India on Thursday abstained from voting on a draft resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council on holding a debate on the alleged abuse of rights in China’s Xinjiang region.

The resolution was rejected as 19 countries in the 47-member council voted against it. Seventeen countries voted in favour, while 11 nations abstained.

The United Kingdom, the United States, Turkey and other Western countries had moved the proposal to hold a debate on the alleged abuse of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, the Associated Press reported.

The proposal for the debate came weeks after the United Nations human rights office on September 1 said in a report that China’s arbitrary detention of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region may constitute “crimes against humanity”.

Since 2017, researchers have claimed that Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have been systemically dehumanised. They have accused China of forced birth control, sexual abuse and torture to destroy the ethnic population.

India had declined to take a stand on the matter after the UN report was released last month, according to The Wire.

When asked to comment on the report, foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said: “Our understanding is that the report is about the serious maltreatment of minorities in Xinjiang. But this is a UNHRC report, so for the moment, let the UN comment on it.”

On Thursday, China director at non-government organisation Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, said in a statement that for the first time in its history, the UN’s top human rights body had considered a proposal to debate the human rights situation in Xinjiang.

She cited last month’s UN report and said that “nothing will erase the stain of China’s crimes against humanity”.

Meanwhile, ahead of voting on the proposal on Thursday, Chinese ambassador Chen Xu said that Beijing “firmly opposes and categorically rejects” the resolution, AP reported. He alleged that Western countries “turn a blind eye” to their abuses of human rights and point fingers at others.

“Today China is targeted,” Chen said. “Tomorrow any other developing country could be targeted.”

Opposition criticises India’s move

The Congress said that Ministry of External Affairs should hold China accountable.

“Why so much diffidence on China?” Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari tweeted on Friday. “The government of India will not agree to a Parliamentary debate on Chinese incursions. India will abstain at UNHRC on a resolution for debate on human rights in Xinjiang,” he tweeted.

Tewari also alleged that the ministry does not accord political clearance to MPs to visit Taiwan. Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled island, as a province that is to be unified with the Chinese mainland.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain India’s decision to help China at the UNHRC meet on the Uyghur conflict by choosing to abstain from an important vote.

“Is he so scared of offending Xi Jingping, whom he met 18 times, that India can’t speak for what is right,” Owaisi tweeted. “What kind of realist foreign policy doesn’t allow you to put pressure on an adversary controlling your territory in Ladakh.”

Owaisi also pointed out that India chose to remain silent on the human rights violation of Uyghur Muslims but it did voice its concerns when the violence between Hindus and Muslims erupted in Leicester, UK.