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India abstains from Human Rights Council vote to probe Russian actions:

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 07, Mar 2022
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India has abstained on a vote at the UNHRC resolution which “strongly condemned” aggression by Russia on Ukraine.

What was the resolution about?

It asked the council to set up an international commission of enquiry into Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

  • The resolution said it was “gravely concerned” about reports of human rights violations by Russian forces, civilian casualties and the forced displacement of 6,60,000 refugees due to Russian “bombing and shelling” in populated areas.

Supported by?

32 countries, or nearly two-thirds of the Council voted for the resolution.


India was among 13 countries of the 47-member council elected from UN members that abstained from the resolution, along with China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

Only Russia and Eritrea voted against the resolution.

  • Russia has denied targeting civilian areas, and Russian President Putin had accused the Ukraine government of attacks and human rights violations in the Eastern Donbas region to justify military operations in Ukraine.

India’s position on Ukraine:

India’s position at the HRC adds to a string of abstentions at the United Nations and multilateral groups since the start of Russian military operations in Ukraine on February 24, even as the continuing Russian military advances in Ukraine have seen more and more countries vote for resolutions that criticise Moscow.

  • Indian government has decided to abstain from three votes at the UN Security Council, two at the UN General Assembly in New York, two at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and one at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

About UNHRC:

UNHRC was reconstituted from its predecessor organisation, the UN Commission on Human Rights to help overcome the “credibility deficit” of the previous organisation.

  • Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.


  • The UNHRC has 47 members serving at any time with elections held to fill up seats every year, based on allocations to regions across the world to ensure geographical representation.
  • Each elected member serves for a term of three years.
  • Countries are disallowed from occupying a seat for more than two consecutive terms.


  • The UNHRC passes non-binding resolutions on human rights issues through a periodic review of all 193 UN member states called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
  • It oversees expert investigation of violations in specific countries (Special Procedures).

Challenges and Need for reforms:

  • The human rights record of the member-states such as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia in the council has also not been in line with the aims and mission of the UNHRC, which has led to critics questioning its relevance.
  • Despite the continued participation of several western countries in the UNHRC, they continue to harbour misgivings on the understanding of Human rights.
  • Non-compliance has been a serious issue with respect to the UNHRC’s functioning.
  • Non-participation of powerful nations such as the US.

What’s the concern now?

The Indian decision to abstain from the voting was not siding with anyone; it was in its own national interest, say few.

  • However, these decisions have been condoned by most Indian commentators as an attempt to make the best of a bad hand.
  • As our largest arms supplier, Russia has been a dependable ally, they say; it has shielded India at the UN over Kashmir, not to mention Bangladesh, back in 1971.
  • Moreover, to vote against Russia will push it further into China’s arms, multiplying that country’s security threat to India.

Why shouldn’t India completely rely on Russia?

The above arguments have been out of date since the end of the Cold War three decades ago, and Vladimir Putin’s rise 20 years ago.

  • More dangerously still, they reveal a fatalism towards India’s own national security interests that will only damage us further as time goes by.

Yes, Russia is our largest arms provider and our supplies will be hit if we vote against it. But no, Russia is not a reliable arms provider; it has not been one since Putin came to power.

  • Arms supplies are frequently long-delayed, and Putin had used the delays to up the prices, sometimes even double them. By contrast, the French deliveries of the Rafael jets have been comparatively speedy.
  • Far from helping us, Putin has turned a blind eye to China’s many acts of aggression against India.
  • It was Russia that kept us out of Afghan peace negotiations in the very recent past.
  • Russia did little to help us when China raised Kashmir at the UNSC in 2019 and 2020. It was the US and European countries that helped then – going against their own human rights principles.