India abstains from UNSC vote on Ukraine. But with a difference

Published on Feb 26, 2022 08:51 AM IST

While Russia had publicly said that it expected India to oppose the resolution, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, in his conversation with external affairs minister S Jaishankar, was understood to have discussed the need for a firm response to Russia, including with a strong UNSC resolution.

Permanent Representative and Ambassador of India to United Nations TS Tirumurti.(ANI)
Permanent Representative and Ambassador of India to United Nations TS Tirumurti.(ANI)
By, Washington

India, along with China and the United Arab Emirates, abstained from a vote on a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution “deploring” the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and asking Moscow to cease the use of force against Ukraine, withdraw all its forces from Ukraine, and reverse its recognition of the two breakaway Ukrainian provinces as independent republics. While the draft resolution was vetoed by Russia, a permanent member, it garnered the support of 11 members of the Council.

But unlike in the past two debates on the issue at the UNSC, while abstaining, India expressed its commitment to the “UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” and asked all states to “honour these principles in finding a constructive way forward”.

The resolution, circulated by the United States (US) and Albania, followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on Thursday, and has been the subject of intense international diplomacy over the last 48 hours. While Russia’s veto had made the failure of resolution to pass a certainty, the US invested considerable diplomatic capital in ensuring that there was a “strong collective response” to Russia’s action and Russia was isolated in UNSC.

'Matter of regret...': India abstains from UNSC vote 'deploring' Putin's war on Ukraine | Watch

India, along with China and the United Arab Emirates, abstained from a vote on a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution “deploring” the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and asking Moscow to cease the use of force against Ukraine, withdraw all its forces from Ukraine, and reverse its recognition of the two breakaway Ukrainian provinces as independent republics. While the draft resolution was vetoed by Russia, a permanent member, it garnered the support of 11 members of the Council.

But unlike in the past two debates on the issue at the UNSC, while abstaining, India expressed its commitment to the “UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” and asked all states to “honour these principles in finding a constructive way forward”.

The resolution, circulated by the United States (US) and Albania, followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on Thursday, and has been the subject of intense international diplomacy over the last 48 hours. While Russia’s veto had made the failure of resolution to pass a certainty, the US invested considerable diplomatic capital in ensuring that there was a “strong collective response” to Russia’s action and Russia was isolated in UNSC.

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While Russia had publicly said that it expected India to oppose the resolution, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, in his conversation with external affairs minister S Jaishankar, was understood to have discussed the need for a firm response to Russia, including with a strong UNSC resolution. 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.”

On Thursday, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said that New Delhi would wait for the final shape of the resolution. India eventually sought to balance its competing interests, by abstaining from the vote in a bid to send a signal to Russia but also reframing its position by reiterating its commitment to principles to send a message to the West.

In his statement explaining the vote, Indian permanent representative TS Tirumurti said that India was “deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine”, and urged all efforts be made for the “immediate cessation of violence and hostilities”. India said no solution could be arrived at, at the cost of human lives. It expressed its deep concern for the welfare and security of the Indian community in Ukraine. Tirumurti also pointed out, “The contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”, and asked member states to abide by the principles. India also said that dialogue was the only way of settling differences and disputes, that it was a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. The reference to the need to cease violence, respect principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the regret about giving up on the diplomatic path is being seen as a message to Russia.

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.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    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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