U.N. General Assembly asks Russia to pull back troops

India abstains from voting on resolution

March 03, 2022 12:10 am | Updated 04:54 am IST - Washington DC

India’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. T. S. Tirumurti speaks during the emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly on Ukraine at the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 2, 2022. Photo: Twitter/@IndiaUNNewYork

India’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. T. S. Tirumurti speaks during the emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly on Ukraine at the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 2, 2022. Photo: Twitter/@IndiaUNNewYork

India, once again, abstained as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted 141-5 (35 abstentions) to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling on Moscow to unconditionally withdraw its troops. Voting on the resolution occurred after representatives of more than 120 countries, territories and associations, made remarks over two days at a special emergency session of the UNGA.

The General Assembly session was convened after a similar resolution had failed to pass the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on Friday when Russia exercised its veto.

Also read | Pakistan stays on the sidelines

The resolution, co-sponsored by 96 countries, needed two thirds of those present and voting to support it, for it to pass. It condemns the February 24 ‘special military operation’ [invasion] by Russia. It says no territories acquired through force will be recognised and calls for Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw from Ukraine.

Shortly before the vote, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They discussed the “safe evacuation” of Indians from conflict areas, the government said.

In its explanation of the vote statement, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, T. S. Tirumurti, said that the “safe and uninterrupted passage” of Indian nationals, especially students, was India’s “foremost priority”. Calling for an “immediate ceasefire” and humanitarian access to conflict areas, Mr. Tirumurti said that India hoped the second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine would yield positive results.

Russia’s actions have left India in an uncomfortable position as it attempts to balance its interests with both Moscow and the West. Given its experiences in its own neighbourhood, with China and Pakistan, India is also wary of the implications of not condemning one country unilaterally attempting to change the borders it shares with another.

Comment | The anatomy of India’s Ukraine dilemma

“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,” Mr. Tirumurti said on Wednesday.

A number of countries in India’s neighbourhood supported the resolution — Bhutan, Nepal, and the Maldives, for instance. Afghanistan, currently run by a militant organisation (the Taliban), and Myanmar, currently ruled by a junta, also voted in favour of it. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, like India, abstained. China also abstained.

The United Arab Emirates, which had abstained from the UNSC vote, voted for the resolution in the General Assembly. Its representative said that countries “identify diplomatic off ramps” to end the conflict.

Comment | Ukraine’s situation, India’s national interest

India found mention in the speeches of other countries . The representative of Russian ally Belarus, a country bordering Russia and Ukraine and run by an autocrat, mentioned racism faced by Indian students in his speech. “On the 26th of February, Polish border guards beat up and turned back into Ukraine a group of around 100 Indian students who then were kindly placed in a refugee camp in Romania,” the representative said.

Introducing the draft resolution, Ukraine’s representative, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said Ukraine regretted that an Indian student had been killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv, and offered his condolences to the family of the deceased, Naveen S. G. of Karnataka.

(With inputs from Suhasini Haidar in New Delhi.)

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