India as the G20 host has a 'unique role' to play in bringing about an end to the war in Ukraine due to its 'longstanding historical' ties to Russia, the United States has said, expressing hope to work closely with New Delhi to find a way to stop the conflict.
The G20 foreign ministers' meeting hosted by India on Thursday was unable to come out with a joint communique due to a sharp rift between the West and Russia over the Ukraine conflict despite efforts by host India to bridge the differences.
"We are deeply grateful to our Indian partners for the way they have led the G20 to date. And as you alluded to, there is a lot more work to be done over the course of this year, but India is off to a very promising start with its stewardship of the G-20," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference on Thursday.
The India-US partnership was a subject of discussion between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterpart External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi, Price said, describing the ties with India as one of the most consequential relationships the US has.
On the question of whether the Secretary Blinken believes that India still has the role to play to break the ice and to stop the war between Russia and Ukraine, Price said there are countries around the world that have a relationship with Russia that is distinct from the one US has.
"India certainly falls within that category. India has longstanding historical ties to Russia. It is connected in Russia to ways that the United States is not and, for that matter, has not been," he said.
India also has tremendous leverage in different areas, whether it's economic leverage, diplomatic leverage, political leverage, but also moral leverage, Price said.
"And India has the ability, as we've seen from Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, to speak with tremendous moral clarity," he said.
When Prime Minister Modi said last year that this is not an era of war, the world listened because when Prime Minister Modi and his country say something to that effect, it is meaningful to the United States, it's meaningful to Russia, it is meaningful to countries near and far, he said.
During a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Samarkand in September last year, Prime Minister Modi underlined the importance of 'democracy, dialogue and diplomacy' while calling for an early cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.
"I know today's era is not of war," Modi told Putin.
Price said the US will continue to work with its Indian partners over the matter.
"They of course have a unique role to play in this as the G20 hosts, but also as a country with whom we have a Global Strategic Partnership, a country that has a relationship with Russia that we don't," Price said.
"And just as India has consistently expressed that this is not, should not be an era of war, we hope that we can work closely with India to bring about an end to this war," he said.
He also referred to the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi being unable to come out with a joint communique due to the bitterly increasing rift between the US-led Western powers and Russia over the Ukraine conflict despite consistent efforts by host India to bridge the differences.
The meeting adopted a Chair's Summary and Outcome Document listing various key priorities, but External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said there were differences over the Ukraine conflict because of which the meeting could not agree on the joint communique.
Price said, "Of course, this was a chair of summary that was subscribed to by all 20 members of the G20, except for two key paragraphs. We all know those two countries in question, Russia and China. We all know the issue in question, Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine."
"But when it comes to the broader set of issues that neither Russia nor China could agree to accept, I think it was pretty notable that the key paragraph referenced the essential need to uphold international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability," he said.
Price asserted it is a paragraph that speaks to defending and protecting the principles of the United Nations Charter, ensuring that countries around the world adhere to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and infrastructure in armed conflict, and that makes clear where countries stand in strongly condemning the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in any conflict.
"The fact that neither Russia nor China could sign on to a paragraph that should be as an anodyne and common sense and basic as that, it tells you a lot about the two countries that purport to believe in the UN Charter, have been permanent members of the UN Security Council, consistently raise international law and the principles of the UN Charter only to ignore them in contexts like this," he said.
Price said the US works closely with India on just about everything that is a priority to it and everything that is a priority to New Delhi, increasing their mutual prosperity, supporting democracy, addressing the climate crisis and upholding a rules-based order grounded in international law.
"It is that point, the rules-based order, that is so important to us around the world, but particularly important to the United States and to India in the context of the Indo-Pacific," he said. "It is helping to build and to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific region, a vision that we share with Indian counterparts."
The US, India and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
Blinken and Jaishankar discussed the work India has done so far in hosting the G20 foreign ministers and finance ministers and creating an agenda that allows them to tackle the key issues of global and strategic partnerships, Price said.
The G20 is an important instrument for India and the US, Price said.
"We have seen how the G20 can bring together countries for collective action. We think what we've seen in India over the past couple of days was no exception," Price said.
"The United States, for our part, participated in this foreign minister meeting with two imperatives in mind -- first to see to it that the G20, again with India at the helm, was a success, which clearly it was," Price said.
"And second, to demonstrate how the United States, together with our partners is working collaboratively to build a world that is more prosperous, is more sustainable, it is more inclusive in terms of the global economy, and that delivers for the needs of people around the world, whether that's food, whether that's energy, whether that is health, whether that is helping people around the world confront the challenges and threats that they face from fentanyl and narcotics, to a changing climate to COVID and to everything in between," he said.