Japan rethinks Ukraine aid plan after India blocks request for SDF aircraft to collect aid from Mumbai

The government has been forced to change a plan to transport Ukraine aid supplies from India on Self-Defense Forces planes, claiming New Delhi has refused to let SDF aircraft land in the country.

Government insiders believe India’s ties with Russia are behind the refusal.

“It’s very disappointing. Clearly the government hasn’t done the necessary groundwork,” said Sanae Takaichi, chair of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, at its board meeting on Thursday. The board cancelled its discussion on the aid delivery plan scheduled for the day.

A Foreign Ministry official who attended the meeting reportedly explained that the ministry had received prior consent from New Dehli, but was informed on Wednesday evening that it would not be able to accept SDF aircraft.

The government was aiming to dispatch aid as soon as possible after the Cabinet had approved the transportation plan, which lawmakers had expected would happen on Friday.

At a press conference on Thursday, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “We had received a request from Japan for permission to land in Mumbai to pick up humanitarian supplies … We have conveyed our approval for picking up such supplies from Inda using commercial aircraft.”

He added: “We also received a request separately for overflight clearance using Japanese SDF aircraft carrying humanitarian cargo for Ukraine. That was also processed as per established norms.”

He did not confirm whether India had refused to allow SDF aircraft to land in the country.

The Japanese government had planned to use Air Self-Defense Force C-2 transport aircraft and other planes to collect items such as blankets from stockpiles of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in India and the United Arab Emirates.

The aircraft were then supposed to transport the aid supplies to Poland and Romania, with the government aiming to transport about 10 shipments between late April and the end of June.

The government is now reconsidering the plan, including the possibility of using commercial aircraft instead of SDF planes.

Russia has close ties with India, which has received military assistance from Moscow over a border dispute with China.

India did not implement sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, choosing to tread a path separate from that of European countries, the United States and Japan, which have stepped up pressure on Moscow.

However, India is also a member of the Quad partnership, alongside Japan, the United States and Australia, which were hoping to deepen cooperation with New Dehli regarding the situation in Ukraine at a Quad summit meeting scheduled for late May in Tokyo.

A government official said the current situation “proves that India will not easily cooperate in pressuring Russia.”