India abstained on a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that "deplores in the strongest terms" Russia's "aggression" against Ukraine, with New Delhi saying dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes and voicing "regret" that the path of diplomacy was given up.
The resolution did not pass since permanent member Russia, and President of the Security Council for the month of February, used its veto. The resolution received 11 votes in favour and three abstentions, including by India, China and the UAE.
"India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine. We urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador TS Tirumurti said in India's explanation of vote in the Council.
"Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment. It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. For all these reasons, India has chosen to abstain on this resolution," Tirumurti said.
The UN Security Council on Friday voted on the draft resolution by the US and Albania and co-sponsored by several other nations including Australia, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom.
Russia, a permanent member of the 15-member powerful Security Council, used its veto power and the resolution failed, as expected, but Western nations said the resolution seeks to show Moscow's isolation on the global stage for its invasion and actions against Ukraine.
All eyes were on how India will cast its vote on the resolution given that New Delhi has strong defence ties with Moscow. The Council resolution reaffirms its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
The resolution "deplores in the strongest terms" Russia's aggression against Ukraine" and decides that Russia "shall immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and shall refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any UN member state."
The resolution also said that Russia "shall immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders."
The resolution said Moscow "shall immediately and unconditionally reverse the decision related to the status of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine."
During a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi "appealed for an immediate cessation of violence, and called for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to discuss Russia's "premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine", the State Department said.
Blinken "stressed the importance of a strong collective response to condemn Russia's invasion and call for an immediate withdrawal and ceasefire."
India has so far refrained from condemning Russia's actions in Ukraine and in a statement in the Security Council on Wednesday night, just as Putin ordered Ukraine's invasion, Tirumurti expressed "deep concern" over the developments, which if not handled carefully, may well undermine the peace and security of the region.
Ahead of the UNSC vote, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet that in a call to Jaishankar, he asked "India to use all influence in its relations with Russia to force it to cease military aggression against Ukraine. Urged India as a non-permanent UNSC member to support today's draft resolution on restoring peace in Ukraine."
A senior Biden administration official had said a day before that Washington was putting forward the resolution "with every expectation that Russia will use its veto" and in doing so, "they will underscore their isolation."
"First, of course, we expect that Russia will use its veto. And in doing so, they will underscore their isolation. We're not going to abandon our principles; we're not going to stand by and do nothing. It's important that we send a message to Ukraine, to Russia, and to the world that the Security Council will not look away," the official said.