India abstains again and again on Ukraine resolution; US says there can be ‘no neutral ground’ in this war

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India’s Permanent Representative at UN, T.S. Tirumurti, speaking on Russian resolution March 24, 2022. Photo: UN via South Asia Monitor

Maintaining its ‘strategic neutrality’ through a streak of abstentions on Ukraine-related resolutions at the United Nations, India Thursday, March 24, 2022, abstained in rapid succession for the sixth and seventh time at the General Assembly which confronted dueling resolutions.

India’s stand was obliquely criticized by the U.S., saying there was “no neutral ground’ in this war” and the world needed to stand with the Ukrainian people.

The Assembly approved a resolution on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine proposed by that country criticizing Russia’s role, but it throttled another put forward by South Africa that did not mention Moscow.

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India’s Permanent Representative T S Tirumurti said at the Assembly’s emergency session that New Delhi abstained on the resolution proposed by Ukraine because it “did not fully reflect” India’s expected focus on “on cessation of hostilities and on urgent humanitarian assistance”.

The resolution squarely blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis that was proposed by Ukraine with the backing of about 90 countries passed with 140 votes, with five against and 37 abstentions.

It had more than the required two-thirds majority to pass.

On a procedural matter raised by Ukraine, the Assembly voted not to take up South Africa’s resolution effectively killing it.

It called for humanitarian aid, ceasefire and safe corridors for refugees and assistance, but without criticizing Russia.

Sixty five countries were against taking up South Africa’s resolution, while 49 wanted it voted upon and 33 abstained.

Tirumurti said that humanitarian assistance should be based on humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence and “should not be politicized”.

“We firmly believe efforts at the United Nations should contribute to de-escalation of the conflict, facilitate immediate cessation of hostilities to promote dialogue and diplomacy and bring together parties to find an immediate end to the suffering of the people”, he said.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “What I say, and what I said, to the countries who abstained previously, is that there’s no neutral ground here. We’re watching every day what is happening in Ukraine. And we have to stand with the Ukrainian people”.

But on Wednesday, India had joined the US in abstaining at the Security Council on a resolution submitted by Russia on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, which failed because only China joined in voting for it while all the other 13 countries abstained depriving it of the required nine votes to pass.

India did not speak at the Council on its abstention.

India had earlier abstained on an Assembly resolution that was carried condemning Russia’s invasion, and in the Council on two procedural votes related to Ukraine and on a resolution censuring Moscow’s invasion that was vetoed by Russia.

Russia had withdrawn its request for a vote on its Council resolution last Friday, but suddenly called for a vote on it on Wednesday in a failed attempt to upstage the Assembly vote.

Russia’s resolution made several proposals to deal with the humanitarian situation but, of course, did not refer to its invasion, which is the reason for the abstention by the US and its allies.

Vetoing the resolution would have opened them up to propaganda campaigns ignoring the context.

The resolution proposed by South Africa at the Assembly called for a cessation of hostilities and for a comprehensive humanitarian response, but it also would not have named Russia.

In calling for a vote against taking it up, Ukraine’s Permanent Representative Sergiy Kyslytsya denounced it as a “twin brother” of Russia’s Council resolution.

South Africa’s Permanent Representative Mathu Joyini said, “While we should not ignore the context that gave rise to this crisis, and nor should we ignore any violations of the UN Charter and international law, that should not ever divert our focus from the fact we ought to be immediately doing”.

South Africa resisted tremendous pressure from the US and its allies to drop its resolution.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor on Wednesday to dissuade Pretoria from going ahead with the resolution saying that there should be a unified international response to Russia’s invasion.

Joyini said that there should be no attempt to “muzzle” countries seeking independently to find solutions.

“The vast majority of countries in this assembly have never invaded or colonised other countries, yet have suffered the consequences. There are a few powerful countries that have been parties to most of these conflicts, often in the form of proxy wars in other countries or regions”, she said.

She asserted, “In Iraq for example, over 2.4 million people are reported to have died since 2003,” the year of the US-led invasion.

Beijing cosponsored South Africa’s resolution and China’s Permanent Representative Zhang Jun said that developing countries were not parties to the Ukraine conflict and should not be drawn into it and forced to pick a side as “friend or foe”.

Several countries, including Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia, which voted for Ukraine’s resolution said that they did not see a contradiction between it and South Africa’s for which they would have also voted.

India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who had come to New York on Tuesday in the midst of heated diplomatic activity, left for India on Wednesday ahead of the Assembly votes.

Tirumurti said at the Assembly, “India continues to remain deeply concerned at the ongoing situation which has rapidly been deteriorating since the beginning of the hostilities”.

“We have constantly called for cessation of hostilities. The humanitarian situation continues to worsen particularly in the conflict zones in urban areas. Women, children and elderly are disproportionately affected by the prolonged prolonging of this conflict”, he said. Call

“We hope the international community will continue to respond positively to the humanitarian needs of Ukraine”, he said.

India has already sent over 90 tons of humanitarian, including medicines and essential supplies, to Ukraine and its neighbors and will provide more, he added.

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