By: Pramod Thomas
US president Joe Biden on Thursday (3) met virtually with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India over Ukraine, but the “Quad” group failed to agree on condemning Russia’s invasion, with New Delhi hesitant to censure Moscow.
The impromptu meeting was held shortly after it was announced by Delhi. Washington has called on India to use its “leverage” with Moscow.
But at the conclusion of the talks, a joint statement said simply that the leaders had “discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications” — without any condemnation of Moscow’s military assault.
A separate readout from Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s office said the premier had “emphasised the need to return to a path of dialogue and diplomacy”.
India has repeatedly urged Russia and Ukraine to cease hostilities but has stopped short of condemning the deadly invasion.
Modi “underlined that the Quad must remain focused on its core objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” his office said.
The leaders jointly reaffirmed their “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion” — a statement that could be interpreted as a new warning to China over its regional ambitions.
The Quad grouping is seen as a bulwark against China, and there have been concerns in India and elsewhere that the Ukraine crisis could distract Washington from the region.
On Wednesday (2), India, which leaned towards the Soviet Union in the Cold War and maintains strong ties with Moscow, again abstained in a UN resolution deploring Russia’s actions.
Also on Wednesday, Modi spoke to Russian president Vladimir Putin for the second time since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last week.
The Quad leaders agreed to meet in person in Tokyo in the coming months, according to the joint readout.
The office of Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida said in a tweet that the meeting would be held “this spring”.
The Quad was first launched in 2007, but only took root a decade later after China aggressively projected its military power into the South China Sea, and following violent border clashes with India.