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G20: India vows not to let Ukraine dominate the summit

Published September 8, 2023last updated September 8, 2023

Sustainable development and geo-politics will dominate the G20 summit. The leaders of China and Russia have decided to skip the event, while Ukraine was not invited. DW has the latest.

Security officers stand guard at the main venue of the G20 Summit, in New Delhi, India,
G20 leaders are meeting in the Indian capital, New DelhiImage: Manish Swarup/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

As the Group of 20 (G20) summit is set to kick off in New Delhi, world leaders began pouring into the freshly primed and pruned capital city of India.

This year India is hoping to focus on sustainable development, climate change, economic challenges of southern countries and geo-political tensions. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed not to let Ukraine overshadow this summit and did not invite Kyiv to the event.

But how much of a consensus they can reach remains unclear with some nations, including the US, UK and Japan, sending the heads of state or government to the meeting while lower-level officials represent other countries, including Russia and China.

Read DW's coverage of the G20 summit from Friday September 8 here:

Skip next section Biden, Modi say India should have permanent Security Council seat
September 8, 2023

Biden, Modi say India should have permanent Security Council seat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his highest-profile guest at the summit, US President Joe Biden, held one-on-one talks soon after Biden's arrival. 

According to the joint statement from the two governments, Biden and Modi "reaffirm[ed] support for India as a permanent UN Security Council member." 

The Security Council has only ever had five permanent members, all of whom wield effective veto power, since the UN was founded — France, the UK, the US, China, and the Soviet Union and then Russia thereafter.

Biden's attendance so soon after Modi's state visit to Washington was seen as a sign of the White House trying to improve ties with India as an emerging and more democratic major player in world affairs.

As well as recommending adding India to the most powerful subgroup of UN members, the statement emphasized the US and India's "shared values" of democracy, freedom, human rights and inclusion. 

However, journalists did not attend the meeting between the two leaders. India's government excluded reporters even as White House officials had been trying to reassure the journalists on Air Force One that it was trying to arrange scope to ask at least a few questions. 

Modi famously tends to avoid facing impromptu questions from journalists in public. The same habit drew some consternation in Germany last year during his trip to Berlin. 

During Modi's trip to the US this year, he agreed to field one question.

Skip next section India or Bharat at G20: What's in a name?
September 8, 2023

India or Bharat at G20: What's in a name?

The usage of the word Bharat in a G20 dinner invitation has triggered a political row. Critics say an attempt to scrap the use of India is a nationalist ploy for political gain.

DW's Murali Krishnan looks at what is behind the name row.

Skip next section Biden arrives in India
September 8, 2023

Biden arrives in India

Joe Biden salutes a security guard as he arrives in New Delhi
Biden arrived in Delhi Friday evening Image: Evan Vucci/AP/dpa/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden has arrived in New Delhi for the G20 summit. 

Biden was expected to meet with summit host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shortly after arriving. He is also set to speak with other leaders on the sidelines of the summit, the White House said. 

"This meeting will be taking place at the prime minister's residence — so it is unusual in that respect," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to the Indian capital.

"This is not your typical bilateral visit to India with meetings taking place in the prime minister's office."

Skip next section G20 summit and climate change: 'Half-measures' won't avert crisis, UN warns
September 8, 2023

G20 summit and climate change: 'Half-measures' won't avert crisis, UN warns

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres holds a press conference ahead of the G20 summit
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held a press conference ahead of the summitImage: Anushree Fadnavis/REUTERS

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on G20 countries to commit to doing more to fight the climate crisis as he spoke to reporters in New Delhi ahead of the grouping's leaders summit. 

"The climate crisis is spiraling out of control. But G20 countries are in control," he said.

"Together, G20 countries are responsible for 80% of global emissions," Guterres noted. "Half-measures will not prevent full climate breakdown."

Guterres said that he is proposing a deal dubbed "Climate Security Pact," that would see big emitters make more efforts to cut emissions and "wealthier countries support emerging economies to achieve this."

