HAMPI: The third meeting of G20 sherpas at the world heritage site in Karnataka will focus on New Delhi’s priorities such as accelerated economic growth and digital transformation while contentious issues such as the Ukraine crisis are set aside for later, India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said on Thursday.
This is expected to be the second-to-last meeting of the sherpas, senior officials who negotiate on behalf of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, before India hosts the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September. Lack of consensus on text to refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has held up consensus at all G20 ministerial meetings held so far.
Briefing the media after the first of three sessions to be held on Thursday and Friday to draft the leaders’ declaration to be adopted at the G20 Summit, Kant made it clear that India’s focus, for now, will be on issues such as accelerated development and growth, financing climate transition, reforming multilateral financial institutions and pushing the adoption of the country’s digital public infrastructure (DPI) around the world.
“There will be a contentious issue and that’ll be the issue of geopolitics, which we are not discussing at this stage at all,” he said.
“Our priority is developmental issues, inclusive and sustainable growth, progress, more finance from multilateral institutions, sustainable development goals (SDGs), technological transformation, gender equality.”
Responding to an issue on the Ukraine crisis holding up consensus within the G20, he said, “There is no elephant in the room…because…the Russia-Ukraine war is not our creation, it is not a creation of developing and emerging countries, it is not a priority for us…Our priority is not war, that’s not our priority at all. That may be a priority for somebody else.”
“That is why we’ll discuss [Ukraine] right in the end and…whether we get a solution or not, that is nothing to reflect [on India],” he added.
People familiar with the matter said Russia has insisted that there should be no reference whatsoever to the Ukraine crisis in outcome documents, and it has been supported in these efforts by China. This marks a significant shift from the text in the leaders’ declaration at the last G20 Summit in Bali, which said most member states “strongly condemned the war in Ukraine” and stressed it was heightening energy and food insecurity, but added there were also “other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions”.
Kant also said the Indian side is trying to “bring everybody together” and achieve consensus on taking forward Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a G20 agenda that is inclusive, decisive, ambitious and action-oriented. India’s draft is based on several themes that push accelerated, sustainable and resilient growth “because one-third of the world is in recession”, he said.
Another focus area is forging consensus on India’s push to include the 54-nation African Union as a new member of the G20, and Kant said such a move will allow the grouping to cover 90% of the global population.
“We are looking at global growth, macro-economic policy, role of the private sector, unlocking trade for growth, global value chains, building cities for tomorrow, preparing for future of work [and] fostering global economic cooperation,” Kant said.
The sherpas will also discuss law enforcement principles related to international cooperation and information-sharing to combat corruption, a framework for crypto assets and tax rules, and accelerating progress on SDGs, including a new seven-year action plan for achieving the goals by the timeframe of 2030.
The Covid-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis had led to regression in implementing the SDGs and only 12% of the targets are on track, he said.
The sherpas will also discuss a green development pact proposed by India for sustainable and just transitions globally, delivering on climate finance, protecting eco-systems, reducing disaster risk and building resilient infrastructure. Kant said the reform of multilateral financial institutions has become imperative to ensure the flow of funds into emerging markets.
On the issue of DPI, Kant said there is a “global vacuum” in terms of the definition of such infrastructure and a governance framework. DPI includes internet connectivity, digital identity and digital payments, which form layers of public infrastructure on which the private sector can innovate.