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In A Dramatic Situation

Meetings, held on the sidelines of G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM) in New Delhi on March 1-2, 2023, became more important than the main discussions. India, the current President of the Inter-governmental Forum comprising of 19 countries and the European Union (EU), made an attempt to maintain a diplomatic balance between Russia and the US over the Ukraine issue during the two-day event. However, Moscow blamed the Western countries, including the US, for interfering in its internal affairs. In the Indian capital, Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov in a somewhat dramatic situation. In a rare first, they have come face to face since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War on February 24, 2022, as the two leaders chatted for roughly 10 minutes on the sidelines of the G20 FMM. Later, Blinken stressed: “I told the (Russian) Foreign Minister what I and so many others said last week at the UN and what so many G20 foreign ministers said today – end this war of aggression, engage in meaningful diplomacy that can produce a just and lasting peace.

Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi on March 3, the US Secretary of State stressed: “I said that Russia could end the Ukraine War tomorrow, if it wanted. Only Russia and China refused to sign on to the Bali document and that at the UNGA, no G20 country voted with Russia.” He added: “Every country is suffering from the impacts of the Russian War in Ukraine. We have to get food to those who are hungry and help countries become agriculturally sufficient. We also discussed at the G20 FMM that Russia must extend the Black Sea grain initiative.” Blinken further said: “I spoke briefly with Lavrov today. I urged him to return to negotiate the new START treaty. I raised the wrongful detention of American prisoners in Russia.

Blinken also held a separate meeting with Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to discuss various bilateral, regional and global issues. Earlier on March 1, Dr Jaishankar met his Russian counterpart Lavrov, and wrote on Twitter: “A wide ranging discussion with FM Sergey Lavrov of Russia on #G20FMM sidelines. Exchanged views on our bilateral cooperation and G20 issues.

Meanwhile, Dr Jaishankar reportedly told Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang that the current state of bilateral relations was abnormal. During their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 FMM, the Indian External Affairs Minister said that the Chinese troops had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and they are still in the Indian territory. During their 45-minute meeting, Dr Jaishankar made it clear that reduction of Chinese Army’s activity on the border was one of the preconditions for normalising ties between the two Asian neighbours. He told the visiting Chinese leader that the border dispute would certainly have an impact on bilateral talks. Later, he tweeted: “Met Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of #G20FMM this afternoon. Our discussions were focused on addressing current challenges to the bilateral relationship, especially peace and tranquillity in the border areas. We also spoke about the G20 agenda.” The Chinese Minister stressed that he was ready to discuss the outstanding issues openly with his Indian counterpart in the coming days.

Earlier, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni showered praises on Indian Premier Narendra Modi, saying that the latter was the “most loved leader around the world“. “The approval rating that Prime Minister Modi has reached… he is the most loved one of all (leaders) around the world. This has really been proven that he has been a major leader and congratulations for that,” she stressed.

According to Prime Minister Meloni, her first trip to the South Asian nation was aimed at elevating the 75-year-old bilateral relationships to a strategic level. After holding talks, the two Prime Ministers signed a number of agreements for defence cooperation at various levels. Meloni further assured her Indian counterpart that Italy would cooperate with India in the Indo-Pacific Region. “India can rely on our Government to further enhance our relations. I firmly believe that there is a lot we can do together,” she said while speaking at a media conference.

For his part, Prime Minister Modi stressed: “I welcome Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on her first visit to India. In last year’s elections, the people of Italy voted for her and she became the first woman and youngest Prime Minister of Italy. I congratulate her on behalf of Indians for this historic achievement.” He further said that both nations emphasised on increasing cooperation in renewable energy, green hydrogen, Information Technology, semiconductors, space and telecom sector. “India and Italy will also work to strengthening their economic ties,” the PM told the press, adding that Make in India and self-reliant campaigns were opening up immense investment opportunities in India. In the presence of PM Meloni, the Indian PM insisted that the two countries were working together to fight terrorism and separatism.

Unfortunately, there were divisions on the Ukraine issue during the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, amidst blame game of East versus West.

Global South Break With Collapsing Western Institutions Is ‘Actually Very Exciting’
In the aftermath of the G20 FMM in India, Sputnik published interviews with various Indian experts, as they shared their views on the outcome of the event. The Russian state-owned news agency and radio broadcast service noted: “During his post-summit press conference, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia would continue to ‘focus on forming reliable transport corridors, independent payment systems, and the expansion of payments in national currencies within the framework of BRICS, SCO and the Eurasian Economic Union’.” When a senior Sputnik expert asked Manjeet Kripalani, the founder and Executive Director of The Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations (a Mumbai-based think tank originally modelled on the New York Council of Foreign Relations) to comment on this, she stressed that the outcome of the G20 FMM was “actually very exciting”, because it opened the opportunity to build a fairer world.

According to Executive Intelligence Review News Service (EIRNS), Kripalani told Sputnik: “It used to be that in the old days, the Western banks always were the ones that called the shots. That is no longer going to happen. There will be banks and financial intermediaries from around different parts of the world. In fact, it’s going to become a financially more equal world. On logistics, in fact, it is very good, because, again, the systems that exist have been disrupted.” She added: “But what we are going to see, and there is going to be a renewed push, is to get the Eurasian systems and the customs unions, etc., to start reactivating. For instance, the international North-South Transport Corridor, which runs from Central Asia down to Iran, is now going to be looked at again, because these are connectivity projects that are closer to West Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, maybe Russia and China. And, Asia will see different kinds of connectivity, maybe maritime connectivity projects, I’m not sure. But certainly, these multimodal transport corridors are going to be looked at now with great interest.

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