It was India’s 12th vote at the United Nations where he abstained – 11th since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 – but it was the clearest message from New Delhi to Moscow so far.
For an abstention – it does not count for the count – in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council is, in fact, considered to be siding with side of those who voted “yes”, essentially the US-led West.
Even more, while, according to a note consulted by Reuters, Russia had warned the countries that a vote for yes or an abstention would be considered a “hostile gesture” with consequences for bilateral relations. The Indian Express learned that Russian envoy Denis Alipov had contacted senior Indian diplomats to vote for him.
However, New Delhi chose to abstain.
“This appeal has been taken to the highest levels of government for deliberation and consideration…it has not been taken lightly,” a senior government source told The Indian Express on Thursday night, shortly after the vote. .
Even in abstention, New Delhi has walked a tightrope. He questioned the process by which the decision to suspend Russia took place given that it occurred before the international investigation into the massacre. Delhi’s point is that it should have been taken to the Human Rights Council first, not the UNGA, sources said. This is a signal to the West that due process has not been followed, something Indian interlocutors can draw Moscow’s attention to.
What has moved New Delhi is the now widely documented killing of innocent civilians in Bucha, a town north of kyiv. Images of civilian bodies littering the streets and Moscow’s denial have sparked global outcry and shrunk the diplomatic space India has carefully carved out for itself since the invasion began in late February.
There were a few early signs. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on April 5, just an hour before the UN Security Council meeting that day. India for the first time on Tuesday had “unequivocally condemned” the killings as “deeply disturbing” and backed the call for an “independent investigation”.
The very next day, Jaishankar reiterated his position and made it clear that he was not moving from his position, despite raising awareness from Moscow.
After Alipov’s outreach to diplomats and hours before the vote on Thursday, the Russian Embassy issued a statement accusing Kyiv of having “heinous attack in Bucha.” To say it “brings back the nightmares of Nazi crimes during World War II,” the statement read: “The main challenge is to ensure a truly independent and impartial investigation. Unfortunately, there have been many hollow allegations so far. against Moscow when there is evidence that it was in fact a cynical false flag operation, perpetrated by kyiv itself.
11th Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on #Ukraine
Action on the resolution to suspend the Russian Federation from @UN_HRC
— India at the UN, NY (@IndiaUNNewYork) April 7, 2022
The General Assembly of the United Nations votes by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting. Abstentions do not count and the resolution requires two-thirds yes/no votes to pass.
But Delhi’s evolution has been gradual and gradual.
On February 25, after Russia invaded Ukraine, Delhi told the UNSC that India was “deeply troubled” and urged that all efforts be made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities. .
But, even as she abstained on a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that ‘deplores in the strongest terms’ Russia’s ‘aggression’ against Ukraine , New Delhi sharpened its criticism of Russia by pointing out three concerns: “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States”, “Charter of the United Nations” and “international law”. It was India’s first time invoking those three red lines, which have now become their refrain.
On March 2, as an Indian student was killed in Kharkiv, India told the UNGA it was “deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis” . Again, he reiterated the need to respect the three red lines, as he pushed for the humanitarian corridor.
On March 24, signaling that New Delhi is not aligned with the Russian position, India abstained on a resolution pushed by Russia at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine – the resolution was seen as critical of Ukraine. The resolution was not adopted because it did not obtain the nine votes required to pass.
It was the first time India abstained on a Russian-sponsored resolution. In previous votes on the war in Ukraine, India had abstained from voting on Western-sponsored resolutions led by the United States that criticized Moscow’s actions. Thursday’s abstention therefore also marks a new red line.