UNGA vote on Gaza | India defends abstention, says resolution should have referred to October 7 terror attacks on Israel

Opposition criticises government after India abstained from a U.N. vote calling for a ceasefire in Gaza

October 28, 2023 09:09 pm | Updated October 29, 2023 07:25 am IST - NEW DELHI

India’s Deputy Permanent Representative Yojana Patel delivers the explanation of India’s vote at the U.N. General Assembly’s Emergency Special Session on October 27, 2023. Photo: X/@IndiaUNNewYork

India’s Deputy Permanent Representative Yojana Patel delivers the explanation of India’s vote at the U.N. General Assembly’s Emergency Special Session on October 27, 2023. Photo: X/@IndiaUNNewYork

The government defended its decision to abstain in a U.N. General Assembly vote on resolution that called for a humanitarian truce and ceasefire in Gaza, saying it did not include “explicit condemnation” of the October 7 terror attacks in Israel. A note circulated by government sources responding to criticism from Opposition members about the vote said that since India’s concerns over omissions had not been covered by the final text of the resolution, it had decided to abstain. 

“There can be no equivocation on terror,” the sources said, calling India’s position “steadfast and consistent”.

The resolution, titled the “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations”, proposed by Jordan on behalf of the Arab League and co-sponsored by about 40 countries, was passed in the UNGA on October 27 with 120 votes in favour, 14 including the U.S. and U.K. against, and 45 abstentions, including India. In its explanation of vote (EoV), France also objected to the omission of references to the October 7 attacks as well as the hostages taken, but in a break from its western allies, voted for the resolution saying “nothing can justify the suffering of civilians. All victims deserve our compassion, all lives are equal and there is no hierarchy between them”.

The resolution adopted had condemned “all acts of violence aimed at Palestinian and Israeli civilians, including all acts of terrorism and indiscriminate attacks, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction”, without specifically referring to the terror attacks by Hamas earlier this month that left more than 1,400 Israelis dead and 229 taken hostage. In three weeks of retaliatory strikes by Israeli Defence Forces, the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza has estimated that at least 7,700 Palestinians have been killed, around half of which are children.

In the EoV delivered by India’s Deputy Permanent Representative Yojana Patel, India had called for condemnation of the attacks and for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages.

“Terrorism is a malignancy and knows no borders, nationality, or race. The world should not buy into any justification of terror acts,” Ms. Patel said, before addressing the death toll from the IDF bombardment of Gaza. 

“Casualties in the ongoing conflict in Gaza are a telling, serious, and continuing concern. Civilians, especially women and children are paying with their lives,” Ms. Patel said, referring to the aid efforts to help Palestinians who have been evacuated from North Gaza to the south, which India is also a part of.

Significantly, in its own EoV, India did not name Hamas directly either. India had however backed an earlier amendment proposed by Canada to add a paragraph that would “unequivocally reject and condemn the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on 7 October 2023”, and call for hostages to be released. The amendment was not approved as only 88 countries, less than the two-thirds required, voted for it. 

India’s vote, that differed from a previous vote in favour of a UNGA resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza in 2018 and other similar votes in the past, was criticised by Opposition parties who accused the government of “refusing to take a stand”. 

“This is a humanitarian issue, not a political one,” said All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi, pointing out that India’s abstention stood “alone” and apart from the position of countries in the “Global South, in South Asia & in BRICS”, all of whom had voted for the resolution. 

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”, said Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra quoting Mahatma Gandhi. “To refuse to take a stand and watch in silence as every law of humanity is pulverised goes against everything our country has stood for throughout its life as a nation,” she wrote in a social media post. The Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Sitaram Yechury and CPI’s D. Raja issued a joint statement, saying that India’s abstention “negates its long-standing support to the Palestinian cause”, accusing the government of following a foreign policy “shaped by being a subordinate ally of U.S. imperialism”

Government sources said however that India had stressed its “consistent stand on Palestine”, saying in the EoV that India supports a negotiated two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue and the establishment of a sovereign, independent, and viable State of Palestine, urging the parties to de-escalate the violence, and return to direct peace negotiations.

(With inputs from Sandeep Phukan)

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