‘Disturbed’ India abstains from vote against Russia at UNSC

‘Disturbed’ India abstains from vote against Russia at UNSC

Draft resolution, sponsored by U.S., fails as Russia exercises veto

India, along with China and the UAE, abstained from the UNSC resolution sponsored by the U.S. and Albania on Saturday, and co-sponsored by about 80 countries that sought to condemn Russian aggressionand called for the immediate cessation of violence and withdrawal of Russian military from Ukraine.

As expected the resolution, which was supported by 11 UNSC members was vetoed by Russia. The U.S. vowed to take the issue to the General Assembly, where Russia does not have a veto.

“India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine,” said India’s UN Permanent Representative T.S. Tirumurti explaining India’s vote. “We are also deeply concerned about the welfare and security of the Indian community, ” he added.

The vote at the UNSC had to be postponed twice, for an hour at a time, as U.S. and Albanian diplomats, the “penholders” of the resolution, negotiated with other countries, trying to build a consensus for the draft.

However, according to officials who saw the draft, the original version was too strong, as it invoked UN Chapter VII, which authorises the use of force against Russian troops in Ukraine. After several rounds of heated negotiations, the U.S. agreed to soften the resolution and drop the Chapter VII reference, which is believed to have ensured that China, which had earlier voted with Russia, abstained from the latest resolution , leaving Russia was alone in voting against it. 

India’s decision to continue to abstain, as it did in the past, was seen as disappointing by Western countries, who had lobbied hard all week with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla to shift India’s position, where it has consistently refused to criticise Russia for its intervention. Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya took a shot at India on this count, when it was his turn to speak.

“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,” he said, in a direct reference to Mr. Tirumurti’s speech.

Mr. Kyslytsya said he was “saddened” that a “small handful of members” seemed to be “tolerating” the war.

Government officials said India has been speaking to all parties including Russia and Ukraine to return to the negotiating table. They also pointed out that while there was no reference to Russia’s actions in any of their statements, India’s language had grown tougher over time, and the latest statement made a specific mention, not there earlier, of respecting the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.”

“By abstaining, India retained the option of reaching out to relevant sides in an effort to bridge the gap and find the middle ground with an aim to foster dialogue and diplomacy,” a source said.

Ahead of the vote, the U.S. had said any UNSC member to vote “No” or “Abstain”, would face the charge that they “do not uphold the charter, and align with the aggressive and unprovoked actions of Russia”.

“To those who say all parties are culpable, I say that is a clear cop out. One country… one country is invading another,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S.’s permanent representative (PR) to the United Nations told the Council, adding that countries who based their position on Russia having a historical relationship with Ukraine should think about whom that label would apply to next.

Delivering India’s explanation of vote, PR T.S. Tirumurti said it was a “matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up.” He called on states to return to dialogue to settle their differences.

China’s PR Zhang Jun backed diplomatic negotiations between the parties, saying, “Ukraine should become a bridge between the East and the West, not an outpost for confrontation between major powers.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called the resolution not just anti-Russian but also anti-Ukrainian, saying the document (draft resolution) ran counter to the interests of Ukraine’s people as it sought to keep the existing government in power.

With reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking the Ukrainian army to depose its government, Mr. Kyslytsya, addressing his Russian counterpart in the Security Council Chamber, asked, “Are you crazy?”

In post-meeting remarks to the press, U.N. Secretary-General Atonio Guterres said the meeting’s objective had not been achieved.

“Today, that objective was not achieved. But we must never give up,” he said. “We must give peace another chance.”  

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