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UNHRC vote: Palestine asks India to explain why it abstained

Sources said that while the MEA officials had reiterated and pledged India’s support for the Palestinian cause, there was no categorical assurance of a “Yes” vote at the UNHRC vote on Friday.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: July 9, 2015 5:08:49 am

As Palestine Wednesday sought an explanation from visiting secretary (east) of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anil Wadhwa, over India’s abstention at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) vote condemning Israel, its envoy in New Delhi said the MEA’s claim of not voting for a resolution that refers a country to the International Criminal Court (ICC) doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Speaking to The Indian Express at the embassy in New Delhi, Palestinian ambassador Adnan Abu Alhaijaa said, “The MEA’s claim that India had a policy not to vote for a resolution that refers any country to the ICC does not stand up to scrutiny. India has done such a thing in the near past when it voted for UNHRC resolutions referring cases to the ICC. In both instances, it was against Syria, whom India interestingly referred to as a “friendly nation”. India voted against Syria first on March 23, 2012, and then again on June 1, 2012.”

He added that “other nations, notably China, which is not a signatory to the Rome statute, had no qualms voting for the same resolution where India abstained.”

The MEA had said Friday,”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, as had happened in the resolutions on Syria and North Korea, our general approach had been to abstain. We have followed the same principle in our voting on today’s resolution.”

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Wadhwa is in Palestine for a two-day visit, beginning Wednesday, and is meeting the top political leadership and senior officials. He is there to prepare the groundwork for External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit in September-October and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Palestine and Israel.

Alhaijaa, who has been in New Delhi for the last 10 months as Palestine’e envoy, got the news about India’s abstention late on Friday night. After his prayers at about 11 pm on Friday, he was informed on his cellphone by the Palestinian delegation from Geneva that India had chosen to abstain.

“I was stunned, very surprised,” he recalled, especially since he had met the Indian officials in the Ministry of External Affairs a couple of days ago.

Sources said that while the MEA officials had reiterated and pledged India’s support for the Palestinian cause, there was no categorical assurance of a “Yes” vote at the UNHRC vote on Friday.

“It is very hard to believe, my mind refuses to believe this development,” Alhaijaa, who is referred to as a “freedom-fighter” by his colleagues at the Palestinian embassy. After the vote, he had contacted the South Block and had sought an explanation.

According to diplomatic sources, India had reiterated its support to the Palestinian cause in at least “eight meetings”in the past one year between the two countries’ officials at various levels.

This abstention vote, Alhaijaa said, sends two messages. “Firstly, that the aggressors, Israel, can get away with anything and secondly, the victims, Palestinians — their blood means nothing”.

Recalling India’s “rich history of supporting Palestine”, Alhaijaa said, “We expect PM Modi should use his personal good relations with Israel and advise them to fulfill the peace entitlement of Palestine, in accordance with the UN.”

“I hope this is a small aberration, and not a shift in India’s policy”, the Palestinian envoy added.

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