India abstains in UNHRC vote against Israel

New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) Marking a significant change in stance, India abstained on a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution condemning Israel over a UN report into the alleged war crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza conflict.

But India on Friday stated that “there is no change in New Delhi’s long-standing position on support to the Palestinian cause”.

The ministry of external affairs spokesperson said that India’s reason for abstention in the resolution A/HRC/29/L.35 was the reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC.

“In the past also, whenever a Human Rights Council resolution made a direct reference to the ICC, as happened in the Resolutions on Syria and North Korea, our general approach had been to abstain.”

“We have followed the same principle in our voting on today’s Resolution,” spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

Forty-one of the 47 UNHRC council members voted in favour of the resolution, including the eight sitting EU members: France, Germany, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Latvia and Estonia.

One country — the US — voted against the resolution.

India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Macedonia abstained.

Israeli daily Haaretz said: “The fact that India abstained reflects a significant policy change by Delhi; traditionally, India voted in favour of all anti-Israel resolutions in UN institutions. Friday’s abstention was another sign of warming ties between India and Israel since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.”

Officials at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office expressed their appreciation for the “principled” American position in opposing the “hypocritical condemnation” by the UNHRC.

The officials said that over the past few days Netanyahu spoken with the leaders of India, Kenya and Ethiopia, three of the five countries that abstained in the vote, said the Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Israel this year, in the first such by an Indian prime minister.

An independent UN commission of inquiry on Monday released its report on Operation Protective Edge, finding evidence that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the war in the Gaza Strip last summer and calling the devastation caused in the Palestinian territory “unprecedented”.

The members of the commission, which was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, hinted in their report that the upper levels of the Israeli political echelon were responsible for the policies that led to some of these war crimes.

“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come” said the commission’s American chairwoman, Justice Mary McGowan Davis. “There is also on-going fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat.”

The chairwoman of the commission urged the international community to act on the conclusions of the report – primarily by supporting an investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague in to the status of the occupied Palestinian territories.

In the 50-day war last summer, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

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