India ‘abstained’ at UNSC on Ukraine due to ‘national interest’: Foreign Secretary Shringla

New Delhi: India has defended its decision to choose the middle path and abstain from voting in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the Ukraine crisis and said the government’s move is directed by what is in the “best interest” of the country.

“In United Nations we take positions that are based on certain careful considerations and certainly, we do regard the merits of each and every case that comes before us… take decisions in our best interest,” Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla told reporters at a special briefing on Tuesday (March 1) evening.

On safety and security of Indians, he said PM Narendra Modi spoke to his counterparts from the Slovak Republic and Romania to seek assistance in continued support to the evacuation efforts.

“He has just now (on Tuesday evening) spoken to President of Poland in a similar endeavour. He also received calls from Presidents of France and EU,” Shringla said.

“We had an estimated 20,000 Indian students in Ukraine at the time that we issued our first advisory. From that number, approximately 12,000 have since left Ukraine, which is 60% of the total number of our citizens in Ukraine,” the Foreign Secretary said.

On Naveen’s casualty

“Naveen’s body taken to morgue in university; did speak to his parents in Karnataka earlier today. We’ll not only try and evacuate our nationals from conflict zone as soon as possible but also bring back Naveen’s body. We are in touch with local authorities in that regard,” he said. 

The Indian government had advised all Indian nationals in Kyiv to head to western parts & exit from there whenever they could. They can go towards Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Poland & Moldova. 

“At least 7700 nationals have exited through these routes, 2000 have returned and 4000-5000 waiting for aircraft,” he said. 

Two tonnes of humanitarian aid, including tents, blankets, surgical gloves, protective eye gear, water storage tanks, sleeping mats, tarpaulin & medicines, have been sent to Ukraine. 

“A flight left Tuesday carrying the first tranche of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, through Poland. The consignment comprised medicines, medical equipment & other relief material. Another flight tomorrow will carry a second consignment, also through Poland,” he said. 

The deteriorating situation in Kharkiv is now a matter of grave concern. The safety and security of Indian nationals in that city has been the utmost priority for the Government. The government of India has already taken up with the Russian and Ukrainian Embassies the pressing requirement of safe passage for Indian nationals, including students from Kharkiv and other cities in conflict zones.

Sources said, from the Indian side, the preparations for evacuation have been in place for some time now. “An Indian team has been positioned in the Russian city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border. However, the conflict situation in and around Kharkiv and nearby cities has been an obstacle,” a source said.

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