Amitabh Kant is India's sherpa, or personal representative, to the 2023 G20 Summit.
Nearly 200 hours of "nonstop negotiations" were needed to ensure a joint communique from G20 leaders divided over the bloc's stance on Russia's war on Ukraine, India's sherpa Amitabh Kant told NDTV on Saturday. Mr Kant said the declaration was the result of multiple rounds of talks - from discussions with developing economies about the war's economic impact to bilateral meets with Russia and China - and that consensus was only reached late last night.
Mr Kant said the key was "working in partnership with sherpas" and that it was a joint effort of emerging markets - led by India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia, and later Mexico, Turkey and Saudi Arabia - that brought pressure to bear on G7 nations and brought them to the table.
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"(There were) close to 200 hours of nonstop negotiations... the Bali paragraph had broken down and we were struggling for nine months. Then, in one meeting, I took a plain screen and scribbled 15 basic principles we needed to follow. All sherpas then joined in and gave their perspectives," he explained.
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"Based on this, we created a first draft... nobody really expected we would arrive at a consensus. The first draft triggered a number of reactions... people were pessimistic that we could every arrive at a consensus on Russia and Ukraine because multilateral forums across the world had failed to do so."
"From the first draft we went to a second... and a third. After that, I think what helped were bilateral meets with each country," Mr Kant told NDTV, "Important thing was to draw each nation's red lines."
It was then India began working in partnership with three other sherpas - those from Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa. "So, it was a joint proposal of four emerging markets... and then we roped in Mexico, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. All of them joined hands and there was pressure from emerging markets."
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"Our concern was that development issues are far more important than war issues... finally we negotiated with G7 countries, then Russia and China. Only last night we submitted the final draft."
However, there was still potential for disaster - a last-minute disagreement that would mean the 2023 New Delhi G20 Summit would become the first G20 meet to not have a fully unanimous declaration.
And it was here, Mr Kant revealed, that he drew on the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"We took it to the last minute... at that (final) sherpa meeting I said, 'This is the final draft and you either take it or the deal drops.' I also told them, 'If anyone has any objection, your leader can talk to my leader.' So, I pulled in the weight of the PM at that time," he told NDTV.
He said he told other sherpas that PM Modi had told him, "This is the perfect draft" - one that takes car of every country's concern. "I told them it is critical... we will not have a split paragraph or a footnote. We will only have consensus. That is how it was and today all countries fell in line," Mr Kant said.