Tuesday, June 25, 2024

In a turn-around, India votes for UNGA resolution for Gaza ceasefire

Faced with the “challenge” to “strike the right balance”, India has joined the General Assembly’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, reversing its earlier position of abstaining.

After the resolution was adopted on Tuesday with 153 votes, India’s Permanent Representative to UN, Ruchira Kamboj, outlined the complicating factors, the terrorist attack on October 7 on Israel, the humanitarian crisis and the deaths of civilians and said, “Our challenge in this extraordinarily difficult time is to strike the right balance.”

“We, therefore, welcome the fact that the international community has been able to find a common ground to address the multiple challenges facing the region right now,” she added.

The resolution presented by Egypt and Mauritania with scores of co-sponsors received only 10 votes against and there were 23 abstentions.

It also demanded the release of all hostages and called on all parties to comply with their international obligations, especially for protecting civilians and to ensure humanitarian access for relief to Gaza.

The resolution is only symbolic because, unlike the Security Council, it does not have enforcement powers.

In the continuing Israel counterattack on Gaza in pursuit of Hamas, more than 18,000 Palestinians, over 8,600 of them children and 4,500 women, have died leading to support for Israel ebbing.

The UN has warned of a breakdown in the humanitarian system in Gaza where a majority of its 2.2 million residents have been displaced from their homes and face hunger and disease.

Illustrating the change in attitudes towards Israel, the earlier resolution on October 27 received 121 votes and it has risen to 153 for the latest resolution on Tuesday, while votes against came down from 14 to 10, and abstentions 44 to 23.

Biden on Tuesday acknowledged the situation saying in Washington that Israel is “starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place”.

India, in a change from its policy of firm support for Palestine, had abstained on the October resolution because it did not condemn terrorism.

But on Tuesday it voted for the latest resolution even though it did not condemn terrorism or name Hamas.

India supported an amendment moved by Austria to name Hamas as the party holding hostages and another by the US to condemn “the heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas,” both of which were voted down on Tuesday.

The US, Israel and Austria were among the 10 countries voting for the resolution, while Britain and Germany were among the abstainers.

“The situation that this August body has been deliberating upon, has many dimensions,” Kamboj said, laying out the dilemma over the situation.

She said, “There is the terrorist attack in Israel on October 7 and the concern for the hostages taken at that time. There is an enormous humanitarian crisis and the large-scale loss of civilian lives, especially of women and children.”

“There is the issue of observing international humanitarian law in all circumstances. And there is the endeavour to find a peaceful and lasting two states solution to the long-standing Palestine question,” she added.

India, which has been facing pressures internally and internationally to take a stand for a ceasefire because of the spiralling humanitarian crisis, took a finely balanced approach this time voting for the two amendments and the resolution as a whole.

UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis set the stage for the vote on the resolution saying, “Right now, what we are seeing is an onslaught on civilians, the breakdown of humanitarian systems, and profound disrespect for both international law and international humanitarian law.”

“Clearly, what we are witnessing is the unprecedented collapse of an already-crumbling humanitarian system, in real time,” he said.

US Permanent Representative to UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that Washington supports “a resumption of humanitarian pauses which could happen immediately if Hamas only agreed to release women, wounded, and civilian hostages”.

The US differentiates between a ceasefire, which could be for an indefinite duration, and a humanitarian pause which is limited in time and purpose.

Thomas-Greenfield said the US supported elements of the resolution, but could not vote for it because it failed to unequivocally condemn the “murdering babies and gunning down parents in front of their children”.

“We agree that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and requires urgent and sustained attention. That civilians desperately need food and water, and shelter and medical care. That a devastating number of innocent people have been killed, and that civilians must be protected, consistent with international humanitarian law,” she added.

Palestine’s Permanent Observer, Riyad Mansour said it was a “historic day” because of “the powerful message that was sent from the General Assembly” and vowed to ensure a ceasefire was implemented.

Last week, Washington vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, the second time it has done so.

Russia vetoed a resolution and China joined it in vetoing another.

However, the Council passed one resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in the fighting after Russia, the US and Britain abstained.

Late last month, the warring parties agreed to a four-day humanitarian pause in the fighting to enable humanitarian relief supplies to go to Gaza and for hostages to be released. It was extended for three more days.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

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