Kishida’s push for Ukraine statement pays off at Japan-India summit

Sho Komine/The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchange greetings in New Delhi on Saturday.

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s determination to touch upon Ukraine in a joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was rewarded Saturday, despite India’s measured stance on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

The agenda for Kishida’s visit to India was already partly in place when Russia invaded its smaller neighbor, but events in Ukraine became a major topic of the leaders’ meeting.

India has refrained from directly criticizing Russia, abstaining from a vote on a nonbinding resolution at the U.N. General Assembly that condemned Moscow’s military aggression.

In a joint statement issued after a March 3 videoconference, the heads of the Quad countries — Japan, Australia, India and the United States — failed to point the finger directly at Russia.

The Japan-India summit meeting focused on how Tokyo could help bring New Delhi into the framework of the international community, which strives to act collectively to pressure Russia.

Kishida felt strongly that the meeting would be a failure if the joint statement did not mention the Ukraine crisis, according to a source close to the prime minister.

The document had yet to be finalized when Kishida arrived in India, and diplomats from both sides worked on specific wording until the very last minute.

In the statement, the two leaders expressed their serious concern about the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, while avoiding any direct criticism of Russia.

Following Moscow’s shaking of the international order, it is seen as increasingly important that the Quad group strengthen cooperation to rein in China’s hegemonic zeal.

India is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — a transcontinental alliance led by China and Russia — despite having border disputes with Beijing. Kishida reportedly looked for points of agreement during the Japan-India summit meeting by taking into account India’s circumstances.

“We agreed to strongly oppose any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the East and South China Seas, as well as any economic coercion,” Kishida said at a joint press conference Saturday.

It is thought that Kishida’s words were directed toward China and its aggressive maritime expansion.