In what is being perceived as nuancing of its position, India Friday abstained on a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council condemning Israel over the UN report into Operation Edge in Gaza. Ministry of External Affairs, however, said there is “no change” in India’s position on supporting the Palestinian cause.
Although India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Macedonia abstained, the resolution was adopted as 41 countries voted in its favour. These included European Union member countries Britain, France and Germany; China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives from India’s neighbourhood and Russia. Israel’s closest ally US was the only country to vote against the resolution.
This was the first time New Delhi chose to abstain at the vote on a UN resolution condemning Israel. India has traditionally voted in favour of such resolutions. So, the move is being seen in the context of India warming up to Israel under PM Narendra Modi. According to Israel daily Haaretz, the country’s officials had said PM Benjamin Netanyahu had spoken to Modi, among others, asking them to abstain.
Responding to questions over the move, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “The issue in this particular resolution was the reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC). India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. In the past too, whenever a Human Rights Council resolution had made a direct reference to the ICC… our general approach had been to abstain.” Ajit Kumar, Permanent Representative of India to the UN Office at Geneva, cited the same reasons.
India’s vote nothwithstanding, the 47-member UNHRC adopted the resolution on “ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem” asking Israel and Palestine to prosecute alleged war crimes committed in the 2014 Gaza war and to cooperate with ICC’s probe. While the Council has no binding powers, its moral authority raises the pressure on both sides.
The resolution welcomes the UNHRC report, which found evidence of alleged war crimes committed by Hamas and Israel. Drafted by Palestine and Arab states, the resolution condemns Israel’s targeting of innocent civilians, but ignores rockets launched by Hamas and the inquiry’s criticism of the Palestinian side.
It calls on all UN officials to implement the report’s recommendations and on UNHRC member states to ensure the application of international law in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Denouncing the resolution, Netanyahu said, “On the day on which Israel was fired at from Sinai, and at a time when ISIS is committing vicious terrorist attacks in Egypt, as Assad slaughters his people in Syria and as the number of arbitrary executions per annum climbs in Iran, the UN Human Rights Council decides to condemn the State of Israel… for acting to defend itself from a murderous terrorist organisation.”
Explaining his country’s decision to vote against the resolution, US ambassador Keith Harper said: “We are troubled that this resolution focuses exclusively on alleged Israeli violations without any express reference to Palestinian violations.”
(with inputs from agencies)