As American, Chinese, and Russian officials gather in Delhi, there is a significant diplomatic test for India.

The world’s largest economies gathered in New Delhi on Thursday for what was viewed as a major diplomatic test for India. However, due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, no agreement could be reached.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the foreign minister of India, met with his counterparts from the United States, China, and Russia at the second high-level ministerial meeting under the country’s G20 presidency this year in an effort to find enough points of agreement to make a joint statement at the summit’s conclusion.

Jaishankar acknowledged that the conflict had not been able to bring the group together due to the festering tensions over Moscow’s war, but New Delhi was unable to persuade the leaders to put their disagreements aside.

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With a population of more than 1.3 billion, India is the largest democracy in the world. At a time when consumers are already struggling with rising prices and inflation, India has been trying to position itself as a leader of growing and developing countries, sometimes known as the Global South.

In his inaugural remarks earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of the several difficulties the world faces, with less developed countries being impacted particularly severely.

The financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism, and wars over the past five years have all demonstrated that global governance has failed, according to Modi.

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He claims that developing nations, who are most impacted by global warming “created by richer countries,” are bearing the brunt of the sad repercussions of this failure.

Modi alluded to the Ukrainian situation when he said it was producing “deep global divisions.” Nonetheless, he urged the foreign ministers to set aside differences when they met on Thursday.

He remarked, “We shouldn’t let problems that we can’t handle jointly get in the way of those that we can.

On February 28, 2023, the G20 raises its flag in New Delhi.
On February 28, 2023, the G20 raises its flag in New Delhi.
Hindustan Times/Sanchit Khanna/Getty Images
According to a State Department official traveling with Blinken, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, outside of the meeting.

According to the same person, Blinken and Lavrov spoke for around 10 minutes.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CNN that the meeting did indeed take place but downplayed its importance.

“Blinken requested a conversation with Lavrov. Sergey Viktorovich (Lavrov) spoke while the twenty were in their second session. There were no talks, gatherings, etc., she claimed.

When the G20 finance leaders couldn’t come to an agreement on a statement to be made after their meeting in Bengaluru, southern India, the conflict over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also played out there.

The unified declaration, which denounced Moscow’s invasion, was not signed by China or Russia. India was left to release a “chair’s summary and outcome document” that summarized the two days of negotiations and recognized differences.

According to analysts, New Delhi skillfully handled its ties to Russia and the West throughout the war, with Modi emerging as a leader who has been courted by all parties.

Yet as the conflict enters its second year and tensions continue to escalate, pressure may mount on nations to take a stronger stance against Russia, including India. This might put Modi’s statecraft to the test.

India’s act of balance
Probably India’s most recognized event of the year, the G20 summit has been widely advertised domestically, with enormous billboards featuring Modi’s face plastered across the country. Prior to the dignitaries’ arrival, the roads have been cleaned and the buildings have new paint.

Under Modi’s leadership, events are taking place in the “mother of democracies,” and his political allies are eager to promote his international credentials by portraying him as a significant figure in the world order.

A joint statement at the G20 leaders’ meeting in Bali, Indonesia, last year was a reiteration of what Modi had said to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan weeks earlier.

It declared that “the age of today must not be one of conflict,” leading the Indian media and government officials to assert that India had been crucial in bridging the gap between a divided Russia and the United States and its allies.

On February 28, 2023, a board with flowers on it welcomes foreign ministers to New Delhi, India.
On February 28, 2023, a board with flowers on it welcomes foreign ministers to New Delhi, India.
Hindustan Times/Sanchit Khanna/Getty Images
According to observers, India takes pride in its capacity to maintain a balance in relations. The nation, like China, has declined to denounce Moscow’s heinous assault on Ukraine in a number of UN resolutions. Instead of breaking up business connections with the Kremlin, India has increased its purchases of Russian coal, fertilizer, and oil, undermining Western sanctions.

But despite its connections to Russia, India has become more Westernized than China, especially the US.

Relations between Moscow and New Delhi go back to the Cold War, and the nation is still significantly dependent on Moscow for military hardware. This relationship is crucial given the continuous hostilities between China and India along their shared Himalayan border.

In an effort to resist the rise of a more aggressive China, the US and India have recently made moves to strengthen their defense alliance.

In Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 26, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India chat over the phone as Russia attacks Ukraine.
Zelensky of Ukraine asks Modi, the prime minister of India, for assistance with a peace plan
While India’s leaders “would like to facilitate an end to this conflict that preserves New Delhi’s relations with both Washington and Moscow and ends the disruption of the global economy,” Daniel Markey, senior adviser, South Asia, for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), said India did not have “any particular leverage” with Russia or Ukraine that would make a settlement likely.

I think other international leaders are just as eager to play a diplomatic role in promoting peace. Putin would therefore have no shortage of ambassadors eager to assist when and if he decides to sit down to discuss, he said.

But, while Putin’s aggression continues to destabilize the world economy, India has made it clear that it intends to bring up the numerous issues that the global South is facing, such as the climate crisis and the security of food and energy, according to Modi’s inaugural statement on Thursday.

The challenges of growth, development, economic resilience, disaster resilience, financial stability, transnational crime, corruption, terrorism, and food and energy security are what the world looks to the G20 to address, according to Modi.

navigating conflict
Although Modi’s administration appears eager to focus on domestic issues, experts say these problems may be overshadowed by the US, Russia, and China tensions, which have recently risen in response to concerns from Washington that Beijing may consider sending lethal assistance to the Kremlin’s faltering war effort.

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken will emphasize efforts to address food and energy security challenges, Ramin Toloui, the US assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, said he would also “underline the damage that Russia’s war of aggression has inflicted.”

In line with the values of the UN Charter, Blinken will “urge all G20 partners to step up their calls for a just, peaceful, and long-lasting conclusion to the Kremlin’s conflict,” according to Toloui.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Russia claimed that the United States and the European Union were engaged in “terrorism,” and it promised to “clearly clarify Russia’s opinions” of the present food and energy crises.

Russia hinted at the challenges New Delhi might experience during the meeting by saying, “We will draw attention to the destructive barriers that the West is multiplying exponentially to block the export of goods that are of critical importance to the global economy, including energy sources and agricultural products.

On Tuesday, November 15, 2022, as they prepare for the first working session of the G20 leaders summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Joe Biden have a conversation. AP photo by Sean Kilpatrick from The Canadian Press
Russia’s rebuke by the G20 demonstrates the emergence of a new Asian power. It’s also not China.
In order to avoid being “boxed into one side or the other,” India has “worked extremely hard,” Markey said. The nation “could not afford to enrage Russia or the US, and Modi doesn’t want talk of the conflict to force any difficult decisions or to divert attention from other matters, including green, sustainable economic development,” he continued.

But, New Delhi would need to carefully steer contentious conversations between opposing positions given the deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing following the US military’s shooting down of what it claims was a Chinese spy balloon that sailed over American soil.

China says that the balloon, which American forces shot down in February, was an unintentionally deviated research aircraft. As a result, Blinken had to cancel a trip to Beijing.

Analysts claim that while India would be dissatisfied with the decision, they were in a very difficult position to begin with as issues were resolved during the ministerial meeting on Thursday.

Modi will be disappointed, but it won’t be unmanageable, Markey said. “Neither would it be India’s fault, as it would mostly represent the underlying divisions over which Modi has very little control,” the author writes.

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