Updated Feb 23, 2023, 9:58am EST
securitypoliticsSouth Asia

Why India may block criticism of Russia in the G20


Sign up for Semafor Principals: What the White House is reading. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

India, which assumed the G-20 presidency this year, will avoid discussion on new Russian sanctions, according to both Reuters and Bloomberg.

The country, which this week hosts the group’s finance chiefs, is seeking to avoid using the term “war” in any joint communications about the invasion and instead use words such as “crisis,” Bloomberg reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this image from 2018.
WikimediaCommons/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office
Title icon

Know More

An Indian official told Reuters that existing Russian sanctions have had a “negative impact” globally, and that the country is not keen to discuss additional sanctions during the G-20.

The decision to avoid calling the conflict a war is getting some pushback from other G-20 countries, including the U.S. American officials plan to be clear about Russia’s role in the war, even if the word does not appear in official communications, a source told Reuters.

India has so far remained neutral in the war, calling for de-escalation from both countries.

Title icon

Step Back

India and Russia have long maintained close ties. To date, India has refrained from applying the same sanctions against Russian leaders as those imposed by the West. That is due in part to India’s reliance on Moscow for oil and military equipment.

As of December, Russian oil accounted for 28% of India’s crude imports, up from 0.2% before the war began.

But India’s position on Russia is likely more common throughout countries comprising the Global South than Westerners may think.

According to recent polling data, residents of China, India, and Turkey would prefer to see a quick end to the war, even if that meant Ukraine conceding some territory to Russia. Comparatively, Westerners feel their countries should help Ukraine win.

Title icon


  • In the Financial Times, Ivan Krastev wrote that for many countries outside the West, the conflict in Ukraine is indicative of a larger splintering of world powers into smaller blocs. When something happens in Europe, Krastev notes, it is “immediately treated as a global concern; while if [something] takes place in Africa or Latin America, this is almost never the case. By ignoring war in Ukraine, many outside the west, either consciously or unconsciously, question Europe’s centrality in global politics.”