From left: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave to the media prior to the Quad meeting at the Kishida's office in Tokyo on May 24, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Tokyo: US President Joe Biden told fellow Indo-Pacific leaders assembled for a four-country summit on Tuesday that they were navigating “a dark hour in our shared history’’ due to Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine and he urged the group to make a greater effort to stop Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

“This is more than just a European issue. It’s a global issue,’’ Biden said as the “Quad’’ summit with Japan, Australia and India got under way.

While the president did not directly call out any countries, his message appeared to be pointed, at least in part, at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom differences persist over how to respond to the Russian attacks.

Unlike other Quad countries and nearly every other US ally, India has not imposed sanctions or even condemned Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware.

With Modi sitting nearby, Biden made the case that the world has a shared responsibility to do something to assist Ukrainian resistance against Russia’s aggression.

“We’re navigating a dark hour in our shared history,” he said. “The Russian brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe and innocent civilians have been killed in the streets and millions of refugees are internally displaced as well as in exile.’’

“The world has to deal with it and we are,’’ he added.

Later, in comments to reporters after a one-on-one meeting with Modi, Biden said they discussed Russia’s attacks of Ukraine “and the effect it has on the entire global world order.” Biden added that the U.S. and India will continue to consult “on how to mitigate these negative effects.”

But in a reflection of India’s relationship with Moscow, the Quad leaders’ post-summit joint statement made no mention of Russia.

In his comments, Modi made no mention of the war in Ukraine, instead ticking off several trade and investment programs that he discussed with the president.

Civilian deaths condemned

The White House has been effusive in its praise of several Pacific countries, including Japan, Singapore and South Korea, for stepping up to hit Russia with tough sanctions and export bans while offering humanitarian and military assistance to Kyiv.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, taking note of Russia’s attacks, told the other leaders: “We cannot let the same thing happen in the Indo-Pacific region.’’

India has condemned civilian deaths in Ukraine and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. Yet it also has compounded fallout from a war that has caused a global food shortage by banning wheat exports at a time when starvation is a growing risk in parts of the world. The Indian prime minister did not address Russia’s war against Ukraine in his public remarks at the summit.

The summit came on the final day of Biden’s five-day visit to Japan and South Korea, Biden’s first trip to Asia as president.

It also marked new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s first moment on the global stage.

Biden, Modi and Kishida welcomed Albanese to the club and expressed awe at his determination to join the informal security coalition so quickly after assuming office.

Albanese told his fellow Quad leaders he was dedicated to the group’s mission to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“We have had a change of government in Australia, but Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change,’’ Albanese said.