India abstains from UNSC vote to call for General Assembly session on Ukraine

United Nations: India abstained from a procedural vote taken in the UN Security Council to call for a rare special emergency session of the UN General Assembly on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, even as New Delhi welcomed Moscow and Kyiv’s decision to hold talks at the Belarus border.

The resolution was adopted with 11 votes in favour, paving the way for the General Assembly to meet on the crisis as soon as Monday. India, China and the UAE abstained, while Russia voted against the resolution. This will be only the 11th such emergency session of the General Assembly since 1950.

The 15-nation Security Council met on Sunday afternoon to hold the vote on the emergency special session of the 193-member General Assembly on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This comes two days after the Russian veto blocked a UNSC resolution on its “aggression” against Ukraine.

The vote calling for the UNGA session was procedural so none of the five permanent members of the Security Council — China, France, Russia, the UK and the US — could exercise their vetoes.

“It is regrettable that the situation in Ukraine has worsened further since the Council last convened on this matter,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said in the explanation of Sunday’s vote.

He underlined that “there is no other choice but to return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue.”

“We welcome today’s announcement by both sides to hold talks at the Belarus border,” he said.

Tirumurti said India continues to be deeply concerned about the safety and security of Indian nationals, including a large number of Indian students, who are still stranded in Ukraine.

“Our evacuation efforts have been adversely impacted by the complex and uncertain situation at the border crossings. It is important to maintain an uninterrupted and predictable movement of people. It is an urgent humanitarian necessity that must be immediately addressed,” he said.

“Taking into consideration the totality of the circumstances, we have decided to abstain,” he said.

President of the 76th session of the General Assembly Abdulla Shahid, who was to attend the 49th regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, cancelled his trip “due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine and potential developments in the Security Council,” for the vote.

He also met with Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya on Saturday after the veto on the draft resolution in the Security Council. Kyslytsya briefed Shahid “on the security situation in Kyiv and the potential action he would be seeking in the General Assembly.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also cancelled his scheduled trip to Geneva for the Human Rights Council meeting “due to the aggravating situation in Ukraine.”

The Security Council on Friday evening failed to adopt the US-sponsored resolution that would have deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine after Moscow used its veto.

On Friday too, India, China and the UAE abstained from the resolution, while 11 members of the Council voted in favour.

The UNSC resolution was expected to be blocked since Russia, a permanent member of the Council and President of the UN organ for the month of February, was certain to use its veto. Western nations said the resolution had sought to show Moscow’s isolation on the global stage for its invasion and actions against Ukraine.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield had said after the failed UNSC vote that “we will be taking this matter to the General Assembly, where the Russian veto does not apply and the nations of the world will continue to hold Russia accountable.”

While a UNSC resolution would have been legally binding, General Assembly resolutions are not. A vote in the 193-member UN body is symbolic of world opinion.

In the explanation of India’s vote in the Security Council on Friday, Tirumurti had said New Delhi is “deeply disturbed” by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine and urges that all efforts be made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities.

Tirumurti also said India is “deeply concerned” about the welfare and security of the Indian community, including a large number of Indian students, in Ukraine.

“Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment. It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. For all these reasons, India has chosen to abstain on this resolution,” he had said.

In March 2014, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution that underscored the “invalidity” of the referendum held in “autonomous Crimea”.

By a recorded vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the Assembly had adopted a resolution titled ‘Territorial Integrity of Ukraine’, calling on States, international organisations and specialised agencies not to recognise any change in the status of Crimea or the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, and to refrain from actions or dealings that might be interpreted as such. India had abstained from the resolution.

Under the resolution “Uniting for Peace”, adopted by the General Assembly in November 1950, an emergency special session can be convened within 24 hours of such a meeting being requested.

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