The plan also calls on developed countries to reach net zero as close as possible to 2040, and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050.

Skip next section African Union edges closer toward G20 membership
September 8, 2023

African Union edges closer toward G20 membership

The African Union is expected to become the latest member of the G20 as more existing members of the grouping back the pan-African bloc's bid. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for the African Union to become a permanent member of the grouping, saying that developing nations should have a greater say in global decision-making.

The US has backed the proposal, and the EU on Friday also voiced its support. 

"I look forward to welcoming the AU as a permanent member of the G20," European Council President Charles Michel told reporters in New Delhi.

The G20 consists of 19 countries plus the EU, making up about 85% of global GDP and two-thirds of the world population.

South Africa is so far the only G20 member from the African continent. 

The African Union is headquartered in Ethiopia and collectively has a GDP of $3 trillion (€2.8 trillion) with some 1.4 billion people. The bloc has 55 members, although six have been suspended in light of military coups. 

Skip next section Russia's Lavrov arrives in India
September 8, 2023

Russia's Lavrov arrives in India

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives at a hotel ahead of the G20 Summit in New Delhi
Lavrov arrived at a hotel ahead of the G20 Summit in New DelhiImage: Amit Dave/REUTERS

Indian TV broadcast showed Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arriving in New Delhi on Friday.

Lavrov is heading Russia's delegation at the G20 summit after President Vladimir Putin chose not to attend the meeting with other world leaders. 

Relations between Moscow and many G20 members have been tense in light of Russia's war in Ukraine. 

Ahead of Lavrov's arrival in India, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that Moscow was working "with all G20 countries" to prevent "attempts to explain the world's humanitarian and economic problems solely through the conflict in Ukraine." 

European Council President Charles Michel, who is also in India for the summit, said earlier that he found it "scandalous" that Russia was blocking and attacking Ukraine's ports after pulling out of a UN-brokered deal that allowed the safe export of grain from Ukraine.

Michel noted that the so-called Black Sea grain initiative had initially delivered 32 million tons to the market, "especially to developing countries," highlighting how the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine stretches beyond the region. 

Skip next section Xi's G20 absence shows China 'worried' about India, Heusgen tells DW
September 8, 2023

Xi's G20 absence shows China 'worried' about India, Heusgen tells DW

Christoph Heusgen, the chairman of the Munich Security Conference and a former adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on foreign affairs and security, spoke to DW ahead of the G20 summit.

The fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping would not be attending had particular significance and betrayed his wariness of regional rival India, he said. 

Heusgen told DW the G20 was of particular importance to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is eager to burnish his credentials as a statesman ahead of a re-election tilt early next year. 

"He wants to be, you know, seen as the leader of the world, as a president of G20," the security expert said, adding that Xi doesn't like that, as the Chinese leader wants to be in the same position. "To be kind of a player in Modi's game, he refused to do that."

While India and China appeared to make efforts at improving relations at last week's BRICS summit, with Xi and Modi meeting bilaterally on the sidelines, Heusgen said what could be construed as a good relationship was, in fact, "a very difficult one."

"China claims Indian territory. They just put out a map where territory that I would say is clearly Indian is seen as Chinese," the security expert said. "They have had border clashes and with his refusal to attend, Xi (sends) a strong message, a negative one."

Heusgen also said the meeting was a chance to discuss climate change and financial issues and that for China not to be present was unfortunate. 

"We need to discuss these issues and for Xi not to be there is negative," Heusgen stressed. "It's not good that President Xi refuses to come. Leaving some of the potential vanities aside this clearly seems to be a power play, a game at play, as well."

Heusgen: G20 must meet Global South at eye-level

Skip next section What is likely to emerge from the G20 summit in Delhi?
September 8, 2023

What is likely to emerge from the G20 summit in Delhi?

India is set to welcome world leaders to the G20 summit in Delhi. But the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping may complicate efforts to agree on a joint communique as divisions over the Ukraine War loom large.

