India is fully committed to multilateralism and to strengthening the United Nations: Amb TS Tirumurti

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October 23, 2021 10:14 AM

On the eve of the United Nations Day, Ambassador TS Tirumurti (Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations) talks with Huma Siddiqui on the importance of the UN and India’s contribution to the agency.

TS TirumurtiIndia's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti. (Photo source: PTI)

Each year October 24 is celebrated as the United Nations Day. It was on this date that the UN Charter was ratified by a large number of signatories which included the five permanent members of the Security Council. This led to the establishment of the UN officially in 1945. The UN is a centre of coordination for nations and also has a major role to play in maintaining world peace and security.

The US President Franklin D Roosevelt had coined the name ‘United Nations’ which was first used during the Second World War in the Declaration of the UN on January 1, 1942.

In the UN there are different organs: Security Council, General Assembly, the UN Secretariat, the International Court of Justice, the Economic and Social Council, and the Trusteeship Council.

Starting January 1, 2021, for a period of two years, India will be at the UNSC as a non-permanent member.

On the eve of the United Nations Day, Ambassador TS Tirumurti (Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations) talks with Huma Siddiqui on the importance of the UN and India’s contribution to the agency.

Following are excerpts:

India has completed more than 9 months of its two-year tenure in the Security Council. How do you see India’s contribution in these 9 months?

Our contribution has been quite substantial and has been acknowledged as such by others. Our Presidency was a particularly significant one for many reasons. For one, we had taken up significant topics as our signature events. The fact that the Security Council not only discussed these issues but also came up with consensus outcomes on these topics, helped Member-States to take this process forward in a meaningful manner.

The signature event on the much discussed topic of “Maritime Security” was chaired by the Prime Minister himself – the first time a Prime Minister of India was chairing the Security Council session. We had a galaxy of high-level dignitaries attend this event. The outcome was a Presidential Statement which for the first time, outlines the holistic concept of maritime security and includes UNCLOS, freedom of navigation, terrorism at sea, illegal trafficking, piracy, etc.

Our Presidency reinforced India’s credentials on the peacekeeping front, where we are the largest contributors to the UN. We tabled the resolution on “Protecting the peacekeepers from impunity attacks”, which was co-sponsored and adopted unanimously by all 15 Security Council members. Our contribution to the UN’s UNITE Aware technology platform for peacekeepers as well as the signature event on “Technology and Peacekeeping” showed India “walking the talk” on peacekeeping. We have also consistently kept the focus on terrorism related issues not just during our Presidency but also right through the last several months. You may recall that India will also chair the Counter-Terrorism Committee in 2022.

Another major focus which took place during our Presidency was Afghanistan. Since these developments took place during our Presidency, given our close and historic links with Afghanistan, and our understanding of Afghanistan as a close neighbour, we were able to steer the discussions in a focused and a meaningful manner. Apart from the briefings we organised in the Council, an important resolution was adopted during our Presidency, namely Resolution No.2593, where expectations of the Security Council from the Taliban were clearly spelt out. This resolution continues to be an important cornerstone for the Security Council to evaluate developments in Afghanistan.

India has also weighed in on several other important issues in the Council, including Myanmar, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Africa related issues, development in the Arab world, etc.

We have been a strong voice in support of Africa and are working very closely with the African members of the Security Council, what is called the “A3 + 1” group.

Given India’s independent voice in international relations, we have been able to act as a bridge to navigate the divide between countries in the Security Council. Our presence has certainly been a positive factor in the Council.

How relevant is the UN in the 21st century?

India is fully committed to multilateralism and to strengthening the United Nations. However, there is definitely a need to reform the United Nations and the way in which multilateralism has worked so far. That is why Prime Minister Modi has made a call for reformed multilateralism, which includes a reform of the UN Security Council as well.

We firmly believe that the United Nations, while it certainly has an important role in bringing all Member-States together to address the pressing challenges of our times, its decision making bodies have to be reformed to reflect the contemporary realities of the day and should be more inclusive. For example, the UN Security Council was frozen in a time warp in 1945, when there were only around 50 countries. Now we have 193 countries but the Security Council remains the same. The entire continent of Africa has no permanent seat in the Security Council. Neither has Latin America. Countries like India are still kept out of permanent membership. This is not only not a tenable situation but has weekend the UN itself and its response to tackle global issues in a meaningful manner.

Consequently, while it is important to recognise the shortcomings of the UN, it is equally important to recognise the important role it has played and continues to play in multilateralism and to work together with other countries to make it even more relevant to the 21st century.

How technology can be a game changer in UN peacekeeping?

UN Peacekeepers operate in a variety of challenging settings, involving armed groups, non-state actors as well as terrorists. The threats have become more complex and the arms in the hands of such groups have become more and more sophisticated. It has therefore become incumbent upon us to ensure that the peacekeepers are adequately equipped to deal with these challenges. Here is where we believe that in the 21st Century, peacekeeping must be anchored in a strong ecosystem of technology and innovation that can facilitate UN peacekeeping operations in implementing their mandates in complex environments. This is one of the reasons why we made this one of the priority areas during our Presidency of the Security Council in August by having a Security Council session exclusively devoted to this aspect chaired by the External Affairs Minister. We also piloted a Presidential Statement on the topic. As you know, India is also supporting the UN in the rollout of the UNITE Aware Technology Platform across select peacekeeping missions. This initiative is based on the expectation that an entire peacekeeping operation can be visualized, coordinated, and monitored on a real time basis. The goal is to ensure that any attack on a peacekeeper or a civilian is predictable, preventable, or responded to immediately.

The External Affairs Minister presented a four point framework for a possible architecture for UN peacekeepers that include: focus on operationally proven, cost-effective, widely available, reliable and field-serviceable technologies; sound information and intelligence foundation; ensuring that technological improvements are continuous and are available on the ground, in the gear that peacekeepers carry and the weapons and tools that they use to enhance their mobility, performance, endurance, range, and load-carrying capabilities while guaranteeing their safety and security; and consistent training and capacity building in the area of technology.

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