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India averse to discussing new Russia sanctions at G20

By Shivangi Acharya and Sarita Chaganti Singh

BENGALURU (Reuters) -India does not want G20 nations to discuss additional sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, government sources said on Wednesday, as it hosts a meeting of the bloc's finance chiefs at which the United States and allies were set to push for tougher action.

India also was pressing to avoid using "war" in communique language to describe the conflict, which enters its second year on Friday as the meeting starts, G20 officials said.

India has kept a neutral stance on the war, declining to blame Russia for the invasion, seeking a diplomatic solution and sharply boosting its purchases of Russian oil.

The Indian sources, who are directly involved in this week's meeting of finance leaders in Bengaluru - the first major event of India's one-year G20 presidency - said the war's macroeconomic impact would be discussed.

"India is not keen to discuss or back any additional sanctions on Russia during the G20," said one of the Indian officials. "The existing sanctions on Russia have had a negative impact on the world."

In negotiations over the group's joint communique, India tried to form a consensus to call the conflict a "crisis" or a "challenge" but the discussions were pushed into Thursday without conclusion, delegates of at least seven G20 countries said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen "will be very firm" in condemning Russia's invasion during the meetings, no matter how it is described in the communique, a senior U.S. Treasury official said.

Yellen's deputy, Wally Adeyemo, said on Tuesday that the United States and allies will impose new sanctions and export controls on Russia in "coming days," including crackdowns on companies and individuals helping Moscow evade past sanctions.

Spokespeople for the Indian government and the finance and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier, Anurag Thakur, India's information minister, told a news conference after welcoming delegates: "Today's era is not for war. Democracy, dialogue and diplomacy is the way forward".

Japan's finance minister said on Tuesday that financial leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations would meet on the sidelines of the G20 meeting to discuss measures against Russia.

DEBT, CRYPTO ON AGENDA

"Many nations are keen on their turn to speak on the Russia-Ukraine war," said a central bank deputy governor from one of the attending countries, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Russia themselves want to discuss the economic impact of sanctions."

The Russian embassy in New Delhi did not respond to a request for comment.

The G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs are also expected to discuss unblocking debt restructuring for distressed economies that have been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Reuters reported last week that India has drafted a proposal for G20 countries to help debtor nations by asking lenders, including the world's largest sovereign creditor China, to take a large haircut on loans. The U.S. Treasury official said that G20 debt talks this week would be "difficult."

Yellen and German Finance Minister Christian Lindner will be attending the meetings and are expected to press China to "quickly deliver" on debt relief for low and middle income countries.

However, neither the Russian finance minister nor the central bank chief were expected to attend the meeting and they will be represented by their deputies.

WORLD BANK REFORM

During the event, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) plans to hold a meeting with the World Bank, India, China, Saudi Arabia, the United States and other G7 nations to try to reach understanding on common standards, principles and definitions on how to restructure distressed country debt.

Rules on crypto-currencies, reform of multilateral development banks, international taxation and securing adequate finance to combat climate change are also on the agenda of the meetings, which chiefs of the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank will attend.

Sources told Reuters that India was also likely to table a proposal to form an expert G20 group to look into reforms at the World Bank and to increase lending capacity of the global lender for climate financing in middle and low income countries.

(Reporting by Sarita Chaganti Singh, Shivangi Acharya and Aftab Ahmed, writing by Sudipto Ganguly and Shivam Patel; Editing by Krishna N. Das, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Alex Richardson and Marguerita Choy)