India and China raised concerns about the impact of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine—emphasizing the violation of international law and territorial integrity—at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, rare signs of dissent from the two countries that were likely prompted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s implicit threat to use nuclear weapons.
Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said “there can be no justification for violation of human rights or of international law,” pointing to reports of mass killings in Ukrainian territories that were previously under Russian control.
In an apparent criticism of Putin’s veiled threats, Jaishankar said the “nuclear issue is a particular anxiety” and flagged the issue of global food and fuel shortages triggered by the invasion.
Jaishankar also reiterated India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent exchange with Putin where he said “today’s era is not of war,” urging the Russian leader to peacefully end the conflict.
Ahead of a Russian orchestrated referendum to annex Ukraine’s territory, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing believes that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected” adding “the principles of the U.N. Charter should be observed.”
After a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping earlier this month, Putin admitted Xi had raised “questions and concerns” about the situation in Ukraine.
The foreign minister of Brazil and South Africa—which are members of the BRICS alliance also featuring Russia, India and China—also condemned the “ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine” and emphasized the need to maintain the “territorial integrity of states.”
Recognizing the apparent shift in opinion towards Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Security Council: “We hear a lot about the divisions among countries at the United Nations. But recently, what is striking is the remarkable unity among member-states when it comes to Russia’s war on Ukraine…Even a number of nations that maintain close ties with Moscow have said publicly that they have serious questions and concerns about President Putin’s ongoing invasion.”
Both India and China have attempted to remain neutral amid the ongoing conflict and have shied away from publicly criticizing Russia. Ahead of the invasion, China said it had a “no limits” partnership with Russia and even agreed it had legitimate concerns about the expansion of NATO in eastern Europe. Since the start of the conflict, Chinese officials have criticized Western sanctions against Russia but it has not provided any military support to Moscow. India has tried to avoid criticizing Russia—its largest supplier of weapons—even as it has developed close ties with the United States amid a brewing regional rivalry with China. As western nations have moved to cut back or sanction Russian energy, India and China have continued to import cheap oil from Russia. Both countries have also refused to participate in the G7’s effort to put a cap on Russian oil prices. However, Russian efforts to annex large swathes of Ukrainian territory and Putin’s threat of using nuclear weapons might have been a bridge too far for both China and India—who are nuclear-armed and have multiple territorial disputes with other nations.
World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow (Associated Press)