Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged G20 foreign ministers to overcome their divisions and focus on the needs of the developing world.
“We are meeting at a time of deep global divisions. We have a responsibility to those not in this room,” he told the ministers in Delhi.
India wants to use its G20 presidency to raise issues of developing countries known as the Global South.
But divisions within the group over the Ukraine war will test Indian diplomacy.
Last week, G20 finance ministers failed to reach a consensus on a closing statement at their meeting in Bangalore (Bengaluru) city, in the first ministerial meeting in the run up to the summit later this year.
It was left to India to release a chair’s summary which noted “different assessments of the situation” in Ukraine within the group. The foreign ministers’ talks on Thursday are likely to face similar hurdles.
It was evident from Mr Modi’s speech on Thursday that India wanted to deliver agreements that could help the developing world and fuel its global ambitions.
“After years of progress, we are at risk today of moving back on the sustainable development goals. Many developing countries are struggling with unsustainable debts while trying to ensure food and energy security,” he said.
“They are also most affected by global warming caused by richer countries. This is why India’s G20 presidency has tried to give a voice to the Global South.”
The G20, which includes the world’s 19 wealthiest nations plus the European Union, accounts for 85% of global economic output and two-thirds of its population.
Foreign ministers, including Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, the US’s Antony Blinken and China’s Qin Gang, are in Delhi for the meeting. A former Indian diplomat told the BBC that India would have to “do something special” to make them overlook their differences over the war.
Experts say Delhi will also have the delicate task of following its non-alignment policy over the war while urging other nations to find ways to work together.
Delhi has resisted the pressure and continued with its strategy of not directly criticizing Russia, which is India’s largest supplier of arms.
It has regularly abstained from voting on UN resolutions condemning the war in Ukraine, including a vote held at the UN General Assembly last week.
It has also defended its decision to increase its oil imports from Russia, saying it has to look after the needs of more than a billion people.
But it has talked about the importance of “the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” in its past statements on Ukraine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit last autumn was viewed as indirect criticism of Russia. “Today’s era is not of war,” Mr Modi told the meeting in Uzbekistan in the presence of President Vladimir Putin.
Despite Mr Modi’s efforts, analysts say tensions over Ukraine are expected to overshadow talks on Thursday. It has dominated statements from some G20 members even before the meeting started.
“This war has to be condemned,” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told reporters after the meeting, according to news agency Reuters.
“I hope, I am sure that India’s diplomatic capacity will be used in order to make Russia understand that this war has to finish,” he said.
On Wednesday, India’s top diplomat Vinay Kwatra said that while the war in Ukraine would be an important point of discussion, “questions relating to food, energy and fertilizer security, the impact that the conflict has on these economic challenges that we face” would also receive “due focus”.