India faces more tough choices at UNSC, UNGA over Ukraine

New Delhi faces pressure from U.S., European countries seeking to ‘isolate’ Russia

February 27, 2022 09:46 pm | Updated 09:54 pm IST - NEW DELHI

PR/Ambassador of India to United Nations TS Tirumurti speaks during the UNSC meeting, in New York on Feb 27, 2022. India abstained on a U.S.-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine.

PR/Ambassador of India to United Nations TS Tirumurti speaks during the UNSC meeting, in New York on Feb 27, 2022. India abstained on a U.S.-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine. | Photo Credit: PTI

After abstaining from the UN Security Council resolution 8979 condemning Russian action in Ukraine on Saturday, India faces more difficult choices, with the U.S. and European-led coalition now pushing for a vote at the UN General Assembly aimed at “isolating Russia”.

The UNGA vote, that could take place as early as Monday, will follow a discussion of the UNSC late on Sunday night on an “emergency special session” to examine the text of the resolution 8979 which Russia had vetoed.

The U.S. and European countries leading the diplomatic charge against Russia are hopeful of gaining a large majority in the 193-member UNGA, given that more than 80 countries co-sponsored Resolution 8979, and have been working the phones in order to convince others to vote along with them.

Change in stand

“We are presenting our position to the Ministry of External Affairs on why it must support Ukraine against Russia’s attacks,” said a European diplomat. “It is up to India to decide whether to stand with the aggressor or the victim,” he added, saying that despite the earlier abstention, diplomats feel India could “potentially” change its position.

“If a UNGA vote happens, India will have to choose where it stands in the much larger global arena: with us, or with countries like China, Syria and Venezuela on the issue,” another Western diplomat told The Hindu.

India has thus far refrained from supporting any resolution criticising Russia, which is a traditional strategic partner, but officials said India’s growing concerns over the “humanitarian crisis” and thousands of Indian students caught in the crossfire in Ukraine could find mention in the new resolution, which could invite a rethink in New Delhi.

On Saturday night, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock spoke to External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, making another attempt to bring the Modi government on board.

“We must isolate Russia together. FM Baerbock spoke about this with her counterpart from India, Dr. Jaishankar. It is important to speak up in one voice around the world: Russia’s President Putin is the aggressor and has violated international law & the European peace order,” said a particularly strong statement from the German Foreign Ministry.

Russia thanks India

Meanwhile the Russian Embassy in India tweeted that it “highly appreciated India’s independent and balanced position at the voting in the UNSC on February 25”, and has thanked India for its consistent partnership.

When asked, MEA officials declined to comment on how India will vote on the upcoming resolutions, only saying that all votes would be decided only on the basis of the text of each document.

U.S. and Albanian representatives, who are the “penholders” on the resolution on Ukraine, said the emergency session needs to be called, “taking into account that the lack of unanimity of its permanent members at the 8979th meeting has prevented it from exercising its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.”

The wording of the agenda for the Sunday meeting indicates that Western countries could ask the UNGA to convoke or summon a “Uniting for Peace” resolution, and agree to strong measures against Russia unless it announces a ceasefire and withdrawal of troops from the Ukraine. A similar resolution 377A was passed in 1950, when Russia consistently blocked resolutions that sought to authorise military action against North Korea. However, analysts have pointed out that the UNGA resolutions lack the “teeth” of a UNSC resolution, pointing to an emergency session held in December 2017 to condemn the U.S. decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, where as many as 128 countries including India voted against the U.S., while only 9 voted in favour to illustrate how little lasting impact the vote had.

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