With India in its eighth two-year tenure as an elected-member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), following is the fourteenth analysis in the ICWA series of ‘India in the UN Security: Monthly Recap’ by Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji, Former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations
Russia, one of the five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council (UNSC) presided over the Council in February 2022. Due to the Chinese New Year holidays and the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics the UNSC began its monthly meetings only from 7 February. Russia’s planned signature event was a UNSC Open Debate on Sanctions imposed for international peace and security and their impact or unintended consequences. A second signature event was a UNSC debate on cooperation between the UN and regional organizations focusing on the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
During the month, 5 UNSC resolutions (UNSCR) were adopted.
The UNSC issued five unanimous Press Statements during the month. These were on the situation in Myanmar (2 February); on 4 February on Lebanon, and on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); the situation in Burkina Faso (9 February); and on Iraq/Kuwait (28 February). India participated actively on all these outcomes of the UNSC.
The UNSC devoted six meetings during February on the Ukraine issue. At its meeting on 17 February, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, regretted that diplomatic talks in both the Normandy Four format and the Trilateral Contact Group remain deadlocked. The UN stressed that the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the 2015 Minsk Agreements remained the only Council-endorsed framework for a negotiated, peaceful settlement. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin expressed support for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and felt that Ukraine had no plans to implement them. It accused Ukraine of refusing to provide for the special status of certain regions in eastern Ukraine, as mandated by the agreements. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken of the United States focused on the likelihood of war with Russia invading Ukraine. France, one of the guarantors of the Minsk Agreements, said that implementing the Minsk agreements, which remained the suitable framework for dialogue, could not be considered separately from activities on Ukraine’s eastern borders with Russia. The UK reaffirmed support for the Minsk agreements and underscored the responsibility of all parties to fully implement them, while endorsing the views of the United States regarding an impending war. China praised the Russian Federation’s recent diplomatic engagement with the leaders of France, Germany and other nations. Emphasizing that European countries should make independent and strategic decisions, it said the gradual enlargement and expansion of NATO — a relic from the cold war — in eastern Europe must be addressed, as its agenda runs counter to current trends.
India said that the Minsk Agreements provide a basis for a negotiated and peaceful settlement of the situation in Eastern Ukraine. Steps that increase tension should be avoided by all sides in the larger interest of securing international peace and security. . The well-being of more than twenty thousand Indian students and nationals living and studying in different parts of Ukraine, including in its border areas were a priority for India.
At an emergency UNSC meeting on 21 February Ukraine’s delegate said his delegation called for this emergency meeting to draw attention to the Kremlin’s illegal decision to recognize the occupied parts of his country’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions as so-called “people’s republics”. The UN said that the Russian Federation’s decree to recognize the independence of certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions constituted a violation of the latter’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. It added that negotiation was the only way to address differences in accordance with UNSCR 2202 (2015). Russia said that the new President of Ukraine had promised in 2019 to establish peace through direct communication with inhabitants of the Donbas as stipulated in the Minsk accords, but instead the use of armed force had already driven 68,000 refugees into Russia. France condemned the Russian Federation’s recognition of the separatist eastern regions of Ukraine, as a violation of the UN Charter and UNSCR 2202 (2015). The United States warned of dire consequences following Russia’s actions. China said that the current situation in Ukraine was the result of “many complex factors” and that China would address it on its own merits. The UAE stressed the importance of de-escalating tensions and called for good faith efforts to chart a diplomatic path consistent with international law based on the Minsk Agreements.
India called for restraint on all sides. The immediate priority was de-escalation of tensions considering the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long term peace and stability in the region and beyond. There was need of greater efforts to find common ground to facilitate the implementation of the provisions of the Minsk Agreements, including key security and political aspects. India drew attention to its priority for the well-being of more than 20,000 Indian nationals living in Ukraine.
