At UN General Assembly, India Abstains From Resolution Criticising Russian Actions in Ukraine

The resolution was approved by 141 votes in favour, 35 abstentions and five votes against.

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New Delhi: India abstained from voting on the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that strongly reprimanded Russia for invading Ukraine and demanded that there should be an immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces.

On Wednesday, the resolution was approved by 141 votes in favour, 35 abstentions and five votes against. The resolution “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter”.

It also demands that the “Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and to refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any Member State”.

While General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they carry political weight.

In the explanation of the vote, India’s permanent representative to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti said, “Keeping in view the totality of the evolving situation, India has decided to abstain.”

Stating that India was “deeply concerned,” Tirumurti reminded that an Indian student was killed in Kharkiv due to the ongoing hostilities. “We demand safe and uninterrupted passage for all Indian nationals, including our students, who are still stranded in Ukraine, particularly from Kharkiv and other cities in the conflict zones. Many member states share this concern. We have reiterated this demand to both the Russian Federation and Ukraine. This remains our foremost priority”.

The senior Indian diplomat stated that India supported the call for an immediate ceasefire and safe humanitarian access to conflict zones. “We remain firm in our conviction that differences can only be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. Prime Minister Modi has unequivocally conveyed this in his discussions with world leaders, including the Russian Federation and Ukraine,” he said.

Tirumurti hoped that the second round of talks between the Russian Federation and Ukraine will lead to a positive outcome. “India urges that all member states demonstrate their commitment to the principles of the UN Charter, to international law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states,” the diplomat added.

In the run-up to the voting, Russia stated that the resolution will not contribute to the cessation of hostilities. “On the contrary, he can encourage Kiev radicals and nationalists and continue to determine policy in the country at any cost, holding the civilian population hostage,” claimed Russian ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia.

In his speech to introduce the resolution, Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya said that Ukraine “deeply regrets” that an Indian national became a “victim of this shelling by Russian armed forces in Kharkiv”. “Ukrainians and foreign nationals have become hostage of Russian armed aggression,” he said.

Besides Russia, the five countries that voted against the resolution were Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria. A long-time ally, Cuba, abstained, while Venezuela didn’t cast any vote. Russia’s Balkan ally, Serbia voted in favour of the resolution.

Abstaining on the resolution, Chinese permanent representative Zhang Jun stated that the draft resolution did not undergo full consultations within the whole membership and neither “does it take full consideration the history and complexity of the current crisis”. 

“It does not highlight the importance of the principle of indivisible security, or the urgency of promoting political settlement and stepping up diplomatic efforts. These are not in line with China’s consistent positions. Therefore we had no choice but to abstain in the voting,” he said.

In South Asia, Afghanistan co-sponsored and voted in favour of the resolution. The Afghan mission to the UN is still manned by diplomats appointed by the previous toppled government, with the international community yet to recognise the Taliban. The larger South Asian countries – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – abstained. However, the small nations, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, voted for the resolution.

The Latin American and European countries voted en masse for the resolution. Among the 54 African countries, 28 voted in favour and 17 abstained. In the Asia-Pacific group, 37 countries were on the ‘yes’ list, while 13 abstained.

Eight years ago, the UN General Assembly had adopted a resolution on Russia’s annexation of Crimea, after the Security Council failed to act due to the Russian veto. The resolution had been voted in favour by 100 countries, while 58 abstained and 11 voted against. India and China had both abstained in the voting of the resolution, adopted by UNGA in March 2014. 

This is the fourth Ukraine-related vote that India has abstained from voting in the past week in various UN bodies since Russian forces rolled into Ukrainian territory.

On February 25, India had abstained from the draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council, which Russia vetoed. After that, India on Sunday abstained on a procedural resolution in the UN Security Council that called for an emergency special session of the General Assembly to discuss the conflict in Ukraine. 

On Monday, India abstained from a vote in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to hold an urgent debate on Ukraine that will also consider a resolution for a probe into alleged human rights violations.

Earlier in New Delhi, Russia’s ambassador-designate to India, Denis Alipov, had expressed appreciation for India’s position at international bodies. 

“India understands the depth of the current crisis and not just the face value of it… This is very important, so its stand has been so unbiased and balanced at the UN. We hope that India will continue to demonstrate such an approach,” he said.