Global Media Highlights ‘Watered Down Statement on Russia-Ukraine’ After Modi’s G20 PR Push

France’s Le Monde called the event “profitable for the organiser” but said that the summit “did little to mask the disappointment of the final statement”.

New Delhi: Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to keep the G20 summit in the capital from being monopolised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the global press fixated on a “watered down” declaration that they say failed to adequately address Russia as an aggressor. 

Kyiv, too, had a harsh reaction with Ukraine’s foreign minister Oleg Nikolenko saying, “We are grateful to the partners who tried to include strong wording in the text. However, in terms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, G20 has nothing to be proud of,” in a post on X (formerly Twitter). 

 “[Modi] wrapped up Sunday a G20 summit that played down deep divisions over the war in Ukraine and climate change, but gave him a moment in the diplomatic spotlight. Facing a major diplomatic embarrassment, host India pressed members to agree to a common statement on Saturday that denounced the use of force for territorial gain, but shied away from direct criticism of Russia,” a report in the Kyiv Post said. 

France’s Le Monde called the event “profitable for the organiser” but said that the summit “did little to mask the disappointment of the final statement”. 

“[Modi] had persuaded Indonesia to swap for 2022 in order to stage this prestigious gathering as close as possible to India’s general elections, scheduled for 2024. He has already taken, and will certainly continue to take, good advantage of this opportunity, using it to play on national pride.

“This unquestionable personal success, despite the absence of the Chinese and Russian presidents, did little to mask the disappointment of the final statement, the balance sought in a world that the G20 partly represents. This disappointment was evident in the case of Ukraine. The war waged by Russia since February 2022 receives only a short passage, distinctly lower down on the statement issued at the previous G20 summit in Bali,” the report said.

On being asked about the difference between the Bali declaration and the New Delhi one, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar nonchalantly said, “Bali is Bali and New Delhi is New Delhi.”

The French newspaper also called the declaration a disappointment on the climate front. “The disappointment is just as great when it comes to combating climate change. Despite the recent devastating succession of climate tragedies, the final statement fails to mention the objective of phasing out fossil fuels. Yet scientists consider this to be the only response capable of reversing a destructive curve,” it wrote. 

Also read: Civil Society Calls Out G20 Declaration’s Omission of Civic Space Erosion, Democracy Decline

“The outcome obviously reflects India’s rigid determination not to take sides in the war, but it is extraordinary that the majority of countries at the G20 that do oppose Russia’s war of conquest were so prepared to be muzzled by the minority that [they] prefer to look away.

“A UK official said the joint declaration, widely seen as weak, was in fact effective at putting pressure on Moscow. ‘By achieving consensus in New Delhi, the G20 has forced [Vladimir] Putin to commit to a cessation of attacks on infrastructure, to the withdrawal of troops and to the return of territory,’ they said.” the Guardian wrote. 

The end of the summit was marked by another disappointment, though this one was less global in nature. “When word spread that [Modi] was to address the 3,000 journalists at the G20 media centre late on Sunday, a ripple of excitement spread through the venue. TV broadcasters started dedicating live coverage to showing an empty walkway where Mr Modi might emerge at ‘any moment’,” Shweta Sharma wrote for UK’s Independent.

This, it turns out, was not true as Modi simply waved and walked past the journalists who had waited for over three hours in hopes of what would’ve been the first press conference Modi held in his nine years as prime minister. 

“Journalists shouted questions as simple as ‘Was the G20 successful sir?’ but the prime minister just waved silently and left, as some members of the crowd – it’s unclear what media organisations they represented – began patriotic chants of ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ (Long live Mother India). In the end this was not an interaction with the press but rather a victory lap for a prime minister,” Sharma wrote.