So far India has been president of the body nine times -- June 1950, September 1967, December 1972, October 1977, February 1985, October 1991, December 1992, August 2011, and November 2012.
Starting tomorrow August 1, 2021, India is taking the presidency of the United Nations Security Council. This means that India will decide the agenda for the month and will be responsible for coordinating important meetings and addressing other issues. India is already a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for a 2-year period starting January 1, 2021.
So far India has been president of the body nine times — June 1950, September 1967, December 1972, October 1977, February 1985, October 1991, December 1992, August 2011, and November 2012. Ambassador TS Tirumurti (Permanent Representative to the United Nations) will be representing India at the UNSC.
“India is one of the largest troops contributing countries and many of our soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. And during our presidency we will be organizing a high-level event focused on peacekeeping, especially on the theme of “protecting the protectors,” Amb Tirumurti tells Huma Siddiqui in an exclusive interaction.
Following are excerpts:
Can you share details of what India plans to focus on during the Presidency?
During our Presidency in August, we plan to focus on three important areas, namely, Maritime Security, Peacekeeping and Counter-Terrorism. We will be hosting three High-Level events on these themes.
Maritime Security has received the attention of the Security Council but in a piecemeal manner. For example, there have been resolutions on piracy, maritime crime etc. However, the Security Council has not taken a holistic approach to the concept of maritime security and we feel that it is time they did so. The various aspects of maritime security need to be brought together and discussed in a holistic manner. India has always attached very high importance to this matter.
On the question of peacekeeping, you are aware of our pioneering involvement with peacekeeping. Our peacekeepers have worked in some of the most difficult and volatile environments and continue to be held in very high regard, both with respect to their professionalism as well as courage and bravery. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to give the highest importance to their safety and security. Therefore, we will be focusing on how to ensure the safety of peacekeepers, especially by using better technology, and how to bring perpetrators of crimes against peacekeepers to justice. We are strongly advocating for proactive measures to ‘protect the protectors’.
You are aware of our leadership role in the matter of counter-terrorism. We have been using our current stint in the Security Council to highlight this aspect at every opportunity. The third signature event will be focused on counter-terrorism where we will discuss the Secretary-General’s report on ISIL/Da’esh.
Will more women battalions get involved in peacekeeping operations?
As I mentioned, we will be organizing a high-level event focused on peacekeeping, especially on the theme of “protecting the protectors”. India is one of the largest troops contributing countries and many of our soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. It is our responsibility to ensure that the peacekeepers function in the knowledge that we are doing all that we can to protect them and help them fulfill their Missions, and that, in the unfortunate event of a crime being perpetrated against them, the perpetrators will be brought to justice. This is why we are going to focus on two specific ways of protecting them – through using technology to enable them to better perform their Missions, and through means that would help us bring the perpetrators of crimes against peacekeepers to justice. We have also strongly supported the peacekeepers by gifting COVID vaccines for all peacekeepers and by ramping up our medical personnel in two of our UN peacekeeping hospitals – one in Juba, South Sudan and the other in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
As far as women peacekeepers are concerned, as you know, India was a pioneer on this front. We sent the first all-women Formed Police Unit to Liberia which has served as a role model for many others. In fact, recently, you are aware of Major Suman Gawani, an Indian Army woman peacekeeper, who was the first Indian to receive the 2019 United Nations Military Gender Advocate Award of the Year. We are very supportive of the Secretary General’s efforts to increase the percentage of women serving in peacekeeping operations.
You mention Africa in one of your interactions. What is India’s focus for the continent?
Indeed, Africa is a matter of very high priority for us. Given that the agenda of the Council is dominated by Africa-related issues, India’s views have been sensitive to African priorities and the needs of African countries, in keeping with Prime Minister’s ten guiding principles on Africa. During our current stint, we have had to deal with many Africa-related issues like Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and the Sahel region, rise of terrorism in Africa, Libya, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, etc. In each of these instances, we have tried to be receptive to the country’s priorities as well as encourage the regional organizations, like African Union, to play a proactive role. We are supportive of African countries to assist them in coming out of the sanctions regime. We are also the Chair of the Libyan Sanctions Committee at a time when the peace process in Libya is being pursued vigorously.
What about the current situation in Afghanistan- and Myanmar- these are in India’s neighbourhood- how have you maintained balance?
Whether in Afghanistan or in Myanmar, the voice of India in the Security Council has been clear and cogent. We have been the bridge to ensure that polarization of the Council doesn’t affect its ability to take a well-considered view.
The situation in Afghanistan is a matter of deep concern to us. We have just heard of the UN’s compound in Herat being targeted. The violence has been continuing unabated. The UN has reported that the number of civilian casualties in the period May-June exceeds the number from January to April. Targeted killings are increasing, and women, girls and minorities are being systematically targeted. India would like to see an independent, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. We have been calling for immediate cessation of violence and to ensure that neighbours are not threatened by terrorism, separatism and extremism. We have consistently underlined that the gains of the last two decades, especially with respect to women and minorities, should not be lost. The External Affairs Minister has underlined that any government that comes to power in Afghanistan is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the people. I believe these are common concerns of members of the Security Council.
As a country which shares a border of more than 1650 kms with Myanmar, India’s position remains clear and consistent. We are deeply concerned with the developments in Myanmar. We have condemned the use of violence and continue to urge maximum restraint. We believe that there should be no falling back on the path to democracy in Myanmar. In this regard, we call for upholding the rule of law and taking forward the democratic process in Myanmar in which we have always been invested in. We have called for the release of political prisoners. We will continue to extend our support to the efforts of the ASEAN. We also hope that ASEAN will move expeditiously on the five point consensus.
On the war on terrorism- how is India addressing this issue at the UNSC?
India has consistently kept the spotlight on combating terrorism, both inside the Council and outside as well. We have not only strengthened the efforts to combat terrorism, especially for example in financing of terrorism, we have also prevented efforts to dilute the focus on terrorism. You are aware that we played an active role in the shaping of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy; we have been successful so far in preventing countries from diluting the global fight against terrorism and providing justification for terror. As I mentioned earlier, we have also collaborated with other countries like France and held important side events, for example, in Financing of Terrorism. In the Security Council, we have highlighted terrorism-related issues and will also host a signature event during our Presidency in the context of the Secretary-General’s report on ISIL/Da’esh. We will be taking over as Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council on 1st January 2022.
Finally, what about the reforms of UNSC?
The simple fact is that it has been 75 years since the UN was founded. But its decision making structures still remain stuck in 1945, and do not reflect the world as it stands today.
The World Summit Document adopted in 2005 called for early reform of the Security Council and to review the progress by the end of 2005. It has been 16 years since that document was adopted. The world has changed even more in these years. But, sadly, the UN is still stuck in the same place – not even in 2005 but in 1945. The overwhelming majority of UN Member States firmly support the comprehensive reforms of the Security Council. An expansion of the Security Council in both the Permanent and non-Permanent categories is indispensable to make this body more representative, legitimate and effective. Otherwise, other plurilateral organizations will take the lead if they are more representative of the contemporary world, like G-20 for example. Consequently, in the UN reform process, an immediate and time-bound text-based negotiations is critical. A transparent, inclusive and results-oriented process is essential if we are to move decisively towards a concrete outcome. Unfortunately, a few countries are holding up this reform process and using the Intergovernmental Negotiations Negotiating forum for Security Council reform as a smokescreen to stop reform.