Citing Need To Keep Door Open for Diplomacy, India Abstains From UNSC Vote on Russia

The draft resolution was not adopted as Russia used its privilege as a permanent member to veto the text. While 11 Council members voted in favour, all three Asian members – India, China and the United Arab Emirates – abstained. 

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New Delhi: India abstained on a US-backed, Russia-vetoed draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), that called on Russia to reverse its military attack on Ukraine, asserting that there was still space to return to diplomacy.

The draft resolution was not adopted as Russia used its privilege as a permanent member to veto the text. While 11 Council members voted in favour, all three Asian members – India, China and the United Arab Emirates – abstained. 

India’s vote was on expected lines, as the draft resolution’s language went much beyond its stated public position that refrained from directly criticising Russia, even after it deployed troops on Ukrainian territory.

Delivering the explanation of the vote, India’s permanent representative, T.S. Tirumurti, stated the dialogue was the only way forward, “However daunting that may appear at this moment.”

“It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. For all these reasons, India has chosen to abstain on this resolution,” he said.

Official sources claimed that India’s abstention allows for New Delhi to retain the option of reaching out to all sides and “find a middle ground”.

Stating that India was “deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine”, he urged all efforts to be made for “the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities”.

Tirumurti asserted that the current global order “has been built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”.

“All member states need to honour these principles in finding a constructive way forward,” he added.

This was the first time that India had used the term ‘territorial integrity’ in a public statement on the crisis in Ukraine, where Russian soldiers have taken over two breakaway republics and closed in on the capital city.

The statement calling on “all member states” was a deliberate choice to bring attention that the principle of territorial integrity had been violated by all sides in various disputes, as per sources.

The UNSC meeting, which earlier was scheduled for 3 pm New York time, was postponed twice. It finally began two hours late and lasted for less than two hours.

The final draft had two significant changes from the text circulated by the US and Albania on Thursday. The biggest change was that that reference to Chapter 7, which allows Council to enforce its direction, had been removed. Secondly, operative paragraph two had replaced “condemns” for Russian actions with “deplores”.

Hours before the UNSC meeting, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had told UK foreign secretary Liz Truss that Beijing “has always disapproved of the fact that security council resolutions often invoke chapter VII authorising the use of force and sanctions”.

As per sources, the western countries had removed the reference to Chapter 7 to change China’s vote from ‘No’ to abstention. However, there is no clarity if China had ever actually planned to deploy its veto power along with Russia. 

While the Western countries claimed that Russia was “isolated” by pointing to the majority of ‘yes’ votes in the UNSC, a deeper analysis of the co-sponsors of the draft resolution gave a more ambiguous picture.

After the text was circulated, the principal sponsors had called on the entire UN membership to come forward as co-sponsors. In the end, 81 countries – less than half of the United Nations – heeded the call.

The majority of the co-sponsors were from Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific Ocean Islands states.

From the 54 African member states, only Botswana, Gambia, Liberia, Lesotho and Niger featured in the list of co-sponsors. Similarly, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Turkey and Singapore were the only five representatives of mainland Asia. 

As per informed sources, the low turnout of co-sponsors was not surprising that the resolution was largely seen as a “European” issue within the wider UN membership. The draft text apparently further reinforced this perception, with the language not seen to be open to negotiation but rather as a ‘take it or leave it’ proposition, they said.

After the draft text was put into ‘blue’, sources said that there had been no substantive discussion about the text, except at the last minute when Chapter VII reference was dropped to ostensibly appease the Chinese.

Among the UNSC members, only six countries – US, UK, France, Albania, Ireland and Norway, were co-sponsors.

During the meeting, Norway implied that Russia’s veto violated the UN charter. However, none of the P3 – UK, US and France – pushed on this point. The Norwegian representative was drawing attention to Article 52’s paragraph 3, under which parties to a dispute should abstain from voting if the draft resolution was brought under Chapter VI.

The US permanent representative to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, that the vote “showed which countries truly believe in supporting the core principles of the UN – and which ones deploy them as convenient catchphrases”.

“Responsible members of this Security Council have stood together today in the face of Russia’s aggression,” she asserted.

Russia’s Vassily Nebenzia claimed that the “main reason why we voted “no” is not what the draft resolution says, but rather what it lacks”.

“In particular, they left behind the story how the Maidan junta that rose to power after the unconstitutional coup d’état in Kyiv in 2014 waged war on the people of eastern Ukraine, firing at residential quarters from guns and multiple rocket launchers and air-dropping bombs on Donetsk and Lugansk,” he said.

Giving China’s reasons for abstention, permanent representative Zhang Jun stated that “any action (by Security Council) should be truly conducive to defusing the crisis, rather than adding fuel to fire”.

He also reiterated that “after five successive rounds of NATO’s eastward expansion, Russia’s legitimate security aspirations should be given attention to and properly addressed”.

UAE permanent representative stated that the fate of the draft resolution had been a “foregone conclusion” but called for an “inclusive and consultative” dialogue process as a way forward. 

After the meeting, 51 co-sponsors issued a joint statement stating that they will be bringing a resolution to the UN general assembly, “where the Russian veto does not apply and the nations of the world will continue to hold Russia accountable”.

This was the fifth meeting of the UNSC on Ukraine and the third emergency meeting on this subject since the beginning of 2022.

With today’s developments, Russia and its predecessor state, USSR, has used the veto 143 times since 1946. The last time that Russia had wielded the veto was in December 2021 to stop the passage of a resolution linking climate change and international peace and security. Overall, the veto has been wielded 297 times by permanent members.