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Negotiations on G20 outcome document key at Kerala meet

Top officials of the 20 largest economies are expected to take up the tricky issue of negotiating a consensus outcome document for the G20 Summit to be held in September during a session in Kerala’s Kumarakom on Saturday, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

G20 delegates attend the inaugural session of the 2nd Sherpa meeting under India’s G20 Presidency, at Kumarakom on Friday. (G20 India Twitter)

The G20 Sherpas or personal envoys of heads of state and government and top officials of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and World Bank are participating in four sessions spread over Friday and Saturday to assess work done so far under India’s G20 presidency and to chart the way forward in tackling pressing global challenges such rising debt and food and energy security.

India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant is guiding the deliberations at these sessions and all the sherpas, representatives of multilateral bodies and officials from nine guest countries invited by India will join the discussions behind closed doors at a convention hall at the scenic KTDC resort on the banks of Vembanad lake.

In his brief opening remarks on Friday, Kant said he was looking forward to “free and frank discussions”.

Minister of state for external affairs, V Muraleedharan, who also addressed the opening session, said India’s G20 theme of “One earth, one family, one future”, has found resonance around the world because of its inclusive message.

Muraleedharan said, “India’s G20 priorities include green development, climate finance, accelerated, inclusive and resilient growth, accelerating progress in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), technological transformation and public digital infrastructure and creating multilateral institutions of the 21st century.”

The sherpas’ meeting will take stock of the work done so far and deliberate on the way forward for achieving “ambitious and agreed outcomes”, Muraleedharan said.

India has so far hosted 54 official meetings under the G20 framework in more than 25 cities across the country. Two crucial meetings of the finance ministers in Bengaluru and the foreign ministers in New Delhi were unable to agree on consensus outcome documents because of opposition from China and Russia to the text describing the war in Ukraine.

People familiar with the deliberations said the G7 member states were continuing to raise the Ukraine issue at the discussions, either directly or by linking it to major global economic challenges. However, the Indian side has sought to ensure that the G20 doesn’t lose focus on economic goals, especially those that are essential to the Global South, the people said.

“Some middle ground needs to be found, which China and Russia will agree to and the G7 will also be happy with,” one of the people said.

“Even as we deal with the Ukraine conflict, we are not letting go of India’s ambitions, such as an action plan for the SDGs, climate change and climate justice and financing for climate transition,” the person added.

The first session of discussions on Friday focused on technological transformation in the digital economy, health, education, tourism and culture, while the second looked at accelerated and resilient growth and women-led development. The second session encompassed agriculture, trade and investment, and anti-corruption.

During the lunch break, sherpas of different countries held bilateral meetings on a large houseboat moored on the bank of the lake. Barring China, France and the US, all the other G20 members have sent their sherpas for the meeting in Kumarakom.

Following the two sessions on Friday, Kant and the other sherpas held “kayal” or sofa talks on a houseboat as it made its way around the lake. These talks in a more informal setting allowed the sherpas to take up more tricky and contentious issues, the people said.

Friday concluded with “Charchayum Aharavum”, a cultural evening and dinner that was also attended by Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The G20 delegates witnessed a rendition of Oathirum Mohitham, a play based on “vadakkan pattu” or traditional ballads of Kerala and various dance forms that provided a glimpse of the state’s rich heritage.


    Rezaul H Laskar is the Foreign Affairs Editor at Hindustan Times. His interests include movies and music.
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