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Barefoot G20 heads of state pay tribute to Gandhi

Special Envoy to New Delhi.

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Barefoot G20 heads of state pay tribute to Gandhi

Special Envoy to New Delhi

For Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this ceremony had a very strong symbolic charge. The Hindu nationalist leader, host of the G20 summit which ends this Sunday early in the afternoon, invited his distinguished guests in the morning to gather around the Gandhi memorial.

In the heart of the megacity of Delhi, crisscrossed by 130,000 police and military personnel, the Rajghat site keeps alive the memory of the peace and independence activist assassinated in 1948.

Ironically, Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse, was a Hindu nationalist activist and former member of the RSS, the main Hindu fundamentalist organization in which Narendra Modi worked throughout his youth and part of his life. Modi then joined the BJP, the political wing of the RSS in 1987, at age 37.

An eternal flame burns at the foot of a marble slab erected on the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. A sacred place that cannot be defiled with one's shoes. Also, most of the twenty or so heads of state approached the monument barefoot, avoiding the puddles of rainwater.

Each is wrapped in a cream scarf donated by Narendra Modi. Joe Biden is entitled to white slippers while Sergei Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs representing Vladimir Putin, walks in gray slippers, similar to the tapochki that we wear in Russian interiors. The heads of state stand still on three sides of the monument, each facing a wreath of white flowers erected on a tripod. While Narendra Modi displays a solemn mask, a few steps away, the British Rishi Sunak – Hindu – chats with Joe Biden, smiling, before the minute of silence.

The scene offers the picture of a surreal communion. Supporters of Ukraine, Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, Rishi Sunak, Olaf Scholz, Giorgia Meloni and Ursula von der Leyen stand a few steps from the head of Russian diplomacy. Which, just the day before, according to a diplomatic source, repeated that the war was caused by Ukraine and that Russia was in resistance against the United States. At the same time, as the sun was just rising in kyiv, the Ukrainian government announced that the country had been attacked by 32 Russian drones, 25 of which were shot down.

On Saturday, G20 leaders adopted a joint declaration. The text with diplomatic phrasing resulting from long negotiations defends, in the paragraph devoted to the war in Ukraine, "the integrity and the territorial sovereignty". But without expressly condemning Russia (he refers to the condemnation expressed last year at the G20), which the Ukrainian government deplored.

Once the brief ceremony was over, the “VVIPs” (Very very important persons) according to the terminology of the security services, were to meet for a third and final working meeting. After the “One Earth” and “One Family” sessions the day before, they were to discuss the theme “a common future”.

Emmanuel Macron was due to fly in the afternoon for a visit to neighboring Bangladesh.

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