Australian and Indian Prime Ministers Downplay Differences Over Ukraine as They Reveal Numerous New Similarities

Scott Morrison has told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Russia “should be held accountable” for its invasion of Ukraine during a key virtual summit between the two leaders.

The catastrophic war in Ukraine has exposed divisions between India and other members of the Quad — Australia, the United States and Japan — who have all hit Russia with sanctions and provided Ukraine military and financial support to help it fend off the invasion.

But India remains dependent on Russia for defense equipment and key military technology.

While Mr Modi has called for peace in Ukraine, India has not criticized the Russian invasion and has abstained from a number of key United Nations votes condemning Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Russian troops have attacked towns and villages in Ukraine.Reuters: Oleksandr Lapshyn

Australia has not publicly criticized India for its stance, partly because it accepts New Delhi’s continued dependence on Russia in key sectors, and partly because officials believe that trying to increase pressure on India would only create resentment in New Delhi.

Japan has also taken a cautious line, urging India to take a stronger stance without directly criticizing its current stance on the Russian invasion.

After meeting Mr Modi on Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the Russian invasion shook “the foundations of the international order” and demanded a “firm” response.

Mr Morrison also used his opening remarks during his meeting with Mr Modi to draw attention back to Ukraine and to emphasize the magnitude of the crisis.

“Today’s meeting is, of course, set against the very harrowing backdrop of the war in Europe that should never take place in our own region,” he said.

“I think the call from our Quad leaders recently… gave us an opportunity to discuss Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, but it also gave us an opportunity to discuss the implications and consequences of that terrible event for our own region in the Indo-Pacific and the coercion and problems we face here.”

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida meets India PM Modi in New Delhi, March 19, 2022.
The Japanese prime minister has also avoided direct criticism of India’s stance on the invasion of Ukraine.Reuters: Adnan Abidic

But he also acknowledged that the Quad’s main focus was the immediate region, stressed the importance of maintaining cooperation between democracies in the Indo-Pacific and said Mr Modi had shown “leadership” by “keeping us focused on those important issues”.

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