Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Japan on Saturday, the first face-to-face meeting between the two since the start of Russia’s invasion.
Modi – who refused to condemn the invasion – said India would “do everything we can” to end the war.
“The war in Ukraine is a big issue for the whole world,” he said. “It has had many consequences all over the world. But I don’t think it’s just an economic or political issue. For me, it’s a humanitarian issue.
For his part, Zelensky invited Modi to join Ukraine’s peace efforts to end the war against Russia.
Zelensky’s in-person visit to the G7, which was not confirmed by host country Japan as of Saturday morning – will include member states Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States that already support Ukraine – and press them for continued military aid.
But it also gives Zelenksy an opportunity to gain support for Ukraine and its vision for peace with the leaders of a handful of other countries attending the summit — some of whom have not joined the West in imposing sanctions against Russia or India. They refused to condemn Russia at the United Nations.
India has historically been a major buyer of Russian arms and has longstanding ties with Moscow. It also increased purchases of Russian energy – a key economic lifeline for President Vladimir Putin’s government, a key source of revenue the West imposes extensive restrictions on.
Although New Delhi sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine during the war, it has abstained from UN resolutions calling for its withdrawal and condemning its invasion.
Analysts say winning the support or understanding of leaders like Modi may be Zelensky’s main motivation to attend the G7 summit. Other participating countries include Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, Korea and Vietnam.
In Modi’s case, closer ties with Russia are likely to pressure Putin or keep his economy running.
Last year, when he met the Russian leader face-to-face during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan in September, Modi spoke to Putin of the need to “follow the path of peace”. The Indian side – seen at the time as a sign of impatience from New Delhi as the conflict dragged on.
But months later, the Indian leader, neither openly condemning the Kremlin nor calling for a withdrawal from Russian territory, was determined to tread carefully.
Modi spoke to Zelensky on the phone several times after Russia’s invasion, most recently in December, when the Indian leader reiterated his call for a “ceasefire” and “dialogue” to resolve the conflict.
Zelensky’s peace plan, by contrast, calls for the restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and the withdrawal of Russian troops.
Western leaders have criticized calls for a ceasefire that does not include the withdrawal of Russian troops, saying they amount to helping Moscow consolidate territory it has annexed.
Zelensky also attended an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on Friday, where he expressed sympathy for leaders in Saudi Arabia who are “turning a blind eye” to the war in Ukraine.
At the G7, Zelensky plans to sit down with the leaders of the G7 member states, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, for a major session on peace and stability. countries, Japan said on Saturday.