G20 leaders pay respects at Gandhi monument; Brazil assumes presidency

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping opted not to attend this year, ensuring there would be no tough face-to-face talks with their American and European counterparts.

Por Krutika Pathi and Adam Scherck

NEW DELHI (AP).—The G20 leaders presented their respects on Sunday in a monument to the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi while they finalized their summitthe day after the forum added a new member and reached agreements on several issues, although it softened the terms in which it describes the Russia’s war in Ukraine.

He group of 20 rich and developing countries welcomed the African Union as a memberwithin the efforts of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to give more relevance to the Global South. The host also got the disparate group of attendees to sign a final statement, despite the wide differences between influential members, mainly associated with the European conflict.

India also unveiled an ambitious plan with the United States, the European Union and others to build a rail and shipping corridor connecting India with the Middle East and Europe, to bolster economic growth and political cooperation.

After resolving those important agenda items, the leaders shook hands on Sunday and posed for photos with Modi at the Raj Ghat monument in New Delhi. Modi presented the leaders with shawls made from khadi, a hand-woven fabric that was pioneered by Gandhi during the Indian independence movement against British control.

US President Joe Biden (right), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during an event on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, on 9 September 2023. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein, Pool, AP

Some leaders, such as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who hosted last year’s summit, walked barefoot to the monument in a traditional show of respect. Many others, such as the President of the United States, Joe Biden, used sneakers that are usually offered to visitors to walk on wet ground dotted with puddles caused by heavy rain.

The leaders stood before wreaths placed on the monument, which includes an eternal flame and was adorned with garlands of yellow and orange marigolds.

In a striking detail, the one reserved for Modi identified him as Prime Minister of “Bharat”, an ancient Sanskrit word used by Hindu nationalists and which has gained presence as the summit approached.

The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, took over the presidency at the end of the summit. Lula hopes to restore Brazil’s international standing after a period of isolation under former far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil, where most of the Amazon forest is located, is likely to use its presidency to advocate for increased funding for environmental preservation, said Laerte Apolinário Júnior, a professor of international relations at the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni attends a Global Infrastructure and Investment Partnership event during the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein, Pool, AP

Lula has tried to move beyond disputes over Ukraine, telling the Indian news website Firstpost that the G20 was not the appropriate forum to talk about the war.

Brazil has offered to mediate the conflict, but those efforts have largely been rebuffed, and its refusal to arm Ukraine has been criticized by Western countries.

Latin America’s largest democracy also plans to assume the presidency of the BRICS group – made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and organize the United Nations climate conference in 2025.

In the months leading up to the heads of government summit in New Delhi, India had failed to reach an agreement on terms for Ukraine. Russia and China even opposed texts they had accepted at the 2022 G20 summit in Bali.

This year’s final statement, published the day before the official closing of the event, highlighted the “human suffering and the cumulative negative impacts of the war in Ukraine,” but did not directly mention the Russian invasion.

Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol with sniffer dogs near the site that will host the Group of 20 summit, in New Delhi, India, on September 7, 2023. Photo: Manish Swarup, AP

Western leaders, who have pushed for a more categorical rejection of Russian actions at other G20 summits, still described the consensus as a success and praised India’s negotiating efforts. The lack of a final statement would have been something unprecedented and a blow to the group’s prestige.

Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, said his government was grateful to countries that had tried to include stronger formulas, but that the “G20 has nothing to be proud of” and suggested among other things that it should have been used the expression “war against Ukraine” instead of “in Ukraine.”

Although the terms were not as firm as many Western leaders wanted, they could help strengthen the Western position in the long term, said a senior EU official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks candidly.

That’s because Russia, China and all the developing countries in the group – including some that have been less critical of Russia – have approved the entire text, which makes clear that “Russia is the cause of this war and Russia is the one who “It is prolonging it,” said the official.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference that thanks to the Global South defending “its legitimate interests, it was possible to prevent the success of the West’s attempt to ‘Ukrainize’ the entire agenda again to the detriment of talking. of the urgent problems of developing countries.

Municipal workers wash a sidewalk next to a billboard depicting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of his country’s Group of Twenty summit this week, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in New Delhi, India. Photo: Manish Swarup, AP

Lavrov added that the “Ukrainian crisis is mentioned (in the G20 final declaration), but exclusively in the context of the need to resolve all conflicts that exist in the world.”

India had prioritized the needs of the developing world as the summit’s theme, and organizers worked to prevent the war in Ukraine from dominating the summit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed last year’s G20 summit in Bali via video conference and then stole the show with an in-person appearance at the meeting of leaders of the G7 rich democracies – all members of the G20 – in Hiroshima this year.

Modi made it clear that he would not invite Zelensky to participate in this year’s event, although it is impossible to dissociate many issues, such as energy and food security, from the war in Ukraine.

Also at the summit, India unveiled a global biofuel alliance with 19 countries, including the United States and Brazil. Fuels, made from agricultural products or organic waste, have gained popularity in recent decades as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

The G20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, Great Britain, the United States and the European Union . Spain has a permanent guest position.


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