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India seeks G20 consensus by noting Russia's views on Ukraine

A man walks past an installation on a skywalk ahead of the G20 Summit in New Delhi

By Shivangi Acharya, Nikunj Ohri and Sarita Chaganti Singh

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has proposed that a G20 statement condemning the war in Ukraine also accommodate the views of Russia and China to avoid an impasse for the divided bloc, Indian officials said on Thursday.

Leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden gather in New Delhi this weekend for a summit aimed at boosting food security, climate action and debt relief for poor nations.

But the deliberations of the world's 20 biggest economies have been hindered by differences over Russia's invasion of Ukraine that have hardened since last year's Bali summit, delegates said.

Western countries want a strong condemnation as a condition for agreeing to a Delhi declaration. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who will attend instead of President Vladimir Putin, has said Moscow will block the final declaration if it does not reflect its stand.

India has suggested that the G20, while condemning the suffering caused by Russia's invasion, also reflect Moscow and Beijing's view that the forum is not the place for geopolitics.

G20 sherpas have been going back and forth over the document for four days before leaders begin deliberations on Saturday.

ACCOMMODATING EVERYONE

"As long as everyone endorses the structure of the document, that is a consensus. We are trying for a situation that everyone including Russia, G7 and China are happy that their views are there," one of the Indian officials said.

The other option is a more general statement on the war in the joint declaration, another official said. Both declined to be named because of government rules.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to use India's leadership of the G20 to showcase its emergence as a major power with an ability to forge unity on big global issues.

If the Delhi meeting fails to produce a joint statement, that would be a first in the G20's summit history and potentially raise questions about the group's viability.

"It would certainly lead to a crisis of confidence in the Group," said Creon Butler, director of the Global Economy and Finance Programme at London's Chatham House thinktank.

At the Bali summit, leaders managed to produce a declaration at the eleventh hour after wrangling over the conflict for days.

Butler predicted there would be plenty of handwringing and speculation over the India summit, but ultimately countries will stick to the G20 format because it was a crucial link between the G7 bloc of wealthiest nations and the developing world.

(Additional reporting by Krishn Kaushik; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Andrew Cawthorne)