India abstains from UNSC vote on Myanmar, calls for constructive diplomacy

Any other course will not help in resolving the long-standing issues which have prevented enduring peace, stability, progress and democratic governance, India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj says

December 22, 2022 08:04 am | Updated December 23, 2022 01:10 am IST - United Nations

India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj addresses the U.N. Security Council on December 22, 2022. Photo: Twitter/@IndiaUNNewYork

India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj addresses the U.N. Security Council on December 22, 2022. Photo: Twitter/@IndiaUNNewYork

India, along with Russia and China, abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution criticising Myanmar’s military regime, and instead called for “quiet, patient” and “constructive” diplomacy with the junta.

The vote, which marked the first Security Council resolution on the situation in Myanmar in decades, and in particular since the military overthrew the elected National Unity Government (NUG) in February 2021, demanded an end to violence in Myanmar and the release political prisoners, including President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The resolution (S/RES/2669 (2022)) proposed by the United Kingdom, which was passed by 12 votes, made several references to the importance of the “ASEAN” process, referring to the “five-point consensus” passed by the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations last year.

While the government had stressed the ASEAN-led solution in its statements last year, it made no reference to the ASEAN consensus in the latest statement explaining the decision not to vote for it.

“We believe that the complex situation in Myanmar calls for an approach of quiet and patient diplomacy. Any other course will not help in resolving the long-standing issues which have prevented enduring peace, stability, progress and democratic governance,” India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said.

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She added that the UNSC resolution would only “entrench” the parties concerned in Myanmar, and Myanmar’s neighbours like India, which shares a nearly 1,700-km-long border with it, would be among those most affected by the instability in that country.

India’s abstention is one in a series criticised by Myanmar human rights advocates as indicating a soft position on the military junta that has not only imprisoned most democratic leadership, but has prosecuted them on charges of treason that attract death sentences or life terms.

Last month, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra made a two-day visit to Myanmar to meet government and military officials, but in a departure from the past, did not meet members of the NUG or civil society representatives.

Earlier in the year, India and Sri Lanka received demarches from the U.S. and ASEAN countries after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took part in a virtual BIMSTEC summit that also included a Myanmarese Foreign Minister appointed by the military.

In an interview to The Hindu this month, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi appealed to India to “support ASEAN efforts”, adding that distancing from the ASEAN-led process would not be effective in helping Myanmar out of the political crisis caused by the coup.

In her explanation Ms. Kamboj complimented the U.K. for taking the views of neighbours and ASEAN countries into account while drafting the UNSC resolution but said India could not support the resolution.

“Quiet and constructive diplomacy is the desirable recourse for seeking constructive and enduring solutions in Myanmar.... In view of these concerns and our firm commitment to the democratic process and the well-being of the people in Myanmar, India has decided to abstain on this Resolution,” Ms. Kamboj said.

Apart from differences with the U.S., the U.K., the EU and ASEAN countries, the government’s latest statement is a marked difference from the statement made in the UNSC in April 2021, when India had “condemned” the violence in Myanmar unleashed after the coup, called for the release of prisoners as the “first and most important” step, supported ASEAN efforts, and demanded that Rohingya refugees “displaced” in Bangladesh be rehabilitated in Myanmar at the earliest.

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