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New Delhi: The four ‘Quad’ leaders announced a new mechanism to communicate their response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, even as they agreed that they cannot allow similar “unilateral change to the status quo by force” in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Quad leaders – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden – held a virtual emergency meeting on Thursday to exchange their views on the Ukraine-Russia war.
The joint readout issued after the summit stated that the Quad leaders “discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications”.
The document also implied that the four leaders have set up a new “mechanism”, which would also support more intensive discussion on the response to the fallout of the Ukraine crisis.
“They agreed to stand up a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism which will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication as they each address and respond to the crisis in Ukraine,” it said.
Following the summit, Kishida told reporters in Tokyo that the four leaders had raised concern about the impact of Ukraine in the region.
“We agreed that we should not allow any unilateral change to the status quo by force in the Indo-Pacific region like the latest case (in Ukraine) and we need to step up efforts to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific in times like this,” said the Japanese prime minister, as quoted by Kyodo News.
While the joint readout did not directly refer to Kishida’s words, it did assert that the leaders committed that “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion”.
I met with my fellow Quad leaders Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio about Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine and our commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific. pic.twitter.com/K84ZD2gFrF
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 3, 2022
Among the four countries, India has been the only one to abstain on Ukraine-related resolutions criticising Russia in the United Nations, which has led to considerable consternation in Western capitals.
In Washington, US senators repeatedly raised questions about India’s refusal to publicly criticise Moscow during a senate committee hearing. US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Donald Lu, said that “all of us have been working to urge India to take a clear position, a position opposed to Russia’s actions”.
India issued a separate press release which stated that the ‘Quad’ discussed developments in Ukraine, “including its humanitarian implications”.
“The Prime Minister emphasised the need to return to a path of dialogue and diplomacy,” it said.
The Indian press release also underlined that the Quad “must remain focused on its core objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region”.
There has been concern among Indian foreign policy analysts that the current antagonism with Russia will cause Washington to divert attention from the Indo-Pacific and, therefore, lessen any pressure on China.
India had tried to rope Russia into the Indo-Pacific, but Moscow had steadfastly opposed the ‘Quad’ as a construct of the West to corner Beijing.