New Delhi, Mar 26, 2020: India is expected to push for a coordinated and forward-looking approach at the extraordinary G20 virtual leaders’ summit to be held on Thursday evening against the backdrop of a divide in the G7 over US efforts to label Covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus”, people familiar with developments said.
Members of the G20, which includes 19 of the world’s largest economies and the European Union, are engaged in hectic negotiations to finalise a joint communique to be issued after Thursday’s meeting, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity, Hindustan Times reported.
The members will also outline their individual positions in separate statements during the video conference that has been convened by G20 president Saudi Arabia to discuss a joint response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“India’s approach will be to have a positive and forward-looking outcome. This is a global challenge and requires a coordinated global response,” a person who declined to be named said.
The people said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his statement, is expected to refer to India’s role in forging a coordinated response through the video conference of leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) on March 15 and how this could be replicated by other countries.
On Wednesday, other members of the G7 spurned the US state department’s push to include the phrase “Wuhan virus” in a joint statement that was to be issued after a video conference of the grouping’s foreign ministers. The members issued separate statements that reflected the divisions within the G7.
The person cited above said: “India doesn’t want to get into a blame game. The priority for us is to tackle the Coronavirus and to forge a coordinated global response to it.”
“What the US state department has suggested is a red line,” an unnamed European diplomat was quoted as saying by CNN. “You cannot agree with this branding of this virus and trying to communicate this.”
The proposed draft statement by the US also blamed China for the pandemic’s spread, the diplomat told CNN. The US was responsible for framing the draft statement as it is the current president of the G7, which includes the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada.
The division within the G7 was reflected in a statement issued by French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, which said he had “underscored the need to combat any attempt to exploit the crisis for political purposes and expressed the view that the unity of all to effectively combat the pandemic must now take precedence over any other considerations”.
The US leadership, including President Donald Trump, has repeatedly referred to Covid-19, which was first reported in the Wuhan region of China last December, as the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus”.
Asked by journalists about a media report that the draft statement of the G7 had contained a reference to “Wuhan virus”, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo did not deny it. “There was a lot of discussion today amongst the G7 about the intentional disinformation campaign that China has been and continues to be engaged in,” he said.