In keeping with its track record of not voting against Russia at the United Nations, India abstained on a resolution at the UN Security Council (UNSC) that condemned Russia’s “illegal so-called referenda” in four of Ukraine’s regions that Moscow formally annexed on Friday.
Speaking at a debate in the UNSC on a resolution proposed by the United States and Albania, India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ruchira Kamboj, while reiterating New Delhi’s position in favour of peace, diplomacy and dialogue, said, “India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine.”
Later in her remarks, she added that given the “totality of the situation”, India is abstaining from the vote on the resolution.
Ten countries voted for the resolution. Along with India, China, Brazil and Gabon abstained. Russia, as a permanent member of the council, vetoed the resolution. The US has earlier said that it will take the matter to the General Assembly.
The annexation and resolution
India did not specify the “recent developments” that has left it disturbed. But in the past fortnight, Russia faced military setbacks on the ground; it then announced additional military mobilisation and held a referendum that lacks international legitimacy in over 15% of Ukraine’s territory.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally announced the integration of four Ukrainian regions into Russian federation. “I want the Kyiv authorities and their real masters in the West to hear me. For everyone to remember. People living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens. Forever,”
The draft UNSC resolution noted that these were “areas that, in part, are under the control of the Russian federation as a result of Russia’s full-scale invasion, in violation of the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine”. India has so far not termed the conflict in Ukraine as a Russian invasion.
The resolution then noted that Ukraine had not authorised the “so-called referenda” held in “Ukraine’s regions” and these were “illegal under international law”. It “deplored” Russia’s “unlawful actions with regard to the illegal so-called referenda” between September 23 and 27 as an attempt to “modify Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders”.
The UNSC resolution termed Russia’s attempts to annex the territory as constituting a “threat to international peace and security”. It condemned the referendums; declared that Russia’s actions had no validity; urged states and international actors not to recognise any alteration of the status of Ukraine’s regions or any purported acquisition by Russia; and held that Russia must “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw all of its military forces from Ukraine, including from the regions where the referendums were held.
Kamboj reiterated the Indian position in favour of peace. “We have always advocated that no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives. We urge that all efforts are made by concerned sides for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities. Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and dialogue, however daunting that may appear at this moment.”
She added that the path to peace “requires us to keep all channels of diplomacy open”. “India’s Prime Minister has unequivocally conveyed this to world leaders, including the President of the Russian Federation and Ukraine. So has our external affairs minister at his recent engagements at the UNGA last week. India’s Prime Minister has also emphasised that this cannot be an era of war.”
Kamboj’s reference was to PM Modi’s comment to Putin in Samarkand, which gained New Delhi accolades in the western world, as well as EAM S Jaishankar’s speech at the UN General Assembly last Saturday where he said India stood on the side of peace and the UN charter.
When HT had asked Jaishankar on Wednesday what India thought of the referendums, and whether it aided the cause of peace and conformed to the UN charter, he had said that New Delhi would articulate its position at the UN.
Kamboj said that India sincerely hoped for an “early resumption of peace talks to bring about an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the conflict”.
“India’s position has been clear and consistent from the very beginning of this conflict. The global order is anchored in the principles of the UN charter, international law, and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states,” she added in a reiteration of India’s stance.
India added, “Escalation of rhetoric or tension is in no one’s interest. It is important that pathways are found for a return to the negotiating table. Keeping in view the totality of situation, India decided to abstain on the resolution.”