Withstanding last-minute U.S. pressure, India abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution approving “all necessary measures,” including imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. The resolution was passed with 10 members, including the U.S., France, the U.K. and Lebanon, voting in favour and five — Russia, China (both permanent members with veto rights), Brazil and Germany, besides India — abstaining.

The Western alliance of the U.S., France and the U.K. lobbied energetically in New York for a consensus on the issue. Senior American officials, including the Obama administration's special adviser for the Middle East, Dennis Ross, called the Indian mission at the U.N. asking for a vote in favour of the no-fly zone resolution rather than abstention. But South Block's position remained clear: India would not support the use of force.

In a compromise, while approving the no-fly zone, the resolution excluded “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” It widened the earlier scope of sanctions passed unanimously by the UNSC by proposing the freezing of assets of seven more persons close to Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi and five other entities, including state-owned companies. The earlier sanctions include an arms embargo, assets freeze and travel ban on Colonel Qadhafi and his loyalists and a referral to the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

India contested the reasoning behind all these measures in its ‘Explanation of Vote.' It felt that the UNSC should have focussed on ceasefire and bringing violence under control instead of choosing the option of “force based on relatively little credible information on the situation” from Libya.

India said there was no clarity on details of enforcement measures, including “who and with what assets would they participate and how these measures will be exactly carried out.” Concern for civilians including its own nationals also weighed on India in deciding to abstain.

Indian diplomats at the United Nations encapsulated the country's stand. Envoy to the U.N. Hardeep Puri said: “This resolution calls for far-reaching measures but we never got answers to very basic questions. This entire exercise has been based on less than complete information.”

India spoke about the absence of a report by the Special U.N. Envoy on Libya appointed by the U.N. Secretary-General or even a report from the Secretariat.

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