Ukraine called an emergency meeting of the UNSC on 23 February. It said that Russia should hand over the Presidency of the Council as it was a belligerent under the UN Charter. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres asked Russia to stop its troops from attacking Ukraine. His Secretariat informed the UNSC that said that earlier in the day, the so-called authorities of the Donetsk and Luhansk “peoples republics” requested military assistance from the Russian Federation, and Ukraine had begun mobilization of reservists. Russia said that the 4 million inhabitants of Eastern Ukraine had been subjected to armed attacks by the Ukrainian government since 2014. Ukraine was not ready for dialogue with the two republics or for steps to grant Donbas the special status provided for by the Minsk agreements. President Putin announced a special military operation in Donbas. The United States, UK, France, Albania, Ireland, Norway, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Gabon, and Mexico all criticized Russia’s actions. China said the door to a peaceful solution “is not fully shut, nor should it be”, and called on both parties to address the issues properly through negotiations and address each other’s legitimate security concerns, in line with the Charter principles. The UAE affirmed the importance of engaging in dialogue at all levels to support opportunities for peace that are based in international law. Clarifying that the Minsk agreements constitute a basis for peace, it stressed the importance of adhering to international law and the Charter of the United Nations, particularly through settling disputes by peaceful means.
India regretted that the calls of the international community to give time to the recent initiatives undertaken by parties to diffuse tensions where not heeded to. The situation was in danger of spiralling into a major crisis which could undermine the peace and security of the region. The legitimate security interests of all parties should be fully considered. India was committed to the need for peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law and with agreements entered by parties concerned. The solution lay in sustained diplomatic dialogue between the concerned parties. In the meantime, India, which had over 20,000 students in Ukraine, strongly emphasized the vital need for all sides to maintain international peace and security by exercising the utmost restraint.
Meeting on 25 February, the UNSC considered a draft resolution tabled by Albania and the United States holding the Russian Federation to account, affirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and demanding that Moscow immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraws its forces. Before the vote, delegations of the United States, Albania, the UK, Gabon, Mexico, and Brazil spoke in support of the resolution. The resolution garnered support from 11 members but was vetoed by the Russian Federation. Russia said its negative vote was due to what was left out of the draft text: that those who seized power in the coup d’état of 2014 had shelled the people of Donetsk and Luhansk; that Ukraine did not implement the Minsk agreements; and that neo-Nazis and militias continue to kill civilians. China, India and the United Arab Emirates all abstained. China said it abstained because the Council’s response should be taken with great caution, with actions to defuse and not add fuel to the fire. The UAE said it was aware of the critical importance of ensuring a regional security environment based on de-escalation, diplomacy, and dialogue.
India explained its decision to abstain on the proposed resolution after the vote. It said that all efforts should be made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities. No solution could ever be arrived at, at the cost of human lives. India was concerned about the Indian community in Ukraine. The contemporary global order had been built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. These principles had to be honoured by all states in finding a way forward. Dialogue was the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment. Countries must return to the path of diplomacy. India urged that all efforts to be made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities.
Faced with the deadlock in the UNSC, Albania and the United States moved a procedural resolution (UNSCR 2623) on 27 February adopted by 11 votes in favour, one against (Russia) and three abstentions (China, India, and UAE), to refer the Ukraine Crisis to the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The resolution was adopted since a procedural resolution cannot be vetoed by any permanent member.
India conveyed after the vote that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken recently to the Presidents of Russia and Ukraine, and India welcomed the announcement by both sides to engage in bilateral talks at the Belarus border. The global order is anchored on international law, UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states, and India with all other member-states agreed on these principles. The evacuation of Indian nationals from Ukraine had been adversely impacted by the complex and uncertain situation at the border crossings. Considering the “totality” of the circumstances India had decided to abstain from the vote.
The sixth meeting on Ukraine in the UNSC was held on 28 February, to consider the humanitarian situation. Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council and Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spoke of the increasing humanitarian crisis with an expected 4 million people becoming refugees due to the conflict in coming weeks. Ukraine welcomed the appointment of Amin Awad of Sudan as Assistant-Secretary-General to serve as the United Nations Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine. The United States blamed Russia for causing this humanitarian crisis. Russia said currently it had 110,000 refugees from Donbas who had to leave their homes a week ago when Kyiv tried to resolve the Donbas issue militarily, in violation of the Minsk Agreements. Russia’s aim was the demilitarization of the country, which was crammed with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) weapons. France announced it would table a joint resolution with Mexico calling for full respect for humanitarian law and unobstructed humanitarian access to respond to the urgent needs of the civilian population. China emphasized that the United Nations and the international community must provide humanitarian assistance in the spirit of neutrality and impartiality, to avoid politicizing the process. Kenya said that there have been disturbing reports about the appalling racist treatment of Africans and people of African descent seeking to flee Ukraine to safety. The unilateral sanctions on Russia would have humanitarian consequences and could escalate the conflict.
