Explained: Why Did India Abstain From Voting On UN Resolution For Humanitarian Truce In Gaza Strip, Does It Mark Shift In Policy?

India was among the 45 member-states that abstained from voting on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that called for immediate ceasefire on Gaza but made no mention of Hamas that began this war with the worst attack ever on Israel on October 7.

India's Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Yojna Patel delivering remarks at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on the Israel-Hamas War.

India on Friday abstained from a vote in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) calling for an immediate "humanitarian truce" in Gaza Strip in the ongoing Israel-Hamas War. 

Of 193 member states, 179 participated in the vote, of whom 120 voted in favour, 14 voted against the resolution, and 45 abstained from voting. 

Among those who voted against the UNGA resolution were the United States and Canada and those who voted in favour were dominated by the Arab world and large parts of the developing world. The resolution was drafted by Jordan. 

The UNGA resolution did not mention Hamas or its attack on Israel on October 7 that triggered the ongoing war and the United States called it an "omission of evil". India also indicated at the omission as Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Yojna Patel said the world should "unite and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism" and should not buy any justification for terrorism. 

While some, including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra of the Congress party, have been outraged over India's vote, the vote is in line with the principled stand that the Narendra Modi government has taken in the ongoing war. While Modi condemned the Hamas attack unequivocally, India also sent humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and condemned the hospital blast at Gaza City that killed hundreds. 

How did India vote on Israel-Hamas War at UN?

India was among the 45 member-states to abstain from voting in the resolution that called for the immediate "humanitarian truce" in the Israel-Hamas War.

India voted in favour of an amendment that sought the inclusion of a paragraph in the resolution condemning the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas that began the ongoing war. At least 1,400 were killed, around 5,400 were injured, and over 220 were abducted and taken to Gaza as hostages by Hamas on October 7 in the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust. Children were killed and accounts of sexual assaults of women victims have also surfaced. The amendment was defeated.

The amendment said it "unequivocally rejects and condemns the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on 7 October 2023 and the taking of hostages, demands the safety, well-being and humane treatment of the hostages in compliance with international law, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release". 

In a statement at the UNGA, Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Yojna Patel noted that the "escalation of hostilities in the region will only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis" and called for the resolution of the conflict through talks. At the same time, she unequivocally condemned terrorism without naming Hamas, which Israel and several countries have designated as a terrorist organisation. 

"Casualties in the ongoing conflict in Gaza are a telling, serious and continuing concern. Civilians, especially women and children are paying with their lives. This humanitarian crisis needs to be addressed. We welcome the international community’s de-escalation efforts and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. India too has contributed to this effort," said Patel.

She further said, "The terror attacks in Israel on 7th October were shocking and deserve condemnation. Our thoughts are also with those taken hostages. We call for their immediate and unconditional release. Terrorism is a malignancy and knows no borders, nationality, or race. The world should not buy into any justification of terror acts. Let us keep aside differences, unite and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism."

Did Indian vote change Indian stand on Palestine?

The Indian vote represented the long-running principled position of India under which it condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations anywhere on Earth and also supports the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, including the support of the two-state solution.

The two-state solution is the proposed resolution of the Israel-Palestine crisis in a way that two nations, one a Jewish State of Israel and another Arab State of Palestine, can exist together in the region. Formally, Israel and its principal backer the United States also endorse the idea. 

"In theory, this would win Israel security and allow it to retain a Jewish demographic majority (letting the country remain Jewish and democratic) while granting the Palestinians a state. Most governments and world bodies have set achievement of the two-state solution as official policy, including the United States, the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This goal has been the basis of peace talks for decades," noted The New York Times in an article in 2016.

India's Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Yojna Patel also expressed support for the two-state solution during the vote.

"India has always supported a negotiated two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders, side-by-side in peace with Israel. For this, we urge the parties to de-escalate, eschew violence and work towards creating conditions for an early resumption of direct peace negotiations," said Patel.

Patel also said that the situation in Gaza is a "telling, serious and continuing concern". 

Israel has been carrying out airstrikes in Gaza since the beginning of the war to take down Hamas leaders and facilities, but widespread Palestinian casualties have also taken place. Latest figures from Hamas-run Gaza authorities say at least 7,700 deaths have taken place in Israeli attacks, including at least 3,200 children.  

West Asia expert Kabir Taneja also noted that India had also abstained from a vote on the issue of war crimes in the Israel-Hamas War of 2014, which makes the current vote in line with the long-held Indian policy. 

The Indian stand also separates Hamas and Palestine. As US President Joe Biden has also said, Hamas does not mean Palestine. The Indian vote and stand in the ongoing war, in which India condemns the terrorism of Hamas and sends humanitarian aid to Gaza's Palestinian civilians, is therefore in line with the long-held support for the people of Palestine and condemnation of terror in all its forms and at all places.