NEW DELHI (REUTERS, AFP) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday (March 19) told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had shaken “the foundation of international order” and required a clear response.
“We (Mr Kishida and Mr Modi) confirmed any unilateral change to the status quo by force cannot be forgiven in any region, and it is necessary to seek peaceful resolutions of disputes based on international law,” Mr Kishida told reporters after meeting Mr Modi in New Delhi.
A joint statement said they “discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications” – without any condemnation of Moscow.
India and Japan are party to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), a security framework that also includes the United States and Australia.
While Japan has imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian individuals and organisations since the start of what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine and has accepted Ukrainian refugees, India is the only Quad member not to have condemned the invasion.
A separate Indian readout pointedly “underlined that the Quad must remain focused on its core objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Ahead of Mr Kishida’s visit, the first by a Japanese premier since 2017, a Japanese foreign ministry official said Tokyo was “aware” of Delhi’s “geographical location and historical ties to Russia”.
“But at the same time we share fundamental values and strategic interests so naturally there will be candid discussions about how we view the Ukraine situation,” the official told reporters.
He added that Mr Modi, 71, and Mr Kishida, 64, would also discuss “issues closer to our region” such as a “free and open Indo-Pacific” – a reference to China – and bilateral issues.
“That will be more the opportunity to take stock of the bilateral cooperation as well as reaffirming our shared strategic vision and interests rather than emphasising on what our differences are,” the official said.
Mr Modi and Mr Morrison are also due to hold a virtual summit on March 21 focused on trade, when the Australian premier may again press his Indian counterpart to fall more into the Western camp over Ukraine.
Russia has been India’s main arms supplier since the Soviet era, but today Delhi also needs more support from the Quad and others in the region and beyond in the face of an increasingly assertive China.
Tensions between New Delhi and Beijing have been high since a 2020 clash on their disputed Himalayan border killed at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers.
Both have since sent additional military hardware – in India’s case much of it Russian-made – and thousands of extra troops to the area.
Meanwhile, Mr Kishida also announced a plan to invest 5 trillion yen (S$57 billion) in India over five years.
In recent years Japan has supported India’s urban infrastructure development and provided funds for a high-speed railway based on its bullet train technology.
In 2020, the two countries signed an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement that allows for reciprocal stocks of food, fuel and other supplies between defence forces.