To begin with, India had some locus standi as a member of the G20 troika, which is the apex group responsible for running the meet. It comprises the current chair, the previous and the next chairs. In this case, Indonesia, Italy and India made up the troika.
Usually, the chair plays the central role in drafting the communique while others assist. But this time, Indonesia was caught in the crossfire on the stand G20 should take over the Ukraine war – between US-led western powers, on the one hand, and the Russia-China axis, on the other.
Key challenge was how to get Russia to sign on a communique intending to condemn its actions in Ukraine. Neither Indonesia nor Italy, which anyhow supported the US line, had any solution to offer.
As the next chair, the stakes were high for India. And it found a solution in the Beijing declaration of Brics countries in June. In Brics, Russia and China had agreed with India, Brazil and South Africa to a more accommodating language that recognised each other’s national position. It read: “We have discussed the situation in Ukraine and recall our national positions as expressed at the appropriate fora, namely the UNSC and the UNGA.”
India used its leverage as a Brics member to get Russia to agree to transpose this on to the G20 communique since Moscow had already agreed to the same at the Beijing meet. Importantly, it recognised “national positions” on the conflict.
While western powers were amenable, they still wanted to condemn the Russian action. A way out was found by making a reference to the UNSC resolution of March 2 that deplored Russian action in Ukraine. One hundred forty-one countries had voted in favour of the resolution. By suggesting such a reference in the communique, a direct G20 condemnation of Russia was avoided since the UNSC resolution conveyed the same sentiment.
So, the final language in the G20 communique reflected the Brics line, slightly modified to read: “We reiterated our national positions as expressed in other fora, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which, in Resolution No. ES-11/1 dated 2 March 2022, as adopted by majority vote (141 votes for, 5 against, 35 abstentions, 12 absent) deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.”
The condemnation of human and economic suffering caused by war was, of course, included. Indian action was based on a positioning around building grounds for dialogue and peace as articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of the SCO summit in September, which also found a mention in the communique.