The Indian government decided to abstain from a vote of procedural resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting session on the Russian aggression against Ukraine. It was a procedural vote for a rare special emergency session of the UN General Assembly to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
Other two countries also choose to abstain, such as the Chinese government and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The abstain of the Chinese government is a relatively ‘win’ for the West, as they decided not to openly support or against the Russian government. On the other side, why would India abstain? What does the choice mean? It may show that both countries refuse to get involved in the conflict, though it is not also mean they are not supporting from ‘behind.”
The US and Albania presented the draft resolution, reaffirming the commitment to upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. The UNSC plans to deploy the strongest terms of the Russian invasion to Ukraine and urge the Russian government to cease using heavy weapons. The resolution also prompts Russia to withdraw its military forces from Ukraine’s territory immediately.
An abstain is not a negative term
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, abstain means “to choose not to vote, and not to do or have something.” Regarding the abstaining vote in the UN session, it means that the member states are ‘voting to not voting.” it is not considered a negative vote, nor a neutral vote, as they decided not to vote on anything.
The abstention is different from a no or a veto choice of the permanent members in the UNSC. As ‘no’ means against which can be used for all member states, while the veto choice is also a choice to prohibit something only owned by the permanent member in the UNSC.
The decision to abstain reflects the intentional action of the member states not to cast a vote, whether a yes or no, on a matter of substance. India explains the reason for the abstain voting.
India views that while India is disturbed by the recent development in Ukraine, dialogue is the only answer and way to settle differences and disputes. The Indian government reaffirmed the importance of upholding the United Nations charter, especially regarding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The abstention raises critics from India’s opposition, such as Congress Madhya Pradesh (MP) Anand Sharma, who views India has to publicly against the invasion of Ukraine. Another Congress MP named Shashi Tharoor also said that though Russia is a ‘friendly’ country, the concern of violating crucial principles needs to be the government’s focus.
The ambiguity of the India Government between the West and Russia
The decision on UN Voting is not ‘just’ a vote, as it matters to the issue, the decision, and even action they may or may not be considered. What the member states decide reflects their national interests and what they support on a regional or global scale.
The abstention of India is a contemplation of India’s ambiguous relations with the West and Russia. India is part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) with the US and has undoubtedly been in an ill border conflict with China for a long time. The US and its allies have helped India counter Chinese political and military influence and surely have ‘friends’ who have common grounds and values towards China’s intimidation.
On the other hand, Russia is the most crucial supplier of defense equipment. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia supports nearly two-thirds of the total arms import to India. The situation means that India intensely depends on Russia for its military capability. One of those is the defense deal in 2018 regarding five units of the S-400 missile system for countering China. The military equipment was used to deter its rivals such as Pakistan dan China.
Last year, both Putin and Modi met to discuss the defense and trade relations and even signed military technology cooperation. India is expecting there will be more arm imports from its biggest supplier, Rusia. India renewal the arms deal with Russia at least for the next five years with a budget of USD5 billion. Therefore, India could not afford to lose the deals now only because of the Ukraine issues.
Without a doubt, India is in a difficult position between the West and Russia, especially regarding the Russian invasion, which can affect its relations with both sides. India avoided the risk of taking the West sides and also avoided to clearly against the Russian. Though it seems unclear, it explicitly shows that it softens its approach to Russia.
Politics are a world of ‘chess board’ with a never really ending game. The players which are referred to as States or politicians use their power to ‘win’ or at least lead the ‘game.’ The players need to use their strategy to move, while at the same time thinking about the path or move that might be chosen by the opponent.
Similar to this concept, if India is on the US side, they will support yes on the voting, but they did not intend to do so. India’s reluctance has a precise meaning that India plans to balance its relations with both sides, and India may not fully trust the US and its alliance.
Moreover, there is also a clap back regarding the Ukraine issues, as the Ukrainian government tends to vote against India at the UN, especially with the Pakistan issue. At the same time, it can deny that Russia has also used the veto to support India on some critical issues.
India has warm ties with Russia and even more amiable and closer relations with the US. Still, in terms of the current developing issues, India chose not to choose any side to balance its national interests. India voted on a sensible and best choice for its own country as it decided not to confront both sides and urge diplomacy steps.