NEW DELHI: For the first time in living memory, India on Friday abstained from voting on a Palestine-backed United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) resolution condemning Israel for its Gaza offensive. Despite this, New Delhi claimed that there was no shift in its position on Palestine and that its abstention was only due to the reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the motion’s text. While 41 countries voted in favour, only the US’ voted against the resolution in UNHRC in Geneva .
As he announced New Delhi’s position, India’s permanent representative to the 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 MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup stating that the “The issue in this particular Resolution was the reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC).” He said the vote should be not seen as a paradigm shift in 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.
According to Swarup, India has followed its past precedent on voting on resolutions citing the 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(Friday) 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, the 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 the implementation of the report, it demanded an end to the impunity of Israeli officials responsible for the alleged war crimes. 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 the harshly-worded resolution. Besides India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Macedonia abstained.
Last year, India had voted in favour of the resolution, also drafted by Palestine, which had launched an international probe against Israel for Operation Protective Edge. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had cited India’s vote in 2014 as an example of the government’s continuing support to Palestinian state.