Yet Again, No Joint Statement After G20 Finance Ministers Meeting Due to Ukraine War

The continuing divisions over the language on Ukraine makes it likely that there will be no common Delhi declaration at the G20 summit.

New Delhi: As expected, the G20 finance ministers concluded their meeting on Tuesday without any joint statement due to their continuing differences over Russia and Ukraine.

On Tuesday, a two-day meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors of G-20 members wrapped up without a final communique, but India released a chair’s summary and outcome document.

The last time that a joint statement was issued was at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia in November 2022. India has, so far, issued nine chair’s summaries after G20 meetings in lieu of any common communique.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting in Gandhinagar, Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said there was no consensus “because we still don’t have a common language on the Russia-Ukraine war”.

Similar to previous chair’s summaries, there were two written disclaimers. One was China stating that the G20 meeting was “not the right forum to discuss geo-political issues”. The second was Russia disassociating from three paragraphs in the document.

The first paragraph that Russia objected to had deplored the “Russian aggression in Ukraine” in the “strongest terms” and also demanded the “complete and unconditional withdrawal” of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. The consecutive paragraph called for upholding the UN charter, peaceful resolution as well as, the line that “today’s era must not be of war”. This was the message that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told the Russian president last year – and has since been praised and inserted by the West in several documents.

The Indian finance minister said that the language describing the Ukraine war had been drawn directly from last year’s G20 leaders summit declaration in Indonesia. Stating the ministers didn’t have the mandate to change that, she added that this was an issue that the leaders will have to decide when they meet in the Indian capital in September.

The fifth paragraph in the chair’s summary was about how to combat food insecurity, with G20 ministers noting that prices have fallen but that there remained high potential for volatility in food and energy markets. It also welcomed the G20’s report on Macroeconomic Impacts of Food and Energy Insecurity and their Implications for the Global Economy.

In the post-meeting press conference, Sitharaman said food insecurity was a key priority. “It is in that context today that several members condemned it, saying it shouldn’t have happened. Food passing through the Black Sea shouldn’t have been stopped or suspended,” she told reporters. Russia announced on Monday that it was withdrawing from the deal that allowed transport of grain from Ukraine to parts of Africa through the Black Sea.

The continuing divisions over the language on Ukraine makes it likely that there will be no common Delhi declaration at the G20 summit.

In June this year, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar pointed out that Russia and China had effectively withdrawn from the language agreed in Bali, which made reaching a “common landing point” for a final G20 declaration as challenging.

“There are differences of opinion even about what was agreed to in Bali last year. So how do we handle it? It’s very hard for me. I mean, you know, diplomats are still working at it. So I don’t want to predict. I don’t want to sort of, in a way, give too much details. I mean, I accept your point that it’s a challenge. But, you know, diplomacy is a business for optimistic people. So I think it’s something that we would look at,” he said.

India’s G20 sherpa Amitabh Kant had said in several interviews and briefings that Ukraine was not “our priority” currently. “We will discuss this towards the end, not at this time,” he said last week. Kant also reiterated India’s view that G20 “is an economic forum, not a forum to discuss security issues”.