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The Hindu
The Hindu
Kallol Bhattacherjee

India allows Japan to pick up aid using commercial plane

India on Thursday conveyed approval for Japan to pick up Ukraine-bound humanitarian supplies from Mumbai using ‘commercial’ aircraft. The official comments came after Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s policy chief Sanae Takaichi said Delhi has declined Tokyo’s request to fly a Japanese military aircraft to Mumbai for an upcoming major humanitarian mission to Ukraine.

Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Arindam Bagchi however said one aircraft of Japan’s Self–Defence Forces (SDF) has been given overflight permission.

“We had received a request from Japan for permission to land in Mumbai to pick up humanitarian supplies from UNHCR depot for Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. We have conveyed our approval for picking of such supplies from India using commercial aircraft,” said Mr. Bagchi.

Japan, like the major Western economies, has taken a tough stance on the Russian invasion and has imposed a series of sanctions on its entities. India, despite being Japan’s partner in the Indo–Pacific ‘Quad’ framework, has not condemned Russia and has been following a neutral position. News reports from Tokyo revealed that India has withdrawn the permission for overflight that reportedly was granted to Japan’s SDF earlier.

It is obvious that during the humanitarian mission, India prefers Japan to use commercial cargo flights instead of — symbolically more significant — military aircraft. The MEA is however tight–lipped about this particular nuance. Use of military cargo aircraft may be interpreted as Japan trying to flex military muscle against Russia.

The Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese daily, had reported that responding to the crisis in Ukraine, Japan would use SDF aircraft for a major humanitarian assistance mission that would pick up relief materials from the UNHCR depots in Mumbai and Dubai once a week “between late April and the end of June” and fly the consignments to the neighbouring countries of Ukraine. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has supply depots in Mumbai and Dubai that are prominent nodes of global supply chain of relief materials.

Mr. Takaichi was quoted in the Japanese daily as referring to “insufficient preliminary coordination” that led India to decline permission to the SDF. Mr. Bagchi refused to provide greater details but said one SDF aircraft carrying relief materials for Ukraine was granted permission to use India’s airspace. “We had also received a request for overflight clearance for Japanese SDF aircraft carrying humanitarian cargo for Ukraine. This was processed and approved as per established norms,” said Mr. Bagchi.

He however declined to engage on Tokyo's claim that India's refusal to SDF to land an aircraft in Mumbai had delayed its plans for providing humanitarian assistance. India among other countries has also flown medical and other humanitarian assistance to Ukraine via Poland.

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