UNGA Abstention: India Stands Isolated From Neighbourhood, Global South
Geopolitical and electoral considerations influenced decision
India’s abstention from the UN General Assembly vote on a Jordanian resolution calling for a humanitarian truce in the Israel-Hamas conflict, could alienate it from the Muslim world, the Global South and its immediate neighbourhood as well.
Almost the entire developing world, comprising the majority of countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America, voted for the resolution. India’s neighbours, including tiny Bhutan, which has a special relationship with India, voted for the resolution.
India looked thoroughly isolated from the Global South and its own neighbourhood, the leadership of which the Modi government has been seeking, allocating billions of dollars for the purpose.
India’s excuse for abstaining was that the Jordanian resolution that called for an immediate truce, did not mention Hamas, leave alone condemn it, for its attack on Israel on October 7. It had killed more than a thousand and taken more than 200 hostages.
India voted for a Canadian amendment which had condemned Hamas, But this amendment was not carried for lack of enough supporters.
Stating India’s case, its delegate Yojna Patel said: “The terror attacks in Israel on 7th October were shocking and deserve condemnation. Our thoughts are also with those taken hostages. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.
“Terrorism is a malignancy and knows no borders, nationality, or race. The world should not buy into any justification of terror acts. Let us keep aside differences, unite and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism.
“The humanitarian crisis needs to be addressed. We welcome the international community’s de-escalation efforts and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. India too has contributed to this effort.
“We urge the parties to de-escalate, eschew violence and work towards creating conditions for an early resumption of direct peace negotiations. We hope that the deliberations of this assembly will send a clear message against terror and violence and expand prospects for diplomacy and dialogue while addressing the humanitarian crisis that confronts us.”
While India's objection to the Jordanian draft on the Hamas issue was justified, its statement also had a major omission – Israel’s carpet bombing and its relentless ethnic cleansing going on this day in Gaza.
The devastation caused by the October 7 Hamas attack pales in contrast to the devastation taking place in Gaza day and night. It has gone on for 20 days with no one trying to stop it.
The ‘Big Powers’ are busy only demonstrating support for Israel, turning a blind eye to its ceaseless war crimes.
The Jordanian resolution, on the other hand, had forthrightly demanded that “all parties immediately and fully” comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, particularly in regard to the protection of civilians and civilian objects, as well as the protection of humanitarian personnel and to facilitate humanitarian access for essential supplies and services to reach all civilians in need in the Gaza Strip.
It also called for: “the rescinding of the order by Israel, the occupying power, for Palestinian civilians and United Nations staff, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, to evacuate all areas in the Gaza Strip north of the Wadi Gaza and relocate to southern Gaza".
The resolution did allude to Hamas but without naming it. It called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive, demanding their safety, well-being and humane treatment in compliance with international law.”
Did India Try Hard Enough? To be fair, India did have a case in as much as Hamas’ misdeeds should have been mentioned for the resolution to get universal approval. But it should have used its considerable diplomatic clout to get a condemnation of Hamas included in the Jordanian draft so that it did not seem one-sided.
Assuming India did try, its efforts were not enough. And if India did not try hard enough, it could well have been out of geopolitical and domestic electoral considerations.
At the geopolitical level, India is hemmed in by sworn adversaries China and Pakistan which are in cahoots both on its borders and in the neighbourhood. Both Pakistan and China voted for the Jordanian resolution.
The recent sentencing to death of eight retired Indian naval officers by a Qatari court for allegedly spying for Israel, may also have contributed to the anti-Hamas sentiment in New Delhi.
Qatar is said to have been financing Hamas in its war against Israel, which has close defence ties with India. Qatar had voted for the resolution.
The reason for the Indian action at UNGA was likely rooted in domestic electoral politics also. In the North Indian belt, which is under the sway of BJP’s Hindutva, there is strong support for Israel, which is seen not just as being anti-terrorist but anti-Muslim as well.
This is clearly reflected in the mainstream as well as the social media in North India. It suits the Modi government to play to this gallery in the context of the forthcoming State and parliamentary elections.
Being a Hindutva party, the BJP would be keen on consolidating the votes of the Hindu majority and not be equivocal like the Congress and other secular parties.
The BJP’s stand will further alienate the Muslims of India from it. But the party is unlikely to be bothered about that. In the ultimate analysis, the BJP will think of consolidating its Hindu base rather than put its eggs in other baskets.
However, India’s stand will alienate it from the Arab and Muslim worlds, including Iran and the Central Asian republics, with which the Modi government has been cultivating close ties for economic benefits and for building economic links with Europe.
The Global South, whose leadership the Modi government is seeking, will not be as receptive to Indian overtures as before because of the abstention. All the high-profile diplomacy done to be a leader of the Global South so far, may go waste.
It is said that New Delhi has been making efforts to get the Qataris to release the eight Indian naval officers sentenced to death for allegedly spying for Israel. However, one wonders how the Indian stand at the UNGA will advance India’s cause on this issue in Qatar.
It remains to be seen if the Qatari Emir will be motivated to help India out in this case in light of India’s conduct at UNGA.
A failure in Qatar could have a domestic political fallout too, because there is a feeling in non-BJP circles, that New Delhi has been giving step-motherly treatment to the incarcerated naval officers in Qatar in contrast to its vigorous efforts it made to save the life of naval officer Kulbhushan Yadav who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for allegedly spying for India.