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India Refuses to take US Side on Sri Lanka & Crimea in UN
Mar 28, 2014

On 27 March, the UN General Assembly adopted a Western-sponsored resolution denouncing Russia's annexation of Crimea with 100 votes in favor, 58 abstentions and 11 votes against. The vote was held after Ukraine urged the international community to overwhelmingly back the resolution in a bid to deter the risk of any future Russian aggression.

Ukraine and its backers won support from little more than half the members of the United Nations General Assembly to declare invalid Crimea’s referendum to secede, as Russia wielded diplomatic and economic pressure for members to abstain or cast no ballot.

While the resolution makes no mention of Russia for its invasion or annexation of the peninsula, the 46 sponsors sought to win a clear majority as a symbol of the country’s isolation from the international community. Instead, many members averted a commitment after aggressive lobbying by Russia.

Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe joined Russia in objecting to the text, while Serbia, Iran, Bosnia and Yemen didn’t cast ballots. The abstentions included China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Mongolia, Myanmar and other African nations.

In a brave decision India abstained from voting on a US-sponsored resolution on human rights situation in Sri Lanka. While India had supported it in 2012 and 2013, the latest resolution was much tougher, calling for an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations in the island nation.

The resolution passed with 23 votes in favour, 12 against and 12 abstentions. India's abstention comes after it raised the red flag on the resolution, saying it would be create precedents that would be difficult to withstand. Sri Lanka, too, had mounted a strong diplomatic offensive with the Indian leadership, including long meetings with the national security adviser Shivshankar Menon. Pakistan did its best to help Sri Lanka by proposing a separate vote on the operative paragraph 10 (deemed most offensive) hoping to remove it totally from the resolution, but it failed 16 votes to 25.

The abstention gives India greater flexibility with Sri Lanka, greater ability to push for changes that Mahinda Rajapakse needs to undertake. Rajapakse has taken several steps in the last one year like holding provincial council elections in the north which was seen as the result of intensive Indian diplomacy. If India had failed to stand with Sri Lanka at this time, it would not have been able to stop the Chinese influence from spreading in the country.

Moreover, the government has concluded that many countries pushing the resolution are being pressured by their Tamil-Lankan diaspora.

Explaining why it abstained from the vote, India said, "It has been our firm belief that adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counter-productive.... any external investigative mechanism with an open-ended mandate to monitor national processes for protection of human rights in a country, is not reflective of the constructive approach of dialogue and cooperation envisaged by UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 that created the HRC in 2006 as well as the UNGA resolution 65/281 that reviewed the HRC in 2011.


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