200 hours dedicated on G20 Ukraine paras, emerging markets played key role: India’s Sherpa Amitabh Kant

India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant has hailed the recently concluded G20 Summit as “one of the greatest diplomatic victories for India” which saw a resounding display of multilateral cooperation.

The summit on September 9-10 is viewed as a significant victory for inclusiveness and global development, with multiple outcomes spanning climate initiatives to cryptocurrency discussions.

Speaking to WION’s diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Kant revealed the extensive efforts that went into Ukraine paras in the G20 Joint statement, the New Delhi Declaration.

“We must have spent about close over 200 hours, just on Russia, Ukraine, having over about close to 300 Odd bilateral meetings, many 15-16 drafts of it, but we managed to bring everybody together,” he said.

Kant highlighted the collaborative efforts of India, Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia, with strong support from Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Argentina, and Turkey, which ultimately led to China’s endorsement.

This united front symbolised a victory for multilateralism, Kant said.

WION: How significant was the moment of India hosting the summit and giving direction to many issues that the world is grappling with?

Amitabh Kant: I think it’s a very, very important and a very key moment in India’s history. I think what India has demonstrated is its great ability to bring the developed world, the emerging markets, Russia or China, all together and arrive at a consensus on all developmental issues and all geopolitical issues. So, all 83 paras, no footnote, no chair summary, no brackets, full consensus, only India could have done it. No other country and India has done it because it has a leader of the stature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Because of his standing and his stature, we could really take it forward vigorously. 

WION: How was India able to bring the consensus?

Amitabh Kant: So, by the time we got into the final round of Sherpa Negotiations on September 3 we still had many challenges. You know, we had a challenge of climate. We had a challenge on energy. We had several challenges on the finance track, some footnotes were there. But I think the real key challenge was the geopolitical issue. So, we sorted it out one by one, we sorted out climate, we sorted out energy. Then we had a joint meeting with finance. We sorted out all the issues. But on September 4, morning, we started discussing the geopolitical issue.

We started on a clean slate, by spelling out the principles and laying them down clearly. And then getting everybody else to give their principles, and we drafted several drafts, and then on that para itself, we must have spent about close over 200 hours, just that one para, on Russia, Ukraine. We spent about, I mean, that’s written as 8 paras, with Prime Minister’s “today’s era is not an era of war”, as the last para, as one line para. But we must have spent over 200 hours, non-stop 24 into seven, without sleeping just discussing that para. Having over about close to 300 odd bilateral meetings, many 15-16 drafts of it, but we managed to bring everybody together.

We managed to bring the right balance between all countries, the developed and the emerging markets. We worked with Brazil, we worked with South Africa, we worked with Indonesia all together on this and we finally managed to just say that this is it. This is the best paragraph. This is the best draft we can possibly bring it, which brings the best balance amongst all countries. It’s strong, you know some people are saying it’s a dilution on Bali. I do not agree, it’s a very strong para, big because it recalls Bali, It brings in the national positions. It reiterates the UN resolutions on this issue and then clearly says that there will be no territorial acquisition. It brings out the UN principles on territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence, all of which, are very strong. So it’s a very strong para.

WION: What was the role played by developing countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, and others?

Amitabh Kant: Very important, very critical, because India worked with Brazil and South Africa. We later brought in Indonesia, and all four of us worked together, but we were fully backed by Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Argentina and Turkey, all so about eight countries. This led to China supporting this, because once they realised that there were eight countries working together, China also supported it. And we knew all the red lines of all the G7 countries,  we worked with them as well.

We convince them that this is the best thing. It’s a win-win for everyone. G7 has won, Russia has won in this, emerging markets have won, one everyone has won this, and we’ve brought multilateralism to the centre stage, we bought. We brought development centre stage; we said that the priorities of the emerging markets in developing countries are really about development and growth. We brought that centre stage.

WION: The statement saw no condemnation of Russia, and many saw it as the West taking a step back

Amitabh Kant: But it has a very strong language. Let me tell you, this is a mistaken notion, where did Bali say that there will be no territorial acquisition? Did the Bali language say that there will be territorial integrity? Did the Bali language talk about sovereignty or political independence? No. We brought all these principles back in this. We recall Bali here. We reiterate our national possessions and yet we say this. This was never there in Bali. It’s a far stronger statement than Bali.

WION: Did China, at any point, try to sabotage the conversation?

Amitabh Kant: Once the emerging markets were together, China worked with us. And let me tell you very clearly, China is a multilateral player, it may have bilateral issues, but it is a multilateral player on a multilateral forum. It worked together with us, even though they had many issues with us. They had many, many issues, but later we worked together. Once they realised that we were working for the good of G20, for the good of emerging markets, they supported us on all issues. They supported us on women’s development, on LiFE, on ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, and they supported us on all growth and development.

WION: How did Prime Minister Modi’s intervention help? He also came here at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan and met everyone

Amitabh Kant: As you know, the prime minister has been the key factor. This is the prime minister’s G20, he is the leader, and his stature and standing are key. I am only his Sherpa. I could not have succeeded without the strength of the prime minister. And therefore, all credit goes to him because he led from the front. I believe that I could take a strong courageous stand because my prime minister is strong. And therefore, I could fall back on him whenever required.

WION: How will history remember India and the G20 Summit under its presidency? How pivotal was it?

Amitabh Kant: So, I think the history will remember it as one of the greatest diplomatic victories for India. It’s a vote for multilateralism. It’s a vote for development. It’s a vote for growth. It’s a vote for women-led development. It’s a vote for human-centric growth. It’s a vote for inclusiveness. It’s a vote for bringing development to the centre stage. And it’s really a vote for India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.

WION: Now we are part of the troika. Our presidency gets over in November, as part of the troika, how will we help spread the gains made here in Delhi to the other presidencies?

Amitabh Kant: The Prime Minister wants a virtual session. Therefore, we have to start working on actually moving forward with the implementation from our side. Many key areas where we need to push on with other countries, as well as within our ministries. So, we started work on that already. The prime minister has given us some tasks, and we’ll have to prepare for that and then for the virtual summit. He wants to push.

But let me just conclude by saying that I’ve got all the support. The prime minister has led from the front and gave us strength because he had his vision. We could fulfill his vision. And because of a strong leadership, we believed, we could do this. I’ve also got a lot of support, a lot of wisdom, a lot of guidance from External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. He’s been a big source of constant support and motivation for us. And he’s provided us with a lot of guidance throughout.

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