India, participating in the discussions, said that it attached the highest priority to the safety and well-being of civilians, in particular women, children, and elderly. India emphasized that core principles of humanitarian assistance should be fully honoured. India had decided to provide urgent relief supplies, including medicines, to Ukraine. There was no other option but to return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue, as the only way ahead.
Hans Grundberg, the United Nations Special Envoy on his work on a framework plan to move the parties towards an inclusive political settlement on the three tracks of political, security and economic matters. Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said dwindling funding remained the humanitarian community’s largest obstacle in Yemen, with some 8 million people likely to stop getting food all together by March. The United States, Russia and China endorsed the Special Envoy’s initiative. The UK said in January, it had hosted a “Quint” meeting with Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the United States to coordinate an approach to the conflict.
India recalled that around 9 million Indians lived and worked in the Gulf region and two Indian nationals were killed in the attack on the United Arab Emirates on 17 January, while one was injured in the attack on Abha airport in Saudi Arabia. “The deliberate escalation of the conflict outside of Yemen’s borders and the heightened provocative rhetoric by Ansar Allah is deplorable,” India stressed, noting that fighting has also spilled over into the maritime domain with attacks and dangerous approaches towards shipping and commercial vessels in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Gulf of Oman.
Middle East/Palestine: On 23 February Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, updated the UNSC on the political process through a package of incremental steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and chart the way towards a two-State reality. The United States said all parties must refrain from unilateral actions that undercut prospects for a two-State solution, and all perpetrators must be held accountable. Russia called on all parties to refrain from provocation and unilateral steps, and for direct negotiations between the sides. China expressed concern over Israel’s settlement activities. France said it was “a pipe dream” to think that peace can only be bought with economic measures.
India said that the parties to the dispute must focus on addressing the urgent security and economic challenges, including the precarious financial situation of the Palestinian Authority, and chart a concrete path for discussing key political issues. India reiterated the need for an early resumption of the political course by launching credible negotiations on all final status issues.
Iraq: Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) briefed the UNSC on 24 February 2022 regarding the political impasse in Iraq due to the lack of parliamentary quorum to elect the next President. This had held up the reforms required by Iraq and enhanced the terrorist threat from Dae’sh. The United States congratulated the Iraqi people for successfully holding free and fair elections in October, with the Independent High Electoral Commission, with UNAMI assistance, implementing a secure, technically sound voting and counting process monitored by international observers. Russia highlighted that the terrorist threat in Iraq was being countered through broad coordination through the quadripartite military information centre (Russia, Iraq, Iran and Syria) functioning in Baghdad. China commended UNAMI’s support for the electoral process and hoped UNAMI would begin to support Iraq’s developmental priorities.
India supported the democratic process underway in Iraq. The critical situation facing Iraq now required all political parties to assume greater responsibility to overcome the current political stalemate. Regional actors must stop using Iraqi territory as a launch pad for targeted attacks on other countries in the region. A strong, stable, and sovereign Iraq would lead to greater security and stability in the region.
Syria: On 25 February Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy for Syria briefed the Council on the fragile nature of the political and security situation in the country. He outlined several areas for ongoing discussion, including the upcoming session of the Small Body of the Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, United Nations-facilitated Constitutional Committee, scheduled to be held in March 2022. He had engaged with the Syrian Government and the Syrian Negotiations Commission, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Turkey, and the Russian Federation to get agreement on a political solution, which was “the only way out”. The UN Humanitarian Affairs department said 14.6 million Syrians depended on humanitarian assistance, higher by 9 per cent than in 2021. 12 million people were food insecure, with food getting progressively more expensive due to the descent of the economy. The United States welcomed the announcement of the new round of talks of the Syrian Constitutional Committee and called on all parties to adhere to the format of the meeting and to engage in good faith. Russia supported the process to find a political solution through the meetings of the Constitutional Committee and called for lifting unilateral sanctions on Syria that exacerbated its humanitarian crisis. China supported the political process through the meetings of the Constitutional Committee and lifting of the embargo to allow Syria to facilitate the entry of relief and to enable post-war reconstruction.
