Friday, February 23, 2024

Why did India stick with Russia in UN on Ukraine referendums

If you miss the first buttonhole, you will never manage it properly. Ask the wrong questions — expect to get useless answers. 


So the UN sought a vote from its 193-member General Assembly to denounce Russia incorporating four Ukrainian regions through referendums. 

Moscow wanted “secret ballots” but 107 nations are for “open, recorded” ballots which includes India. 

Moscow arguably wanted secret ballots for who would dare go against the Hegemon and side with Russia in open? No one fights a crocodile in water.

India went with the majority in asking for “open vote” but didn’t vote against Russia by abstaining from it.

At a superficial level, India must have been peeved by recent US’ moves: $450 million to modernize Pakistan’s F-16s; US envoy in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) which he referred to as Azad Kashmir; and Germany, a sidekick of US, looking for UN role in Kashmir. 

But at a deeper level, India must have gone by UN Charter and international laws with which it always professes to abide by.

So what does UN Charter say on the matter?

Article 1 of the UN Covenant on civil and political rights not only stipulate the right of self-determination of all people but also they are bound to promote it. 

Article 19 of the Covenant stipulates the right of all people to “freedom of expression.” 

There are any number of UN resolutions in its support. 

This is the principle which to led to Algeria gaining its independence from France through a referendum in 1962. 

In 1991, a number of referendums were held such as in Kosovo. The Serbs, like Ukraine today, opposed the referendum. Serbs, like Ukraine today, also didn’t recognize the referendum. 

The UN had also held self-determination referendums in Sudan, Timor-Leste and Ethiopia/Eritrea. 

The trouble is, UN allows or ignores these referendums to suit the Powers, that typical who-fights-crocodile-in-the-water syndrome. 

UN went for self-determination referendums in Sudan, Timor-Leste etc only after tens of thousands had been killed. 

It ignored referendums in Crimea in 2014; as it did in Abkhazia, Ossetia etc. 

In the present referendums in Ukraine, neither the UN, EU nor OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) showed any interest. (But when have the people’s interest mattered to them?). 

It’s another matter that around 130 international election monitors were there who saw the legitimacy of people’s vote in eastern Ukraine to join Russia in referendum. 

However, UN, EU, OSCE—these beacons of democracy and human rights—didn’t show any interest in people’s peaceful exercise of self-determination. 

Indeed, the UN should’ve held these referendums in 1991 itself when Ukraine broke away from the USSR, taking a large Russian minority (30% of the population) with it. 

A referendum should’ve been held in 2014 after the illegal “coup” in Ukraine. 

In the intervening eight years, UN itself has documented 14,000 killed in Donbass region. There was Minsk agreement. 

What did this supreme global body do to stop the endless killings? 

Wasn’t a referendum then in order?

 Why didn’t it stop NATO from compromising Ukraine’s neutrality? 

Wouldn’t its interventions have saved humanity from coming to such a sorry pass where it faces nuclear extinction?

The truth is, when ethnic groups can’t coexist in peace, it’s the duty of global bodies to protect their life and well-being. They should rise in unison and not be partisan. 

The principle of territorial integrity can’t override the right of people to their lives, to self-determination. 

Or how would you describe the 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO in 1999 which were completely in violation and illegal in the eyes of the UN Charter? 

NATO had attacked a nation without the approval of the Security Council. (We would let go Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria etc for the moment.)

The truth is, world is ja ungle and the sweet words of “democracy” and “freedom of expression” are mere weapons in the hands of the powerful. 

They have never meant the good for humanity and they never would. 

The precedent was set way back during the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War which only held Germans guilty of excesses but ignored completely the one of allies and what they did to civilian population of Germany, for example, razing Dresden, the then cultural capital of Europe, to ground. 

What about carpet bombing of tens of other German cities?

Or should we recall the obliteration of Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

It’s the same story in our times when the Iraq War of 2003 was fought on lies and neither Bush nor Blair have been termed as “war criminals”, never mind millions who have died, pillaged, raped or been rendered homeless. 

Or for that matter Afghanistan where the US wanted Talibans to hand over Osama bin Laden without providing the evidence?

Who accounts for tens of thousands lives similarly uprooted and extinguished in over two decades of boots on the Af ground? 

Remember, it was the West which supported the apartheid in South Africa. 

It was the US which had placed Nelson Mandela—hold your breath—on its international terrorist list where he remained till 2008. 

And Osama Bin Laden never made it to FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List even after 9/11!

The simple fact is: The legitimate right of people to secede through a popular, overwhelming will can’t be twisted as “annexation” by Russia. 

Modi’s India has been stoic in standing with justice, truth and process on the Ukraine Crisis. 

It would only get hotter in the kitchen; and for the sake of humanity, let’s pray India doesn’t look to save its skin. 

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