NEW DELHI: The next few days will be like a prelude to Quad Summit, to be held in Tokyo next month, as Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio will be on a two-day visit to Delhi, followed by a virtual meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
PM Kishida will be in Delhi on the March 19-20 for the 14th India-Japan Annual Summit, which is being held after a gap of nearly three-and-a-half years.
This will be the first meeting between him and PM Modi. The previous summit took place in Tokyo in October 2018.
Both India and Japan have multi-faceted cooperation within the ambit of their ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’.
The summit will provide an opportunity for both sides to review and strengthen the bilateral cooperation in diverse areas as well as exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest so as to advance their partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
The Modi-Kishida meeting will be followed by the second India-Australia Virtual Summit on March 21.
The first virtual summit between the two was held on June 4, 2020, when the relationship between India and Australia was raised to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
The two PMs are expected to “commit to closer cooperation in trade, critical minerals, migration and mobility, and education, among others”, said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. “The leaders will take stock of progress made on various initiatives under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” he added.
The partnership has maintained the momentum of an upward trajectory, with both countries continuing to collaborate closely, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the United States remains in touch with Indian leaders and continues to encourage them to work closely with it to stand up against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the White House has said.
At her daily news conference on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked how the world's largest and oldest democracies are working together to bring peace in the region amidst the war in Ukraine.
"As you know, we remain in touch through a range of channels from our national security team with leaders in India and continue to encourage leaders to work closely with us, to stand up against President Putin's invasion of Ukraine," Psaki told reporters.
The US has been pressing countries across the world to back Washington and its allies to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and impose touch sanctions on Moscow.
"With our allies and partners, the United States is committed to ensuring the Government of the Russian Federation pays a severe economic and diplomatic price for its invasion of Ukraine," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week.
"We welcome the strong partnership and unity we have built with our allies and partners across the globe in the face of the Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Together, we are supporting the people of Ukraine and imposing severe costs and consequences for the Kremlin's war of choice," the top American diplomat said on March 11 while announcing more sanctions on Russia.
Over the past two weeks, the Biden administration has shown an understanding of India's position on Russia given the complexity of its ties with Russia and over-dependence on Moscow for military and security needs.
During a Congressional hearing last week, Admiral John Christopher Aquilino, Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, described India as tremendous partner and said that the military-to-military relationship is probably at its highest point.
During a separate hearing, Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, told members of the House Armed Services Committee said that "From the US perspective, "I think India is an absolutely essential partner as we think about our strategy in the Indo-Pacific, and both in terms of how we're building coalition partners as well as dealing with potential adversaries."
"We recognise that India has a complicated history and relationship with Russia," Ratner added.
Meanwhile, two prominent Democratic Party lawmakers have said that they are disappointed with India's response to Russia's actions and urged New Delhi to condemn Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
In a letter to India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Congressman Ted W Lieu and Congressman Tom Malinowski said, "Though we understand India's relationship with Russia, we are disappointed with your government's decision to abstain from the UN General Assembly's March 2 vote."
They said Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine undermines the rules-based order, "and by invading Ukraine, Russia is trying to destroy a set of rules that protect India as well".
"India's historic support for the UN Charter and the principles of territorial integrity gives us hope that India will join other democracies to support Ukrainian sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression," the two Democratic lawmakers wrote.
They said they "deeply value" the relationship between the United States and India.
"Ät the same time, we are disappointed that India has taken this approach in response to Russia's actions."
"We understand that India walks a difficult middle ground, but Russia's actions have no place in the 21st century. Many countries who have relationships with Russia did the right thing and condemned the Russian government - they chose the right side of history and so should India," they said.
"We hope that India will move away from its current position that places blame on both sides and acknowledge that Russia is the aggressor in this conflict," Lieu and Malinowski wrote in the letter dated March 16.
(With PTI Inputs)