India supported the Special Envoy’s active diplomatic efforts to end the stalemate in the Constitutional Committee process including the March 2022 meeting, as well as his recent visits to Damascus and Moscow and engagement with regional players like Egypt. India looked forward to receiving the Special Envoy’s paper on ‘new ideas’, as was conveyed in January to the Council, and hoped that it would address issues related to reconstruction as well. On the resurgence of terrorism in Syria, India said that terrorists can neither be defeated by forming alliances with non-sovereign entities nor by pushing narrow political agendas. A nation-wide ceasefire was a prerequisite for humanitarian assistance to Syria since ongoing cross border operations continue to negatively impact on the sovereignty of the Syrian state.
On 28 February, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu stated that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Technical Secretariat was yet to receive the requested declaration from Syria on all undeclared types and quantities of nerve agents produced and/or weaponized at one former chemical weapons production facility. Syria had not yet provided sufficient technical information or explanations that would enable the Secretariat to close the investigation. The United States said that attempts by the Assad regime and its allies to impugn the integrity of OPCW was part of a desperate campaign to distract from the human tragedy. It also condemned “the disinformation narratives” of the Russian Federation. Russia regretted the absence of the DG of the OPCW at the UNSC meeting and called the findings of the Technical Team technically illiterate and politically biased. China said that politicization of the OPCW must be avoided and decisions in that body must be taken by consensus, not through voting.
India urged for continued engagement between Syria and the OPCW Technical Secretariat to resolve the differences at the earliest, so that the integrity and effectiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention was upheld.
Somalia: On 15 February James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), told the UNSC that the Al-Shabaab continued to pose a major security threat. Somalia remained the most severely drought-affected country in the Horn of Africa, with 4.3 million people impacted and 271,000 displaced. The United States said AMISOM should be able to adapt to an evolving situation on the ground and hand over responsibility to the Somali security forces. China said that Somali parties had been moving forward with the electoral process and settled their differences through dialogue and consultation. Russia expressed confidence in the Special Representative’s ability to help reduce political tensions, and supported Somalia’s approach in continuing with the African Union AMISOM peacekeeping operation.
India regretted that political tensions in Somalia had slowed down the electoral process and supported the work of the Special Representative to overcome this. The failure to meet upcoming electoral deadlines would strengthen the hands of adversaries of democracy in Somalia, such as the terror group Al Shabaab. The continuing role of AMISOM, including its predictable funding, was a priority, and India looked forward to discussing a CAR: Mankeur Ndiaye, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central African Republic (CAR) and Head of the United Nations peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA) briefed the UNSC on 22 February on the slow progress being made to advance the peace process in the CAR. The newly appointed Government faced several challenges, including the resumption of dialogue, restoration of State authority and holding of elections for the first time in three decades. France called the activities of “armed groups” in the CAR unacceptable and expressed regret that work by the Panel of Experts was being blocked by Russia. The United States criticized the activities of the non-state Wagner Group (associated with Russia) for supporting the government of CAR to violate the status of forces agreement under which UN peacekeepers were deployed in the country and asserted the arms embargo on CAR must continue. China said the government’s work should be supported, and the arms embargo on CAR should be lifted. Russia said the campaign to discredit the Wagner Group was “bewildering” as they were in the CAR at the request of its government.
India supported the initiatives of the new government in CAR to facilitate the reform process and hold a national dialogue, leading to the holding of elections. India “strongly condemned” attacks on UN peacekeepers and said that only enhanced cooperation between MINUSCA and CAR authorities could ensure that peacekeepers would not be victims of targeted attacks.
Haiti: Helen La Lime, the Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), said via videoconference to the UNSC on 18 February that progress along a sustainable democratic path in Haiti hinged on rebuilding crumbling institutions and forging an inclusive dialogue to foster stability and peace with a time-bound electoral calendar. The United States affirmed that its outreach to stakeholders in Haiti demonstrated its continuing commitment. Mexico called for early elections to strengthen Haiti’s transition. China called for coordination between the UNSC and the UN Peacebuilding Commission. Brazil supported this approach. Russia said the lack of progress in Haiti was due to deadlock in the domestic dialogue between political forces and lack of progress in investigating the assassination of President Moïse, which reportedly had links to foreign actors.
India supported the holding of democratic elections and strengthening of law and order in Haiti. India called for more projects under the Peacebuilding Commission in Haiti to tackle community violence reduction and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, including capacity-building.
