Listen to this article:
New Delhi: For the fourth time at the UN General Assembly this year, India abstained on a resolution critical of Russia.
This time, the abstention came as the principal policy-making body of the United Nations condemned the annexation of four territories in eastern Ukraine after a unilateral referendum.
The resolution was adopted with 143 votes in favour and five against, including Russia. India, China and 33 other countries abstained while 10 countries, including Iran, did not cast any vote.
This is the fourth time the UN General Assembly has voted and passed a resolution denouncing Russia since its invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.
Following the vote, India said that abstention was the only possible path as the draft resolution did not address many concerns, without elaborating further. “There are 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 India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ruchira Kamboj.
She stated that since the developing countries are facing the brunt of the economic consequences of the Ukraine war, it was essential 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,” Kamboj asserted.
She reiterated that the global order was based on the principles of “international law, UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states”, and that it must be upheld “without exception”.
Calling for an early resumption of peace talks, Kamboj said, “Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment. The path to peace requires us to keep all channels of diplomacy open”.
Indicating that the resolution would not be helpful to cool tempers, she said that India hoped for early peace talks leading to a ceasefire and resolution of conflict. “India stands ready to support all such efforts aimed at de-escalation,” said Kamboj, after pressing the abstention button.
Titled, ‘Defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations’, the resolution noted that the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia were under “temporary military control of the Russian Federation, as a result of aggression, in violation of the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
Further, it called on all member states not to recognise the annexation by Russia and demanded that Moscow reverse its decisions.
Besides, the resolution welcomes and “expresses its strong support” for the continued efforts by the Secretary-General and member states, to de-escalate the current situation in search of peace through dialogue, negotiation and mediation.
With Russia vetoing any unfavourable resolution in the UN Security Council, the 193-member General Assembly has become the key platform to bring in resolutions that criticise Moscow over Ukraine.
Post-invasion, the first resolution against Russian “aggression” was adopted on March 2 with 141 votes in favour, five against and 35 abstentions. Three weeks later, the UNGA again voted along similar lines, calling for the protection of civilians and accusing Russia of generating a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The second resolution was passed with a margin of 140 ayes, five nays and 38 abstentions.
In April, the UNGA again convened for a vote on a resolution suspending Russia from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. While the resolution was adopted, the number of countries voting in favour dropped drastically to 93. Instead, more than half of the general assembly voted or abstained – abstentions ballooned to 58, while the negative votes increased to 24.
The voting margin was a reflection of the perception of many countries that the move to expel Russia from the UNHRC was premature, while a large portion of the global south was concerned that they were being forced to take sides in a European war.
The jump in numbers supporting Wednesday’s resolution – compared to March and even to the 2014 resolution on Crimea – was also a reflection of a concerted diplomatic campaign for the West. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened a virtual meeting on Tuesday with diplomats from more than 100 countries.
When the emergency session began on Monday, Albania, one of the co-sponsors, preempted Russia’s move and proposed a recorded vote for an open ballot to decide on the draft resolution. It was approved with 107 votes in favour, with India also casting a favourable ballot.
Russia then tried to get the decision reversed and called for a secret vote, but failed to get the approval of the UNGA.
India has voted previously on procedural matters against Russia, but has always abstained on resolutions condemning Moscow.
Ahead of the vote on Wednesday, Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia claimed that developing countries had been coerced to vote through economic “blackmail” by the West.
He also stated that the resolution was “politicised and openly provocative”, adding that it “could destroy any and all efforts in favour of a diplomatic solution to the crisis”.
China abstained on Wednesday because it did not believe the resolution would be helpful, China’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Geng Shuang said.
“Any action taken by the General Assembly should be conducive to the de-escalation of the situation, to be conducive to the early resumption of dialogue and should be conducive to the promotion of a political solution to this crisis,” he said.
(With Reuters inputs)