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Among Quad, India shaky on Ukraine, says Biden; Modi, Boris discuss crisis

This comes a month after the four leaders — Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida — met virtually for the Quad leaders' summit. Their joint statement did not criticise Russia then.

Written by Shubhajit Roy |
Updated: March 23, 2022 1:00:38 am
US President Joe Biden. (Reuters)

US PRESIDENT Joe Biden has said that among the Quad countries, India is being “somewhat shaky” in terms of showing support against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both Australia and Japan, who make up the Quad with India and the US, have criticised Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

This comes a month after the four leaders — Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida — met virtually for the Quad leaders’ summit. Their joint statement did not criticise Russia then.

Biden’s statement also came on a day when US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and her counterpart, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. The two secretaries discussed the “situation in Ukraine”, the Ministry of External Affairs had said on Monday.

Addressing a business roundtable of CEOs in Washington, Biden said: “The one thing I’m confident, knowing Putin fairly well — as well as, I guess, another leader could know one another — is that he was counting on being able to split NATO. He never thought NATO would stay resolved — stay totally, thoroughly united. And I can assure you, NATO has never been stronger or more united in its entire history than it is today, in large part, because of Vladimir Putin.”

“But in response to his aggression, there has been — he’s pretty — we presented a united front throughout NATO and in the Pacific. The Quad is, with the possible exception of India being somewhat shaky on some of this. But Japan has been extremely strong, so has Australia, in terms of dealing with Putin’s aggression,” he said.

Last month, Biden had said that India and the US were trying to resolve their differences on the issue.

In a virtual summit with Modi on Monday, Morrison slammed “Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine” and said Moscow must be held accountable for the loss of lives.

While Modi, in his public remarks, did not say anything on the situation in Ukraine, Shringla later said Morrison expressed his understanding of India’s position, and that he and Modi were of the opinion that the conflict could not be a reason for diverting attention from issues of the Indo-Pacific region.

On Saturday, Kishida called out Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, describing it as a “serious development” that has “shaken the foundation of international order”. Modi, who held talks with Kishida at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, did not mention Ukraine directly and referred to “geopolitical developments”.

Biden’s public comments are the first indication of Washington’s assessment of New Delhi’s approach.

“We presented a united front throughout NATO and the Pacific, and you did a hell of a lot to help us impose sanctions and incur costs, real costs, on the Russian economy. We are seeing now that it mattered. It was really important what you all did. Not every one of you, but I’m not suggesting you all had to. But those of you who did step up, it made a big difference,” he told the CEOs.

Earlier this month, the US State Department had recalled a cable to American diplomats that instructed them to inform counterparts from India and the United Arab Emirate (UAE) that their position of neutrality on Ukraine put them “in Russia’s camp”, Axios, a US news outlet, had reported.

On Tuesday, Modi spoke to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose office at 10, Downing Street said the leaders discussed the “grave situation in Ukraine” and Johnson said “he believed the actions of Putin’s regime were deeply disturbing and disastrous for the world”.

“The pair agreed that Ukraine’s integrity and territorial sovereignty must be respected,” said the statement released by 10, Downing Street. The leaders said Russia needed to adhere to the UN Charter, and both agreed that “respect for international law was the only way to ensure global peace and prosperity,” it said.

The Indian PMO’s readout of the call said the two leaders had a “detailed discussion” on the situation in Ukraine. “Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s consistent appeal for cessation of hostilities and a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy. He emphasised India’s belief in respect for international law and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states as the basis of the contemporary world order,” the PMO statement said.

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The difference in the tone and tenor of the two statements reflected the public positions of the two countries on the issue.

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