With audit being a neutral process devoid of implications for geopolitical positioning, one would have expected the G20 Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) meeting in Guwahati to have displayed broad participation amid a degree of consensus.
But alas, that was not to be. The ongoing Ukraine conflict had to cast its dark shadow as divisions over the conflict came to the fore and the US-led West was a notable absentee.
After the end of the official deliberations among the auditors in Guwahati, what emerged was a 'zero draft'—a nomenclature for a preliminary and unstructured assessment of the expected outcome.
At Guwahati, the platform of the top 20 industrialised nations did not see participation from the US and its major European backers— the UK, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union.
Comptroller and Auditor General India, Girish Chandra Murmu, tried to explain the absence of the key Western nations by saying that some countries could not participate because of "other engagements" while a few wanted to participate in the online mode which was not possible as the event format did not allow it.
On the other hand, Russia sent a three-member delegation of auditors that refused to be drawn into any conversation.
China, with whom India is engaged in parleys to resolve an ongoing border row issue which has resulted in brutal violence and deaths, did not send any representation.
On March 2, the important G20 foreign ministers meet had too failed to achieve any consensus. As a result, instead of a joint statement, what emerged was a "Chair’s summary and Outcome Document" which is indicative of a lack of consensus. Nor did the Western members agree to pose for a joint family photograph underlining their unwillingness to be seen with the Russians.
Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar had said: “If we had a perfect meeting of minds on all issues and captured it fully, it would have been collective statement but there were divergences… There were differences on the Ukraine issue which we could not reconcile."
The G20 finance ministers meeting in Bengaluru from February 22-25 had also seen sharp exchanges over the Ukraine conflict yielding only the "Chair’s summary and Outcome Document" and not a joint statement.
India has assumed the G20 presidency at a time when there is a lot of geo-political churning amid signs of a new world order coming to the fore. G20 nations represent about two-thirds of the world’s population, accounting for about 85 per cent of the global GDP.