India abstains on UNGA vote against Russia’s annexation

Oct 13, 2022 11:31 PM IST

India abstained from the vote in keeping with its voting posture on all substantive Ukraine related resolutions since the war began

Washington: India abstained on Wednesday in an emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on a vote for a resolution that condemned and rejected Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

The resolution condemns Russia’s referendums and annexation of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. (ANI image)
The resolution condemns Russia’s referendums and annexation of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. (ANI image)

A total of 143 states voted for the proposal, 35 abstained, while only four nations backed Russia.

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India’s abstention was in keeping with its voting posture on all substantive Ukraine-related resolutions since the war began. It, however, expressed deep concern at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, called for an immediate ceasefire, reiterated its traditional position in favour of peace, diplomacy, and dialogue, and advocated keeping diplomatic channels open.

India said it was abstaining since there were “other pressing issues” not covered adequately by the resolution.

The non-binding resolution, titled “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine: Defending the Principles of the UN Charter”, was brought to the UNGA after the Russians vetoed a similar text condemning its referendum and annexation at the UN Security Council.

The resolution condemned Russia’s “so called” referendums and annexation of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, and said Moscow’s move has no validity in international law and do form the basis for altering status of “these regions of Ukraine”. It also called on Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw all of its forces from Ukraine’s territory.

China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Cuba were among those who abstained, while North Korea, Syria, Nicaragua and Belarus were the only four countries to vote along with Russia against the resolution. Most South Asian countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Myanmar — voted for the resolution condemning Russia.

India has voted only twice against Russian positions during the Ukraine conflict, both on procedural issues, including this week when Russia sought a secret vote on the General Assembly resolution.

Explaining its position after the vote, India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ruchira Kamboj, said that India was “deeply concerned at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, including the targeting of civilian infrastructure and the deaths of civilians”.

“We have consistently advocated that no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives. Escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one’s interest. We have urged that all efforts be made for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an urgent return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy,” Kamboj said.

India reiterated that the global order was based on international law, the UN Charter and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all States. “These principles must be upheld, without exception.”

In a replication of India’s position at the Council, Kamboj said that dialogue was the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment, and the path to peace required keeping all channels of diplomacy open.

“We, therefore, sincerely hope for an early resumption of peace talks to bring about an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the conflict. India stands ready to support all such efforts aimed at de-escalation.”

India once again flagged the impact of the conflict on the global south and said it had suffered a “substantial collateral damage”. “As developing countries face the brunt of the conflict’s consequences on fuel, food and fertilizer supplies, it is critical that the voice of global south be heard and their legitimate concerns duly addressed. We must therefore not initiate measures that further complicate a struggling global economy.”

Explaining its abstention, India said that there were “other pressing issues at play, some of which have not been adequately addressed in the Resolution voted today”.

“Our decision to abstain is consistent with our well thought out national position,” said Kamboj while quoting external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s remarks to the assembly last month. He had said India stood on the side of peace and “will remain firmly there”; on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles; on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out.

Kamboj also reminded the General Assembly of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment to Russian President Vladimir Putin at Samarkand. “My Prime Minister has said unequivocally that this cannot be an era of war. With this firm resolve to strive for a peaceful solution through dialogue and diplomacy, India has decided to abstain.”

The US, which along with European nations had intensively lobbied for the resolution at the UN, hailed the vote as a reminder that the world stood with Ukraine and members had rejected the Russian attempt seize land by force.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said that an overwhelming majority of the world — “nations from every region, large and small, representing a wide array of ideologies and governments” — had voted to defend the UN charter. “143 nations stood on the side of freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity — even more than the 141 nations that voted in March to unequivocally condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

He added that the world had sent out a clear message. “Russia cannot erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia cannot change borders by force. Russia cannot seize another country’s territory as its own.” Biden said that the US will not “tolerate” illegal attempts at annexation or the “theft” of a neighbour’s land “by force”.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzin, earlier called the resolution “a politicised and openly provocative document”.

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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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