By YP Rajesh
NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Chinese President Xi Jinping skipping this week’s G20 summit in New Delhi was not unusual and will not affect negotiations to produce a consensus communique at the meeting, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.
The Sept. 9-10 summit of leaders of the world’s richest countries is being held in the context of a “very turbulent” global environment and expectations from in the G20 to find solutions to some of the world’s pressing problems are “very high”, he told the ANI news agency.
The G20 has been divided over the war in Ukraine and analysts and officials have said the absence of Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin mean it would be difficult to arrive at a consensual Leaders Declaration at the summit.
Five Indian government sources said on Wednesday that differences about climate change goals have resurfaced during the last two days of sherpa-level meetings and become another stumbling block for G20 leaders to iron out at the summit.
The bloc, which groups the 20 major economies of the world, is divided on commitments to phasing down fossil-fuel use, increasing renewable energy targets and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they said.
A French diplomat said the news on climate was “not very encouraging” and that Saudi Arabia was pushing hard to include a line on fossil fuels being part of the energy transition. “We think the exact opposite,” the French diplomat said.
Besides, the language to be used on the Russia-Ukraine conflict in the leaders’ declaration has yet to be finalised, another Indian government source said.
In the interview, which was aired on Wednesday, Jaishankar said sherpas, or country representatives, of the G20 members are negotiating to build a consensus and arrive at a declaration.
The French diplomat, speaking to French reporters, said India was making “very serious efforts” to conserve the consensus on Ukraine reached in Bali. “It’s a good thing to see once again how isolated Russia is” over its invasion of Ukraine.
Jaishankar also played down a threat from Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov – who will represent Moscow at the summit in Putin’s place – that Russia will block the final communique unless it reflects Moscow’s position on Ukraine and other crises.
He said countries try to maximise their negotiating positions and people should not “prejudge” the outcome.
“I am confident that every one of the G20 coming to Delhi will understand the responsibility that they bear…that the other 180 countries of the world are looking to them to set directions and that they cannot afford to fail them.”
The G20 is “very much a collaborative forum” and “not the arena for power politics”, Jaishankar told ANI, in which Reuters has a minority stake.
“Today, the expectations of the world are very high in terms of what the G20 is able to produce, and produce in terms of meeting the challenges of the world.”
Jaishankar said leaders had skipped summits in the past and Xi doing so was not unusual and had nothing to do with India.
Indian-Chinese relations have been frozen since a deadly military clash on their Himalayan frontier in June 2020 and analysts said Xi, in giving the summit a miss, was a new setback to ties between the Asian giants.
But Xi’s absence could also be a signal of his narrative of the “East is rising, and the West is falling”, as well as showing solidarity with Putin, said Wen-Ti Sung, political scientist at the Australian National University.
China will be represented by Premier Li Qiang at the summit and Jaishankar noted that a “country’s position is obviously reflected by whoever is the representative”.
The summit had also been seen as a venue for a possible meeting between Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden, who has confirmed his attendance.
Biden will focus on reforming the World Bank and urging other multilateral development banks to boost lending for climate change and infrastructure projects during the summit, the White House said on Tuesday.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he hopes to discuss digital issues and food security. India has said discussions are underway on a global framework to regulate crypto assets.
(Reporting by YP Rajesh; Additional reporting by Nikunj Ohri and Michel Rose in Paris; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)