NEW DELHI: For the first time, India on Friday abstained in a resolution backed by Palestine in United Nations Human Rights Council condemning Israel for its Gaza offensive. India however claimed that there was no shift in its position on Palestine, and that its abstention was only due to reference to International Criminal Court in the text.
Forty-one countries voted in favour, with only United States’ name highlighted in red on the display board as it voted against the resolution in UNHRC in Geneva on Friday.
India’s abstention was immediately noticed by Israeli commentators – who noted that it would certainly have caused Tel Aviv to see the bright side of today’s harshly-worded resolution. Besides India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Macedonia also abstained.
This vote also means that India has bolted out of the BRICS stable on this issue – since all the others, Russia, China, South Africa and Brazil voted in favour of the resolution.
Last year, India had voted in favour of the UNHRC resolution, which was also drafted by Palestine, which had launched an international probe against Israel for Operation Protective Edge. The external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had cited India’s vote in 2014 as an example of the government’s continuing to support Palestinian state.
The 2014 vote had taken certain quarters by surprise, as it was expected that a Israel-friendly Modi government would take a different position.
As he announced New Delhi’s position, Indian permanent representative to UN in Geneva Ajit Kumar said that abstention was only in reference to ICC in the text of the resolution.
This explanation was expanded further in Delhi, with external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup stating that the “The issue in this particular Resolution was the reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
He asserted that this vote should be not seen as a paradigm ship on India’s balanced position on Israel-Palestinian conflict.
''There is no change in India’s long standing position on support to the Palestinian cause,” he asserted.
Swarup said that India has followed its past precedent on voting on resolutions citing ICC.
“India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. In the past also, 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.,” he said, adding, “We have followed the same principle in our voting on today’s Resolution. '
The resolution calls upon “the parties concerned to cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened”.
Besides, UNHRC has welcomed the report of the international inquiry which found evidence of war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas during Gaza conflict in 2014.
Calling for implementation of the report, It also calls for an end to the impunity of Israeli officials responsible for alleged war crimes.
Even if India officially says that its vote in Geneva was only due to a technical issue, it is also clear that Modi government has no qualms to be seen on the side of Israel, which has become one of India’s biggest defence and security partners.
PM Narendra Modi’s acceptance of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to visit Israel was another example of the more visible closeness between the two countries. While Netanyahu had formally made the invitation last year, Swaraj publicly announced that PM will visit Israel, but no dates. When he does visit Israel, it will be the first time that an Indian PM will go to Israel.
Swaraj had also said that she will be soon travelling to Tel Aviv, but no dates have yet been decided.