India opposes mention of ‘war’ in G20 statement

Published February 25, 2023
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das speaks as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman looks on during G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, February 24, 2023. — India’s Press Information Bureau via Reuters
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das speaks as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman looks on during G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, February 24, 2023. — India’s Press Information Bureau via Reuters
French Minister for the Economy and Finances, Bruno Le Maire, addresses a presser on the sidelines of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting under India’s G20 Presidency in Bengaluru on February 24, 2023. — AFP
French Minister for the Economy and Finances, Bruno Le Maire, addresses a presser on the sidelines of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting under India’s G20 Presidency in Bengaluru on February 24, 2023. — AFP

BENGALURU: Ger­many and France insisted on Friday that any joint statement from the ongoing G20 finance ministers meeting must refer to the Ukraine “war”, following reports that host India wanted to avoid the word.

Organising a raft of Group of 20 meetings during its presidency this year puts India in an awkward position, as it has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine by its biggest arms supplier Russia.

Indian media reports said New Delhi wanted to keep the word “war” out of any final statement from the meeting of finance ministers and central bank heads that wraps up in Bengaluru on Saturday.

Russia is a member of the G20 but does not have a ministerial-level representative at the gathering. Next week, however, Sergei Lavrov is expected to attend a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New Delhi.

“For a year we have been witnesses of this awful war in Ukraine started by Russia. And especially on a day like this, and at an occasion such as a G20 event, we need absolute clarity,” Ger­man Finance Minister Christian Lindner said, alluding to the first anniversary of the Feb 24 invasion.

“This is a war. And this war has a cause, has one cause, and that is Russia and (President) Vladimir Putin. That must be expressed clearly at this G20 finance meeting,” Lindner told a news conference.

He said it would be “unacceptable for Germany” if the language from a leaders’ declaration at a G20 summit in Indonesia in November — which Putin did not attend — was weakened. That declaration, issued in Bali, said “most members strongly condemned the war”.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire echoed Lindner, saying Paris “will oppose any step back from the statement of the leaders in Bali on this question of the war in Ukraine”.

“We fully trust India to reach a strong communique,” Le Maire said.

The apparent deadlock raises the probability that the meeting in Bengaluru will fail to yield any joint statement, as was the case at similar gatherings since Russia’s invasion.

Britain’s finance minister Jeremy Hunt told reporters there could be no progress on major challenges, including climate change and poverty alleviation, without first resolving security threats.

“There is no artificial choice between whether we focus on Ukraine or whether we focus on other important global issues,” he said, according to Bloomberg News.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2023

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