough not to distinguish Lavrov among the gathering.
There have been elaborate and multiple rounds of negotiations to ensure that G-7 ministers would not be in close proximity to the Russian delegation, nor would they be photographed together.
While the Indian side acceded to these sensitivities, only three of the seven G7 members had arrived in Delhi before the dinner. These were the EU high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borell, Canadian foreign minister Mélanie Joly and UK foreign secretary James Cleverly.
The Ministry of External Affairs was tight-lipped on the final attendance of the dinner. But The Wire confirmed that Borell and Cleverly did attend the dinner. However, the Canadian high commission did not comment on whether Joly accepted the invitation and attended the dinner.
The rest of the G-7 participants, including US secretary of state Anthony Blinken, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, arrived either late on Tuesday night or early on Wednesday morning, missing the dinner entirely.
The Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hamada also missed the dinner and the G20 meeting due to his parliamentary schedule. He will fly down to New Delhi to participate in the Quad ministerial meeting on Friday, March 3, after taking a special exemption from his colleagues.
The Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang was also a no show as he was only scheduled to arrive in the early hours of Wednesday.
Meanwhile, discussions continue behind the scenes to ensure that the multiple sessions at the ministerial meeting go smoothly. There were apparently shouting matches in July last year at Bali, and Lavrov also walked out after facing criticism from his western counterparts.
To no one’s surprise, US secretary of state Blinken stated that he had no intention of meeting with Russian and Chinese foreign ministers. “No plans to see either at the G-20,” Blinken told reporters at a briefing in Tashkent, before he left for Delhi.
There is still uncertainty about whether a consensus will be reached on a joint communique since there continue to be sharp differences on the wording over the Ukraine war. A possible outcome would be to adopt the template of the Chair’s summary issued at the finance ministers’ meeting last week.