India was told not to buy Russian oil; to desist from procuring Russian weapons. White House Press Secretary, in a question related to India buying Russian crude oil, said that it is not a violation of US sanctions, but the deal could place New Delhi on the ‘wrong side of history’. The United Kingdom’s Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said that the UK was “very disappointed” with India’s neutral position on the Ukraine crisis. However, India remained steadfast. It did not buckle under the pressure of the West. India kept its foreign policy independent and autonomous.
India’s position on Russia has been accepted by Japan and Australia. These three Quad countries are now on the same page. Japan did try to influence India, urging it to condemn Russia. However, for New Delhi, its own national interests needed to be looked out for. India has been clear – Russia’s war on Ukraine cannot be allowed to let China off the hook.
Australia and Japan agreed. So, India has held back-to-back head-of-state-level talks with Canberra and Tokyo. This has led to Joe Biden engaging in some damage control. On Monday, the U.S. President consoled himself, saying, “The Quad is, with the possible exception of India being somewhat shaky on some of this, but Japan has been extremely strong — so has Australia — in terms of dealing with Putin’s aggression.”
Japan Realises India Cannot be Coerced
Over the weekend, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was in New Delhi, holding comprehensive talks with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. During his visit, Kishida pressured Prime Minister Narendra Modi to denounce Russia.
However, the joint statement issued after the two leaders’ meeting made no mention of Russia, although it did call for an immediate cessation of violence in Ukraine – which is a consistent line taken by New Delhi ever since the conflict first began.
Instead, the focus of the two leaders remained on the Indo Pacific, and how the region must be protected from China’s overarching aggression at all costs.
Australia Makes a Big Announcement
In a declaration that caught the Biden administration off guard, the Australian High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell revealed on Sunday that Quad nations (United States, Australia, Japan) have accepted India’s position on the Ukraine-Russia war.
O’Farrell said, “The Quad countries have accepted India’s position. We understand that each country has a bilateral relationship and it is clear from the comments of the MEA (ministry of external affairs) and Prime Minister Modi himself that he has used his contacts to call for the end of the conflict and no country will be unhappy with that.”
After gaining Japan’s trust, India proceeded to do the same with Australia. On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a virtual meeting with Scott Morrison, his Australian counterpart. The Quad, according to Australia’s Prime Minister, is first and foremost an Indo-Pacific alliance. The message was subtly delivered. The other three member states will not tolerate Joe Biden’s attempts to convert the group into an anti-Russia activism fest.
According to Nikkei Asia, during the talks, Morrison “expressed understanding for India’s position on the issue of Ukraine.”India and Australia also recognized that the conflict in Europe should not be a reason “to divert our attention from the Indo-Pacific region, and our position as far as Quad is concerned was also on the similar lines.”
Essentially, India, Japan, and Australia have banded together to protect Quad’s sanctity. These nations will not enable Joe Biden to impose his agenda throughout the entire security grouping. Meanwhile, Tokyo and Canberra have agreed on India’s attitude towards Russia, and the Biden administration will have to follow suit sooner or later.