UN vote: India strives for peaceful solution to Ukraine crisis

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on Sept 24, 2022. (BRYAN R SMITH / AFP)

NEW DELHI – Reiterating India’s deep concern at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, India on Oct 13 abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories.

A total of 143 members voted in favor of the resolution, while five voted against it. As many as 35 countries, including India and China, abstained.

Explaining the decision, India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ruchira Kamboj, said the country’s decision to abstain was “consistent with our well-thought-out national position”, according to the official website of the Permanent Mission of India to UN. There are also “other pressing issues” at play and some of them have not been adequately addressed in the resolution, she said.

READ MORE: China, India call for de-escalation in Ukraine conflict

This is the fourth time India has maintained neutrality at the UNGA on resolutions denouncing Russia since its “special military operation” in Ukraine began on Feb 24. This was the strongest showing of support from the General Assembly for Ukraine, and against Russia, of the four resolutions since the “operation” was launched, experts said.

We have consistently advocated that no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives. Escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one’s interest.

Ruchira Kamboj, India’s permanent representative to the UN

The resolution declared that “attempted illegal annexation” of the regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine has no validity under international law. Moscow in September announced its annexation of four partially occupied regions in Ukraine.

“With this firm resolve to strive for a peaceful solution through dialogue and diplomacy, India has decided to abstain,” Kamboj said. She also made reference to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, that “this cannot be an era of war”.

Kamboj said India is “deeply concerned at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, including targeting of civilian infrastructure and deaths of civilians”.

“We have consistently advocated that no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives. Escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one’s interest,” she said.

“Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment.” It is unfortunate that as the trajectory of the Ukrainian conflict unfolds, the entire Global South has suffered “substantial collateral damage”, Kamboj said.

She called for immediate cease-fire and peaceful resolution of the conflict and an urgent return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy. “India stands ready to support all such efforts aimed at de-escalation,” Kamboj said.

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”.

Last month, addressing the 77th United Nations General Assembly, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there.

“We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out,” Jaishankar said.

India said on Oct 10 that it is deeply concerned at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, following the missile strikes carried out by Russia on multiple Ukraine cities.
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Professor A.K. Mohapatra, at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), in New Delhi, noted there were two reasons India had abstained. One is to assert its own strategic autonomy. 

In the polarized global political system, India has to find its own place and not be aligned with any emerging blocs, Mohapatra said. 

The second reason, Mohapatra said, is that if India complies with the West it risks spoiling relations with many countries.

India has always maintained that democratic ways of diplomacy can find the solution, said Amitabh Singh, associate professor, School of International Studies, at JNU. But at the same time, because of its relations with Russia, India does not want to be seen as toeing the Western line, Singh said.

He said India is maintaining a kind of non-aligned stance in world affairs.

* The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.