Pakistan abstains from voting on Ukraine resolution

Published February 25, 2023
UNITED NATIONS: Munir Akram delivers an explanation on the vote by Pakistan during the UNGA session. —APP
UNITED NATIONS: Munir Akram delivers an explanation on the vote by Pakistan during the UNGA session. —APP

UNITED NATIONS: Pakis­tan is among the 32 countries that abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly on Thursday on a resolution that rejected the forcible acquisition of land, and called for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

More than 60 countries, including the United States and major European powers, moved the resolution in the General Assembly’s 11th emergency session on Thursday, a day before the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution, which stressed that the Russian invasion violated the principles of the UN Charter, received 141 votes in favour, seven against, and was adopted by the assembly.

“Pakistan has abstained on the draft resolution,” said the country’s UN ambassador Munir Akram while explaining the move. But Islamabad “fully supports” the resolution’s “call for respect for the principle of the sovereignty, sovereign equality and territorial integrity of states and non-acquisition of territory by the threat or use of force,” he added.

Both Delhi, Islamabad have refrained from voting on UN resolutions, the former due to past ties, latter out of ‘future concerns’

The Pakistani envoy endorsed the resolution’s spirit that “states cannot be torn apart by the use of force” but noted that “these principles have not been universally applied and respected”. He pointed out that in the situation of foreign occupation and “the ongoing attempt at the illegal and forcible annexation of Jammu and Kashmir”, these principles were not applied.

“While my delegation agrees with and endorses the principles and general provisions contained in the draft resolution, there are some provisions which are not consistent with Pakistan’s principled position on some of the elements covered in the resolution,” he added.

Ambassador Akram said that as a country that had seen and suffered the consequences of prolonged conflict in its neighbourhood, “Pakistan attaches highest priority to the immediate cessation of hostilities and the resumption of a dialogue to achieve a just and durable solution — through direct or indirect negotiations, mediation or other peaceful means”.

The Pakistani envoy called on the secretary general, inter alia under Chapter VI and VIII of the UN Charter, to play his role for efforts aimed at de-escalation, renewed negotiations, and sustained dialogue for a peaceful diplomatic solution of the Ukrainian issue.

Pakistan, he said, also hoped for the resumption of a dialogue for durable resolution of the conflict based on the principles of the UN Charter and past agreements, and bearing in mind the legitimate security interests of all states“.

Consistent with its position on the draft resolution in the document, Pakistan had also abstained on the amendments proposed to the resolution by Belarus, which sought to “water down” the resolution.

Seven countries — Belarus, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, North Korea, Eritrea and Mali — voted against the resolution. All have close military and political ties with Russia.

So far, both India and Pakistan have refrained from voting on UN resolutions on Ukraine; India because of past ties and Pakistan out of future concerns.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said countries such as India and South Africa were expected on a trajectory away from alignment with Moscow, but that process would not happen “in one fell swoop”.

“There are countries that have long-standing, decades-long relationships with Russia, with the Soviet Union before, that are challenging to break off in one fell swoop. It’s not flipping a light switch, it’s moving an aircraft carrier,” Mr Blinken said in an interview with The Atlantic, marking the one-year anniversary of the war.In Washington, the abstentions are seen as reflecting national and regional concerns and, in some cases, as availing an opportunity to express their grievances against the West.

The Washington Post, while commenting on the abstentions, reported that “conversations with people in South Africa, Kenya and India suggest a deeply ambivalent view of the conflict, informed less by the question of whether Russia was wrong to invade than by current and historical grievances against the West”.

In some circles in Washington, Pakistan’s abstention is also explained in a similar fashion. Those aware of Pakistan’s paralysing energy shortage, argue that the country’s effort to seek subsidised oil from Russia is preventing it from taking a stronger stance on the Ukrainian issue.

Others point to Pakistan’s own explanation that while the resolution rejects forcible occupation of land in Ukraine, its movers do not apply the same principle to the Indian occupation of Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2023

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