India abstains on UNSC move against Russia
India on Saturday abstained on a US-backed United Nations Security Council resolution deploring Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, though it called for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and returning to the path of diplomacy.
Explaining New Delhi’s vote at the Security Council session that began at 3.30am IST, TS Tirumurti, the permanent representative to the UN, said India opted to abstain because the path of diplomacy was given up, and all UN members should honour principles such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries.
India’s “explanation of vote” used language that was far more critical of Russia than three recent statements made by New Delhi at Security Council meetings on Ukraine, people familiar with the matter said. At the same time, the abstention would keep the overall relationship going, they said, asking not to be named.
Besides the pointed mention of respect for the territorial integrity of states, India’s explanation of vote made no reference to ensuring the “legitimate security interests of all countries” – something that had figured in the other recent statements.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, state department spokesperson Ned Price said that the US had a “broad strategic partnership with India, shared values”. He acknowledged that India had a relationship with Russia that was distinct from the one the US had with Russia and this was “okay”, and added, “What we have asked every country us to use that leverage in a constructive way.”
Russia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council for February, blocked the resolution by using its veto power as a permanent member of the body. It was inevitable the resolution would fail because of Russia’s “no” vote, but its supporters described Moscow’s move as deplorable.
China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) abstained as well, while 11 of the council’s 15 members – including the US, Britain and France – voted in favour of the text, demanding that Russia immediately stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops.
Tirumurti reiterated India’s deep concern for the safety and security of its nationals stranded in Ukraine, including a large number of students. Nearly 16,000 Indian nationals were still in Ukraine, while close to 500 were evacuated via land routes on Friday, officials have said.
“India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine,” Tirumurti said. “We urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities. No solution can ever be arrived at, at the cost of human lives.”
In what appeared to be a reference to India’s emphasis on the safety of its nationals, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said that it is precisely for the safety of one’s nationals that countries should vote against the war. “It is exactly the safety of your nationals right now in Ukraine that you should be the first to vote to stop the war - to save your nationals in Ukraine. And not to think about whether you should or should not vote because of the safety for your nationals.”
An earlier draft of the resolution had proposed that it should be moved under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides the framework for possible enforcement action by the Security Council. This was dropped in the version that was put to vote.
The earlier draft also had language condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its decision to recognise the “independence” of Donetsk and Luhansk, but this was softened to “deplore” Russia’s actions.
The Russian embassy appreciated the position taken by India. “Highly appreciate India’s independent and balanced position at the voting in the UNSC on February 25, 2022,” the embassy said in a tweet.
A key shift in the Council was China’s position — which had, in a procedural vote, voted with Russia in opposing a discussion on Ukraine in the Council at the end of January. On Friday, it abstained from the resolution, after ensuring that it was watered down from including a reference to Chapter 7 of the charter — which would have opened the room for the authorising the use of force — to having a Chapter 6 reference — which is about peaceful settlement of disputes. China also was reported to have played a role in toning down the resolution. The US had been engaging with China in a bid to ensure that it did not veto the resolution along with Russia, and at a press conference on Thursday, US President Joe Biden, when asked about whether China could play a role in isolating Russia, said he was not prepared to comment.