The leaders of the Quad who met in a sudden virtual summit will have their national security teams follow up on the Ukraine crisis, according to White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki.
She said at her briefing on Thursday that Biden “asked members — he suggested — or they’ll discuss, I should say, having members of their national security team follow up from there”.
The joint statement of the summit of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Scott Morrison of Australia and Fumio Kishida of Japan, and US President Joe Biden made no mention of the national security teams.
It only said, “They discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications.”
Psaki did not elaborate on what the teams will follow up or how.
She avoided answering a reporter’s question if India’s military relationship with Russia was discussed at the summit and if the US plans to talk to India about it or what it plans to do.
Psaki said: “The President felt it was a constructive conversation.”
A statement on the summit by Modi’s office said, “Developments in Ukraine were discussed in the meeting, including its humanitarian implications. The Prime Minister emphasised the need to return to a path of dialogue and diplomacy.”
According to their joint statement, the leaders agreed to set up a humanitarian assistance programme for response to Ukraine.
“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,” the statement said.
India has begun sending humanitarian relief to Ukraine.
Tucked in the middle of a paragraph on the Indo-Pacific, the statement said in general terms that the Quad leaders affirmed their commitment to countries being “free from military, economic, and political coercion”.
In a break with the other Quad members, India has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine but made broad statements calling for upholding the territorial integrity of nations and the United Nations Charter.
India has abstained on the four UN resolutions on Ukraine, and another resolution on humanitarian assistance to that country is set to come up in the Security Council and the US would want India to vote for it.
India agreeing to humanitarian assistance on Ukraine at the meeting would likely pressure it to vote for the humanitarian resolution at the Security Council.
The joint statement said that the Quad leaders reaffirmed “their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion”.
It added: “They reaffirmed their dedication to the Quad as a mechanism to promote regional stability and prosperity.”
The statement from Modi’s office said that they reviewed the progress on Quad initiatives since the in-person summit in Washington in September and “agreed on accelerating cooperation, with an objective to achieve concrete outcomes by the summit in Japan later this year”.
“Prime Minister underlined that the Quad must remain focused on its core objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. He called for concrete and practical forms of cooperation within the Quad, in areas like Humanitarian and Disaster Relief, debt sustainability, supply chains, clean energy, connectivity, and capacity-building,” it added.
The joint statement’s reference to territorial integrity in the Indo-Pacific is directed against China, yet New Delhi has found itself on the same side as Beijing in abstaining on the UN resolutions.
Kishida tweeted about his participation in the summit: “Unilateral changes to the status quo by force or coercion like the recent Russian aggression against #Ukraine are also unacceptable in the Indo-Pacific region. It is critically important for us to bring about a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The summit appeared to be an attempt to ensure that the US retained a focus on China and the Indo-Pacific, which could be overwhelmed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and potentially benefit Beijing.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed @arulouis)