India and China abstain from UN vote to demand Russian withdrawal on Ukraine war anniversary

India and China were among the major global powers that abstained from a UN General Assembly vote calling on Russia to end hostilities in Ukraine on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion.

The UN motion in New York was adopted after 141 UN member nations voted in its favour, while 32 abstained and seven voted against it on Thursday.

The non-binding motion underscored the “need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.

India, walking a tightrope between Washington and Moscow, said it is “constrained to abstain” from the vote and pledged to “always call for dialogue and diplomacy as the only viable way out”.

The two nuclear-armed south Asian neighbours are engaged in a bitter border dispute since 2020 and have independently found common ground on Russia as both countries enjoy a long-standing relationship with Moscow.

Explaining India’s reasoning for its decision, the country’s permanent UN representative Ruchira Kamboj said after the vote that the UN system was “rendered ineffective”.

“Are we anywhere near a possible solution acceptable to both sides? Can any process that does not involve either of the two sides, ever lead to a credible and meaningful solution?” she asked.

“Has the UN system, and particularly its principal organ, the UN Security Council, based on a 1945-world construct, not been rendered ineffective to address contemporary challenges to global peace and security?” Ms Kamboj said.

“While we take note of the stated objectives of today’s Resolution, given its inherent limitations in reaching our desired goal of securing lasting peace, we are constrained to abstain.”

India, the host of the G20 summit this year, has also consistently stressed that the “Global South feels the pain” of the ramifications of the war and suffered “substantial collateral damage”.

The country has abstained on almost all UN resolutions on Russia’s actions in Ukraine in the past, underlining the need for diplomacy and dialogue despite consistent pressure from the West to take a firm stance on the country.

Indian leadership has continued to resist pressure and maintained close ties with Moscow as the two enjoy a longstanding relationship since the Cold War.

Germany's foreign minister Annalena Baerbock address the United Nations General Assembly before a vote for a U.N. resolution upholding Ukraine's territorial integrity (AP)
Germany's foreign minister Annalena Baerbock address the United Nations General Assembly before a vote for a U.N. resolution upholding Ukraine's territorial integrity (AP)

Amid Western-led sanctions to choke Russia economically, India has boosted crude oil imports with Russia, which has become the country’s largest supplier of energy since the war began, apart from widening its imports portfolio.

“The vote is in keeping with India’s position of neutrality so far and was expected,” Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, told The Independent.

“It puts New Delhi in the company of countries like China, Pakistan and Bangladesh which sits at odds with how the Narendra Modi government would like to be perceived in the Western capitals.”

India and China abstained alongside Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa, while Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua and Syria voted against it.

“But unlike with China, no Western power is going to point fingers at India as they need New Delhi to counter Beijing,” Mr Singh pointed out.

China also issued a statement similar to its neighbour and said it wanted Ukraine and Russia to resume “direct dialogue as soon as possible”.

Relations between China and Russia have become increasingly close as they have aligned their foreign policies to oppose the US-led liberal international order.

China also said it has a “no limits” relationship with Russia amid concerns that Beijing may be preparing to provide Moscow with military aid, something it has denied.

The country also presented a 12-point peace proposal on Friday to end the conflict and accused the West of provoking the conflict and “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with defensive arms.

“Today’s vote was really historic,” said ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US’s UN representative, after the session. “You saw one year after Russia’s illegal, unprovoked, full-scale invasion into Ukraine where the countries of the world stand. We showed where we stand – with Ukraine.”