As Delhi sought to maintain a delicate balance between the US-led Western bloc and Russia, India and China were on the same side of the UN Security Council (UNSC) vote on Saturday, with both choosing to abstain.
Both countries also invoked a similar wording on “territorial integrity and sovereignty” and the “UN Charter”.
China’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Zhang Jun, said that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states should be respected and the objectives and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld … Security in one country cannot come at the expense of undermining security in others nations … Ukraine should become a bridge between East and West. “
India’s envoy to the UN, TS Tirumurti, said: “The current global order is built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. All member states must respect these principles in order to find a constructive way forward. “
Interestingly, Beijing stressed its sensitivity to “territorial integrity and sovereignty”, which is one of its core principles in foreign policy, while India has been at the receiving end of China’s aggressive behavior in Line of actual control. Since May 2020, Delhi has repeatedly attacked Beijing by invoking “territorial integrity and sovereignty” in its public statements.
But China’s decision to abstain, instead of using its veto with the usual ally of Russia, was different from its previous voting behavior on the Russia-Ukraine issue. On 31 January, on the question of a procedural vote on whether Ukraine should be discussed in the UNSC or not, China and Russia opposed the vote.
In order to formulate its position on “legitimate security interests”, which resonated with a nuanced leaning towards the Russian position, India had also failed to agree with Kenya and Gabon.
This time, Kenya and Gabon voted in favor of the US-sponsored resolution, leaving India as the only country in the 15-member UNSC to maintain its “abstention vote”. While the first vote on 31 January was a procedural vote, this time it was on a more substantive question on a draft resolution.
India’s previous record has been to balance between the West, led by the United States, and Russia. Sources said India maintained its “consistent, steadfast and balanced stance on the matter”.
A key aspect of Saturday’s vote was the dilution of some of the text by the sponsors of the resolution to gain wider support. Delhi and Beijing also appear to have worked on it in the last few hours prior to the vote.
An Indian government source said that “an earlier draft of the resolution had proposed moving the resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides the framework within which the Security Council can take enforcement action”. However, this was dropped in the final version, which was put to the vote. They also changed the term “condemn” to “sorry” in sections related to Russia’s attacks.
While Russia – which chaired the UN Security Council since holding the presidency in February – vetoed the decision, India, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) abstained. The remaining 11 members of the UNSC – including the United States, Britain and France – voted in favor of the resolution, which was not adopted when Russia vetoed it.
India’s vote and opinion, sources said, followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar also spoke with US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell. On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with Modi and asked for political support in the UNSC.
“India has been in touch with all sides and called on the parties concerned to return to the negotiating table,” an Indian government source said. “By abstaining, India retained the opportunity to reach out to relevant sides in an attempt to bridge the gap and find the middle ground with the aim of promoting dialogue and diplomacy,” the source said.