March 2, 2022
KATHMANDU – Nepal is likely to vote in favour of a UN resolution on the Ukraine crisis at a rare United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
The UN Security Council voted on Sunday to call for a rare emergency special session of the 193-member UN General Assembly on Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
The draft resolution has already been circulated to the member states, proposing to isolate Russia by deploring its “aggression against Ukraine” and demanding that Russian troops stop fighting and withdraw, according to Reuters.
After opposing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Nepal on Monday voted in favour of Ukraine’s call at the UN Human Rights Council for an urgent debate on the situation in Ukraine and to condemn Russia’s military operation.
According to the UN Human Rights Council, 29 nations including Nepal voted in favour of holding an urgent debate on the situation in Ukraine. Five nations—China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russian Federation and Venezuela—voted against holding an urgent debate, with 13 abstentions, including India. Nepal is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
“In line with our February 24 statement, we are going to support the UN resolution condemning the attack carried out by Russia,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official on the condition of anonymity because Nepal’s official position has yet to be communicated to Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations and other international organisations.
Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were working on preparing Nepal’s position on the Ukraine crisis on Tuesday before taking final approval from Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka.
“After approval from the prime minister and the foreign minister, we will communicate our position to New York,” said the official. “Since this is a sensitive matter, we cannot discuss our position prior to voting, but it will definitely be in support of the UN resolution and in favour of Ukraine.”
Nepal’s position this time is strikingly different from that of either India or China, two giant neighbours between which it is sandwiched.
Unlike in 2014, when Kathmandu chose to abstain from voting on the UN resolution on Crimea annexation by Russia, the Foreign Ministry this time chose to make a straightforward position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“It is not right to say that we always pursue or toe the line of India or China in such a sensitive vote at UN platforms,” said another senior Foreign Ministry official. “We pursue an independent foreign policy and make our own judgments.”
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sewa Lamsal said that the UN General Assembly has started deliberations on the situation in Ukraine and is going to vote on Tuesday as per New York local time.
Some foreign policy observers and diplomats have already made an appeal to the Nepal government to vote in favour of the UN resolution on Ukraine.
“Consistent with Nepal’s commitment to UN Charter, I strongly urge @SherBDeuba @MofaNepal @NepalUNNY @amritrai555 to vote to CONDEMN (not to abstain) Russian invasion of Ukraine at the ongoing Emergency Special Session of the @UN General Assembly on Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Kul Chandra Gautam, former UN assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of UNICEF, wrote on Twitter on Monday, just as the special UN General Assembly meeting convened.
“I personally condemn all unilateral military actions or sanctions not approved by @UN. Russian aggression is exceptionally blatant, unprovoked, contrary to UN Charter, not supported by any other country except its vassal Belarus and unbecoming of a totally isolated P-5 Power,” Gautam added. “[I] hope Nepal will not abstain again as it did in 2014 and in Myanmar.”
In June last year, Nepal abstained during the voting on a resolution condemning Myanmar’s military junta and calling for a stop to the flow of arms to the Southeast Asian country.
Nepal’s abstention from voting on a crucial resolution adopted against the atrocities committed by the junta in Myanmar had raised questions, as Nepal is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
In its February 24 statement, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a special military operation in Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry said that as a member of the United Nations, Nepal views that the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity as enshrined in the UN Charter are sacrosanct and must be fully respected by all member states.
“Nepal opposes any use of force against a sovereign country in any circumstance and believes in peaceful resolution of disputes through diplomacy and dialogue,” said the ministry.
While General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they carry political weight as they express the will of the wider UN membership.
In the history of the United Nations, only 10 emergency sessions of the General Assembly, like the one that is ongoing, have been convened since 1950.
On Friday, Russia vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution that would have deplored Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. In the 15-member Security Council, China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstained. The remaining 11 council members voted in favour.
On Monday, the Human Rights Council opened its 49th regular session in Geneva, where the Ukrainian delegation called for an emergency debate on the crisis in their country.
Of the 47 members in the council, 29 nations including Nepal voted in favour of Ukraine’s call for an emergency debate which now has been scheduled for Thursday.
Highlighting grave concerns over the toll on civilians from the “military attack on Ukraine”, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that “countless lives” were being put at risk, according to the Human Rights Council.
Around 300 or more Nepali nationals are said to be living in Ukraine, either pursuing higher education or doing jobs and businesses.
As many as 298 Nepali nationals have fled the country since the Russian invasion and reached neighbouring countries like Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, according to the Nepali embassy in Germany.
Dinesh Bhattarai, former Nepali Ambassador to Geneva, said that Nepal, situated between two giants and powerful countries should unequivocally condemn such aggression by Russia and should stand in favour of sovereignty and territorial integrity of small nations like Ukraine.
According to Bhattarai, Nepal should pursue its position at the UN General Assembly as per the framework of the February 24 statement.
“We have to show maximum concern about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and during voting, we have to reiterate our principles of non-alignment, our commitment to the UN charter and Panchsheel among others,” Bhattarai told the Post. “We fought against imperialism and colonialism and took a position on anti-apartheid movements. Such blatant attacks like the one by Russia are not acceptable in the 21st century. We should firmly stand in favour of Ukraine at this moment even though we must be cautious about not hurting our relations with Russia.”