New Delhi: On the first anniversary of the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, India once again abstained on voting on a resolution adopted by a majority that calls for Russia to withdraw its military and urged a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace”.
The draft resolution, sponsored by Ukraine and her western supporters, was tabled during the reactivated Emergency special session of the 193-member General Assembly that began on Wednesday afternoon in New York. After around 80 speakers delivered their statements, the resolution was adopted with 141 votes in favour, seven against and 32 abstentions. Twelve countries did not record their votes.
Along with India, other notable abstentions were by China, Vietnam, South Africa, Cuba, Iran, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In favour: 141
Abstentions: 32 pic.twitter.com/WnEoRp94kx
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) February 23, 2023
With this motion, the UN general assembly has voted and passed six resolutions castigating Russia for the invasion and calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities since the start of the Ukraine war on February 24 last year. India has consistently abstained from all the resolutions at all UN bodies.
Earlier, Belarus, Russia’s regional ally, had proposed two amendments to the resolution that sought to remove any language critical of Russia in the original draft resolution. One of the amendments also condemned the supply of weapons by third countries to the conflict zone. Both were defeated comprehensively, garnering just around a dozen votes in favour. There was, however, a much larger batch of abstentions (India also abstained), compared to the main draft resolution.
Dialogue ‘only viable way out’
In her Explanation of Vote statement, India’s permanent representative to the UN Ruchira Kamboj said that India was committed to upholding the UN charter’s principles and considered dialogue the “only viable way out”.
“While we take note of the stated objective of today’s Resolution, given its inherent limitations in reaching our desired goal of securing lasting peace, we are constrained to abstain,” she said.
The senior Indian diplomat said state objectives of the resolution contradicted the situation on the ground, where the fighting continued to deepen.
“The overall objective of today’s Resolution seeking a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in line with the UN Charter is understandable. We also note the emphasis on increasing support by member states for diplomatic efforts to achieve peace, as well as support for the Secretary General’s efforts to promote a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine. However, reports from the ground portray a complex scenario, with the conflict intensifying on several fronts”.
She also posed three questions:
- “Are we anywhere near a possible solution acceptable to both sides?”
- “Can any process that does not involve either of the two sides, ever lead to a credible and meaningful solution?”
- “Has the UN system, and particularly its principal organ, the UN Security Council, based on a 1945-world construct, not been rendered ineffective to address contemporary challenges to global peace and security?”
Western concerns about developing countries’ amiguity
In the run-up to the Ukraine war’s first anniversary, there had been some concern in Western capitals that developing countries continue to have an ambiguous position due to the economic consequences on commodity and fuel prices. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had travelled to nine African and West Asian countries this year, where he got a red-carpet welcome.
Over the last 12 months, the Western alliance has remained united. All 29 members of the UN regional group of Western European and Other States Group (WEOG) voted for Thursday’s resolution.
In the 23-member Eastern Europe group, Belarus and Russia voted against it, while Armenia abstained and Azerbaijan was absent from the voting. The rest voted in favour.
In the Asia Pacific group, 37 of the 54 countries voted in favour, 13 abstained, and two voted negatively.
China, abstaining from the resolution, said that “unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction” should be abandoned. “One country’s security should not be achieved at the expense of other countries’ security, Bolstering or even enlarging military blocs will only undermine regional security and drive peace further away,” said the Chinese representative.
Among regional groups, Africa had the lowest proportion of positive votes at 55% among the 54 nations. A relatively high number of seven African countries did not cast their vote. Russia has emerged as a top defence supplier in the African continent.
After the vote, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan described the passage of the UNGA resolution as “an overwhelming demonstration of support for Ukraine — and a clear defence of freedom for people everywhere”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, reiterated that the “special military operation” was conducted to “stop the eight-year-long war of the Kiev authorities against the people of Donetsk and Lugansk”.
Calling for the defeat of the Western-sponsored draft resolution, he asserted, “With all proprieties cast aside, they (the West) set a goal to arm Ukraine and ensure a strategic defeat of Russia, dismember and ruin our country”.
Voting patterns on Ukraine resolutions
The first resolution against the Ukraine war was passed on March 2 last year, with 141 votes in favour, five against and 35 abstentions. Last year, Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Syria and Russia voted against the resolution. Mali and Nicaragua joined them on the ‘no’ bench a year later.
The second resolution in the UNGA was passed on March 24 seeking humanitarian access to Ukraine, with 140 in favour, eight against and 38 abstentions.
Two weeks later, the UNGA again assembled to suspend Russia from the UN human rights council. As usual, India abstained on the resolution, which saw a sharp change in the voting pattern. It was passed with a majority of two-thirds, with 93 nations in favour, 24 against and 58 abstentions.
In the same month, the UNGA adopted a new resolution by consensus, with no voting, calling on five permanent members of the UN Security Council to justify their use of the veto. This was in response to the Security Council’s inability to pass any resolutions, as Russia and China were wielding vetoes against critical resolutions. The West also took a similar route for any draft proposed by the Russian delegation.
In fact, the UN Security Council voted for the UNGA to convene an emergency special session on Ukraine, under the aegis of resolution 377A adopted in 1950 which allows the 193-member body to take up international peace and security issues if the horseshoe table is paralysed.
The fourth resolution related to Ukraine on which the 193 nations of the UNGA had to vote was on October 12, which called on the international community not to recognise Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions. It received the highest tally on a Ukraine war resolution with 143 ‘yes’ votes.
A month later, the UN’s largest body adopted a resolution calling for Russia to pay war reparations. It sailed through the General Assembly but saw the largest number of 73 abstentions on a Ukraine-related resolution.
While the UN security council could not pass any resolution, a presidential statement on Ukraine was issued in May last year.
Besides the UNGA, the UN human rights council, based in Geneva, voted on two resolutions last year. One was to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the Ukraine war, and the second was to condemn the fighting during a special session of the Council.
India-Pakistan sideshow on Kashmir
Pakistan, which abstained from the resolution, claimed that the West did not apply the principles of condemning the “illegal occupation of foreign lands” to other disputes, like that of Jammu and Kashmir.
In its right to reply, India said that it chose not to respond to Pakistan’s “mischievous provocations”. “Such uncalled-for provocation is particularly regrettable and certainly misplaced at a time when after two days of intense discussions, we have all agreed that the path of peace can be the only path forward to resolve conflict and discord,” said Indian diplomat Pratik Mathur.
He added that Pakistan had “only to look at itself and its track record as a State that harbours and provides safe havens to terrorists and does so with impunity”.
Pakistan responded that the focus of the debate was “on people” and current crises, indicating that it was acceptable to bring up the Kashmir issue during the Ukraine debate.
Besides, delegations of North and South Korea were also at verbal loggerheads in their statements during the emergency session.
Note: Additional information was added to this story after it was published.