Dealing with Russia among tough issues for India’s G20 presidency: German envoy

Published on Dec 01, 2022 09:16 AM IST

India will begin its G20 presidency on December 1 and the Ukraine crisis is being perceived in diplomatic circles as one of the biggest challenges in ensuring a united front within the grouping of the world’s 20 largest economies

German ambassador Philipp Ackermann. (Twitter)
German ambassador Philipp Ackermann. (Twitter)

Coping with the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be one of the “most difficult issues” for India’s G20 presidency though New Delhi is well placed to help find a solution as it has good relations with all the parties, German ambassador Philipp Ackermann said on Wednesday.

India will begin its G20 presidency on December 1 and the Ukraine crisis is being perceived in diplomatic circles as one of the biggest challenges in ensuring a united front within the grouping of the world’s 20 largest economies. The divided G20 members agreed on a joint communique at the last summit in Bali only due to hectic diplomatic efforts by India and Indonesia.

“The decisive moment will be September [2023] when the [G20] summit comes together. But as it stands now, I think dealing with Russia will be one of the most difficult issues in this [G20] presidency,” Ackermann told reporters at a briefing. He was responding to questions about the possible impact of the Ukraine war on India’s G20 presidency.

“I think the Indonesians, with the help of many other countries, including India, managed well. I am confident that the Indians will also manage well but you have to see that this conflict will remain with the G20 in the years and months to come,” he said.

“I am not a fortune teller, I don’t know what will happen next September. But I am not overly confident that in two weeks’ time, this conflict will stop,” Ackermann said.

Asked about the possibility of India acting as a mediator in the Ukraine crisis, Ackermann said India could play a role in helping to find a solution as it has good relations with all the players in the conflict. “India has good relations with many sides, with Russia and also other sides. So maybe India, at some point, can be very helpful in this conflict,” he said.

Ackermann said mediation depends on finding the right moment to step in diplomatically. “If you want to come in as a mediator you must know the moment when [to] come in. India has very experienced and extremely skillful diplomats and it has traditionally been very good at diplomacy. I think the Indian side would seize the moment if they knew there was a chance for something,” he said.

He said it is “very difficult” to say how the Ukraine conflict would evolve. “We see the systematic and regular destruction of infrastructure and that includes all electricity and power in Ukraine. As the Russians don’t move on the front, they are trying to hit hard on the infrastructure of Ukraine and that will cause a very tough winter for Ukraine,” he said.

India has so far refrained from publicly criticising Russia, a key strategic ally and an important supplier of weaponry and energy, over the invasion, though it has repeatedly called for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. During a bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan in Uzbekistan in September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “today’s era is not of war” as he nudged the Russian leader to end the fighting and highlighted the problems of food and energy security being faced by developing countries.

India’s stance subsequently found an echo in the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Bali.

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