India abstained in the UN General Assembly on a draft resolution calling for Russia to be held accountable for violations of international law by its invasion of Ukraine and requiring Moscow to pay reparations to Kyiv for damages, loss and injury resulting from the war. The draft resolution, ‘Furtherance of remedy and reparation for aggression against Ukraine’, introduced by Ukraine was adopted Monday in the 193-member UN General Assembly by a recorded vote of 94 in favour, 14 against and 73 abstentions, including by India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Those voting against the resolution were Belarus, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Russia and Syria.
India, in its explanation of vote after the draft was adopted, questioned whether a reparation process would contribute towards efforts at resolving the conflict and cautioned against precedents being set through such resolutions. “We need to objectively consider whether a reparation process through a vote in the General Assembly would contribute to efforts at a resolution of the conflict. Moreover, the legal validity of such a process by a General Assembly resolution remains unclear,” India’s Permanent Representative at the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said.
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She said “we must, therefore, not create mechanisms or set precedents, without adequate international legal vetting, that have implications for the future functioning of the UN and the international economic system. We need to avoid steps which preclude or endanger the possibility of dialogue and negotiations and from bringing this protracted conflict to an early end.” Reiterating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion to Russian President Vladimir Putin that “this is not an era of war”, Kamboj said “with this firm resolve to strive for a peaceful solution through dialogue and diplomacy, India has decided to abstain on the resolution.” India has mostly abstained on resolutions related to the Russia-Ukraine war in the UN, including in the Security Council, General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
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Kamboj stressed that India’s approach to the Ukraine conflict will continue to be people-centric. India is providing both humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and economic support to some of its neighbours in the Global South under economic distress, even as they stare at the escalating costs of food, of fuel and of fertilizers – which has been a consequential fall out of the ongoing conflict.
The resolution, co-sponsored by nearly 50 nations, recognized that Russia “must be held to account for any violations of international law in or against Ukraine, including its aggression in violation of the Charter of the United Nations, as well as any violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and that it must bear the legal consequences of all of its internationally wrongful acts, including making reparation for the injury, including any damage, caused by such acts.” It recognized the need for establishment, in cooperation with Ukraine, of an international mechanism for reparation for damage, loss or injury, and arising from the “internationally wrongful acts of the Russian Federation in or against Ukraine.” It recommended that UN Member States, in cooperation with Ukraine, create an international register of damage to serve as a record, in documentary form, of evidence and claims information on damage, loss or injury to all natural and legal persons concerned, as well as the State of Ukraine, caused by internationally wrongful acts of the Russian Federation in or against Ukraine.
Kamboj said India continues to remain concerned over the situation in Ukraine. The conflict has resulted in the loss of lives and misery for its people, particularly for the women, children and elderly, with millions becoming homeless and forced to take shelter in neighbouring countries she said and termed reports of attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are “deeply worrying.” “International principles and jurisprudence vest responsibility on parties to the conflict to ensure that civilians and civilian infrastructure are not targeted in situations of armed conflicts,” she said.
Kamboj reiterated that India has consistently advocated that no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives. “Escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one’s interest. We have urged that all efforts be made for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an urgent return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy,” she said. Kamboj emphasized that dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment.
“The path to peace requires us to keep all channels of diplomacy open,” she said. She noted that it is unfortunate that as the trajectory of the Ukrainian conflict unfolds, the entire global south has suffered a substantial collateral damage.
“It is thus critical that the voice of the global south be heard, and their legitimate concerns be duly addressed.” The resolution expressed grave concern at the loss of life, civilian displacement, destruction of infrastructure and natural resources, loss of public and private property, and economic calamity caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said “today, Russia, who claims to be the successor of the 20th century’s tyranny, is doing everything it can to avoid paying the price for its own war and occupation, trying to escape accountability for the crimes it is committing.”Russia will fail, just like it is failing on the battlefield. We have indeed seen all this before. There’s nothing new under the sun,” he said.
The Ukrainian Ambassador said Russia has demolished almost half of Ukraine’s power grid and utilities in the past month alone, leaving millions of Ukrainians without power, running water and heating on the eve of winter.”Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes and seek shelter elsewhere. Ukraine will have the daunting task of rebuilding the country and recovering from this war. But that recovery will never be complete without a sense of justice for the victims of the Russian war. It is time to hold Russia accountable.”
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said if the resolution comes to be adopted, “it will entail systemic consequences for the UN activities.” “It is obvious that the initiative is flawed. From the legal perspective, the provisions of the draft cannot stand up to any criticism. They are legally void – nothing more than an attempt to legalize what cannot be legalized in terms of effective international law. The co-sponsors must realize that adoption of such a resolution would trigger consequences that may boomerang against themselves,” the Russian envoy said.