In the wake of reports by local as well as western media outlets that India snubbed Ukraine by not inviting its president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the G-20 summit this month, New Delhi’s response was that it saw the intergovernmental body as an economic forum, not as one for conflict resolution. Now, a noted Washington DC-based foreign policy expert and author with great access to India’s Ministry of External Affairs points out that the idea of inviting the Ukrainian leader was never on the cards.
Notwithstanding conjectures in a section of global dailies, TV channels and India’s own widely read newspapers, Dhruva Jaishankar, executive director of the Observer Research Foundation America, argues that the primary reason for the exclusion was that Ukraine is not a member of the G20, as Indian officials have repeatedly said.
He emphasises, “Additionally, India has been clear, since the beginning of the year, as to who the special invited guests should be, including nine countries (Spain, Netherlands, UAE, Oman, Egypt, Mauritius, Nigeria, and Bangladesh).”
Nonetheless, states Jaishankar, who is son of Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar, “Finally, Ukraine has been mentioned at every major G-20 statement so far under India’s presidency, despite opposition from Russia and China.”
Jaishankar Jr had previously donned the positions of director of the US Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi and fellow of Foreign Policy at Brookings India and fellow of Foreign Policy Studies at The Brookings Institution in Washington DC. He had been visiting fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and a David Rockefeller Fellow with the Trilateral Commission. He is an alumnus of Macalester College and Georgetown University.
Although India had made its position on Zelensky clear much earlier, there was no dearth of speculative reports suggesting that the 45-year-old Ukrainian president would be asked to speak at the G-20 summit, in line with the invitation extended to him by the 2022 host of the G-20 summit, Indonesia. Ukraine’s own First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova had told reporters some time ago that Zelensky would be happy to speak at the September summit in India.
Various media outlets had run headlines stating that India has slighted Ukraine by disallowing the Ukrainian president, a former comedian, to speak either virtually or in person at the New Delhi meet. India, for its part, follows a strategic stance over the war in Ukraine while at the same stressing that this is “not an era of war”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Zelensky recently in Hiroshima, Japan, on the sidelines of the G7 summit.
Jaishankar Jr, meanwhile, tweeted that the participation of several West Asian (Middle Eastern) states – the UAE, Egypt and Oman – as guests at this year’s G-20 is notable, and in line with India’s outreach to the region. He also marvelled that, “One week from tomorrow (September 2), the most populous country in human history will, for the first time, host world leaders representing 90% of the global economy and 70% of the world”.
India, which has historically had strong ties with Russia, buys more Russian oil now than it used to before the war started in February last year. New Delhi is still one of the largest buyers of weapons from Moscow.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau had also contributed his bite to the hoopla by expressing disappointment for the “exclusion” of Zelensky from the two-day G-20 summit in New Delhi which is to take place from September 9 to 10. At the 2022 G-20 conclave in Bali, the Ukrainian president used the opportunity to launch a sharp attack through a video speech on Russia.
G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.