The message is in the fine print. India may have abstained from a vote that would allow a discussion on the abuse of human rights in the Uyghur region in China at the United Nations Human Rights Commission. But, the ministry of external affairs is trying to send a message to China. And there is a sting in that tail.
In a response to a question explaining India’s abstinence, the spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs Arindam Bagchi said that the abstinence was in line with its long-held position that country specific resolutions were never helpful.
“India had taken note of the OHCHR Assessment of human rights concerns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China,’’ he said. “The human rights of the people of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region should be respected and guaranteed. We hope that the relevant party will address the situation objectively and properly.’’
He added that India favoured “a dialogue to deal with such issues,’’ he said.
While India choosing not to vote for a discussion is being read — and has been criticised by the Opposition as India “diffidence’’ on China — the statement on the vote attempts to camouflage the message to China.
This is the first time that India has chosen to directly call out China on the human rights abuse of Uyghurs. And India is hoping like China, that has managed to make this vote a win, to make abstinence be viewed in a more nuanced way. It is an altering of stance as on September 1, when asked to comment on the report, Bagchi had said, "Our understanding is that the report is about serious maltreatment of minorities in Xinjiang. But, this is a UNHRC report so let the UN comment on it except to note that this is about the serious maltreatment of minorities in Xinjiang.”
The move for a resolution calling for a discussion on the human rights situation in Xinjiang by the US, Britain and Canada at the UNHRC on Thursday. There were 17 votes in favour and 19 against while 11 countries abstained.
China’s ability to secure a win, pitted against a US-led vote, is being seen as a display of its raw power. It is also very much a blow for the UN as the report was prepared by its own Human Rights Commissioner. China has managed to swing the votes in favour — despite the pressure by the West.
India’s position was certainly watched carefully; it was the abstinence of Mexico that was under the radar. Before the vote — where there was frantic lobbying by both sides and was believed to be a close call - China had pushed hard to ensure that Mexico remained neutral.
However, it was really the voting against the motion by the Muslim countries at large that ensured that China won. Indonesia — the largest Muslim country — a vocal advocate for the Uyghur cause then chose to vote against it. "This is a disaster. This is really disappointing," Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, has been quoted as saying to The Jakarta Post. "We will never give up but we are really disappointed by the reaction of Muslim countries," he added.