Sanctions Measures: On 7 February Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under Secretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs told the UNSC that UN sanctions were “not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian populations”. Martin Griffiths, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that sanctions should not impede the assistance and protection activities of impartial humanitarian organizations for persons who are not fighting. Russia said unilateral coercive measures encroach on the sovereignty of States and undermine the norms of international law. The United States said unilateral sanctions are legal and effective in stemming threats when the Council remains deadlocked over certain pressing issues. China said unilateral sanctions have caused great disasters and chaos in some countries, undermining the Council’s own regimes. Gabon was concerned that 8 of the Council’s 14 sanctions regimes were on African States.
India said sanctions under Article 41 of the UN Charter are required to be provisional in nature and not permanent. Sanction measures should be neutral in nature and should not become political instruments of the few powerful. Sanctions should always be used as an instrument of last resort after having exhausted all other options, and in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter and should not be violative of principles of international law. There should be a clear end goal for such sanctions and a clear timeline and criteria for its phased withdrawal be ideally spelt out from the inception stage itself. The UNSC must fully consult all the key regional countries before considering any such measures because, often the impact of sanctions is felt not just by the country but by its entire region. Realistic and achievable benchmarks were needed to ensure compliance. Terrorist groups should not be allowed to take advantage of humanitarian carve-outs, as had happened in India’s region, by re-branding themselves as humanitarian organizations to evade these sanctions. The archaic and opaque working methods of Subsidiary Bodies of the Council need to become open, transparent, and credible to overcome significant challenges in overseeing the sanctions measures.
Counter Terrorism: On 9 February, Vladimir Voronkov, UN Under-Secretary-General for Counterterrorism told the Council that the global fight against the threat posed by Da’esh, and its affiliates remained a “long-term game” for which there are “no quick fixes”. The UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate spotlighted a shift by Da’esh to the African continent, as well as efforts to exploit recent developments in Afghanistan. The United States highlighted the need to cut off terrorist groups’ financing flows, while expressing concern that ISIS and Al-Qaida have metastasized in parts of Africa and grafted onto local conflicts and grievances to further their own aims. China called for curbing the new wave of terrorist groups, which are spreading across Africa and other regions, adding that ETIM (active in Xinjiang and proscribed under UNSC resolution 1267) currently trained recruits in Syria to launch attacks in Asian countries, including China. Russia said that the core of ISIS operations has shifted to the African continent and the United States had allowed huge volumes of its modern weapons and technology to fall into the hands of ISIS in Afghanistan.
India said the spread of ISIS into Africa needed to be countered, including by unconditional financial support to regional bodies in West Africa fighting against terrorism. India specifically briefed the UNSC on the terrorist threats in South Asia, including the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, the 2016 Pathankot terror attack, and the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack, that had got “State support and hospitality” from India’s neighbouring state. It was worrying that the 2021 Report of the Taliban Sanctions Committee had documented the continuation of links between Taliban, especially through the Haqqani Network, and Al Qaida and other terrorist groups in our neighbourhood, which the UNSG’s report had omitted. This needed to be corrected by the UNSG. A new dimension of the terrorist threat facing UN member-states was the use by terrorists of ICT, social media, emerging technologies such as new digital payment methods, encrypted messaging services, cryptocurrencies, crowdfunding platforms, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, etc.
CSTO: On 16 February Stanislav Zas, Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), briefed the UNSC on the bloc’s recent activities, including its first-ever peacekeeping deployment to Kazakhstan in January. The UNSC discussed the potential of the CSTO to cooperate with the UN, especially in Afghanistan and Central Asia. The United States and UK were sceptical of this idea, with the United States asserting that it had ongoing successful cooperation in Central Asia with the C5+1 group. Russia said Central Asia and Afghanistan were viable areas for CSTO cooperation with the UN. China said it had worked cooperatively with CSTO member states on a range of activities, including promoting economic integration to build a closer community with a shared future.
India noted the ongoing cooperation between the UN and CSTO based on the 2010 Joint Declaration. The United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia had also contributed further to strengthening of cooperation on issues of shared interest and concern, mainly terrorism, violent extremism, and drug trafficking. India supported active engagement between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations, in line with the Charter of the UN.
The impact of the Ukraine Crisis of February 2022 will have far-reaching implications on the effectiveness and ability of the UNSC to maintain international peace and security. This highlights the urgent need for UNSC reform.
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