DW's Richard Walker looks at the geopolitical situation facing leaders ahead of their weekend summit. 

India set to host summit of G20 leaders in Delhi

Skip next section China: Willing to work with all parties at G20 summit
September 8, 2023

China: Willing to work with all parties at G20 summit

China on Friday said it is willing to work with all parties and push for a positive outcome at the G20 summit. 

Mao Ning, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, made the remark in response to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accusing Beijing of delaying agreements on various issues, including Russia's war in Ukraine. 

Earlier this week, in a one-sentence notice on its website, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Premier Li Qiang would represent China at the summit, confirming that President Xi Jinping will not attend. 

Chinese Premier Li Qiang speaks at a conference.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang will represent China at the summit.Image: Yasuyoshi Chiba/REUTERS

Xi has attended every G20 summit since coming to power except one in Rome in 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when he joined by video link.

China has been facing Western pressure on Beijing over its stance on Russia's war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, its ties with India remain strained. 

DW Delhi Bureau Chief Amrita Cheema said "obviously there is disappointment" on the part of India regarding Xi's absence at the event.

"It's being seen as a big blow for India's aspirations to have China on board, particularly since this may influence the outcome of the final declaration," Cheema said. Indian PM Narendra Modi had earlier met Xi at the BRICS summit last month, and there had been "hope and optimism" that Xi would turn up to the G20 meeting in India.   

Skip next section EU's Michel unsure if G20 can agree on summit declaration
September 8, 2023

EU's Michel unsure if G20 can agree on summit declaration

European Council President Charles Michel said on Friday that it is difficult to predict if leaders of the G20 summit will reach a consensus on a declaration by the end of the meeting. 

During a press conference in New Delhi, he said "We are still negotiating." 

He also added: "I don't intend to say something that will make the efforts more difficult. We support the efforts made by the Indian presidency."

The EU hoped that the G20 would focus on tackling global challenges like food and energy security since Russia is blocking Ukraine's grain exports through the Black Sea, said Michel. 

G20 foreign ministers fail to agree over Ukraine

Michel added that it was clear that "the EU will continue to strongly back Ukraine and pile pressure on Russia."

India, however, has always maintained a neutral stand when it comes to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

New Delhi also wants the summit's final statement to accommodate the views of Russia and China while Western nations' efforts want to include the strong condemnation of Russia's war in Ukraine. 

The Russian and Chinese presidents are not attending the summit and instead Moscow
Is sending instead Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov while Premier Li Qiang will represent Beijing.

Michel said while all "major" global problems may not see a solution at the G20, he said the EU hopes that the summit will hasten efforts on sustainable development, climate change and poverty reduction. 

Skip next section More G20 summit coverage from DW
September 8, 2023

More G20 summit coverage from DW

A tight security blanket and movement restrictions have been imposed across the spruced-up city of New Delhi as India hosts its final leaders' G20 summit.

So far, the Modi government hosted 215 G20 meetings in over 55 locations this year. 

Earlier in May, Pakistan slammed India for hosting one of its tourism-related G20 meetings in India-administered Kashmir. 

Pakistan said New Delhi is exploiting its membership to advance a "self-serving" agenda. 

Meanwhile, in July, when Robert Habeck, Germany's minister for economics and climate action, visited India to attend a G20 meeting of energy ministers, he told DW that he was optimistic about collaboration with India on energy issues and hoped for a free trade deal between the EU and India.

He also said that while he respected India's own "tradition and partnership with Russia," the country cannot remain neutral while the war is ongoing.

DW speaks to Germany's Vice-Chancellor Habeck on India visit

Earlier in the year, the G20 foreign ministers' meeting ended over arguments over Ukraine and no joint statement was released. 

During the previous G20 summit in Bali, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the gathering via video, but Modi has not invited Ukraine to participate in this year's meeting.

Russia's Putin also decided not to attend the summit.  

Amid worsening relations between India and China, Chinese President Xi Jinping also said that he will not be attending the summit.