India will give $250,000 to help build a monument against slavery and remember victims of the slave trade.
Jamaica's envoy to the UN, Raymond Wolfe, said here this week that this one gesture by India would touch hearts in many countries in Africa and the Caribbean, whose ancestors were victims of this scourge. For India, seeking to change the rules of the global high table, UN Security Council (UNSC), a gift like this helps bring many countries around to supporting India's bid for a permanent seat.
As India returns to the UNSC after 20 years, it is determined to push through its bid for a permanent seat. Indian envoy Hardeep Puri observed, "Once we get on, we're not going to get off."
Last week, India brought the UN envoys from cricket-crazy Carribean nations for a long trip -- hobnobbing with the powerful in Delhi and Mumbai, getting a taste of the India growth story as well as Indian hospitality. In April, India has set a bigger task for itself when it hosts a large group of foreign ministers and UN envoys from the least developed countries, a powerful voting bloc in the UN. Among other things, the LDCs may end up issuing a joint document to support India's candidature.
Small island states like Fiji, Papua New Guinea etc were feted in India at the end of 2010. They are a significant voting bloc in the UN. India's high voltage diplomacy will culminate with the India-Africa summit in summer. India is one of the biggest investors in Africa, occupying almost as important a space as China. This self-canvassing is new to India, but foreign office mandarins say they feel quite at home. "This is what we want to do," said one excited official.
They expect that by the end of summer, the UN reform momentum will gather speed. But numbers is not the only game in the UN general assembly.
The Indian campaign for the permanent seat now has five discernible strands. First, canvassing for itself by entertaining waves of diplomats from around the world.
Second, ensure that India adds value to the UN Security Council. This week, Hardeep Puri told the UN to concentrate on humanitarian relief in Haiti rather than interfere in local politics. On Wednesday, India put out a five-point plan to tackle piracy off the Somalian coast. On Africa, on the Middle East, India is raising its voice, where earlier its diplomacy was best practiced by ducking under the radar.
Push the G4. All other members, Japan, Germany and Brazil have also embarked on a similar exercise. But if Germany faces problems with some countries for having yet another European country in the UNSC, Russia is dead opposed to Japan (as is China). In the absence of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, they're technically still at war. Brazil's opponents lie in the Spanish-speaking world.
Next week, the UNGA will start work on a new report that will give a shape to the reform. This will start the world on a new set of talks on the future shape of the UN.
Last, but in many ways the most difficult is Africa. According to the G4 plan, Africa gets two permanent seats, but none of the African countries have decided which two that may be. This may drag the effort, because it's pointless to push the African Union to take a decision.
India, Brazil, Germany and Japan — the G4 nations — on Saturday said that they would press for “urgent” reforms of the U.N. Security Council this year.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and foreign ministers from three other nations met at the U.N. headquarters here to step up their campaign even though there is no broad acceptance within the 192 U.N. members on how to reform the world body’s supreme peace and security body.
“Pressure is mounting here at the United Nations for the U.N. membership to finally face the challenge of addressing Security Council reform in a realistic manner, adjusting it to the current geo-political realities,” said Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota after the meeting.
“The ministers,” a joint statement released after the meeting said, “agreed to press ahead with all necessary steps to achieve at the earliest an expansion in both the permanent and non-permanent membership categories of the Security Council.”
“Towards this goal, the G4 countries reaffirmed their readiness to reach out to other countries and to work in close cooperation with them in a spirit of flexibility,” it added.
Mr. Krishna’s two-day visit is his first trip to the United Nations since India became a non-permanent member on the Security Council in 2011 after a gap of 19 years.
Security Council reform is on the top of his agenda.
Speaking to the media after this second meeting in the past six months, Krishna said the four countries decided to “press ahead for Security Council reform on an urgent basis.”
“Security Council needs to face the realities of the 21st century,” Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said, adding that these four countries were not acting in national interest.
The G4 ministers also underlined the need for Africa to have a permanent seat on the Council.
The Security Council reform process has been going on for almost two decades. But several questions are yet to be resolved, which include how many new seats should be created, who gets these seats and when should the veto power kick in.
Negotiations have shifted from the so called “Open Ended Working Group” of the nineties to a text based negotiations, which are headed by Ambassador Zahir Tanin of Afghanistan.
The latest text is a five page document, which lists the various options of expanding the Council.
Except Japan, the three other G4 countries are currently on the Council serving as non-permanent members and they are hoping to set the stage for becoming permanent members before their terms expire.
The four ministers also met General Assembly President Joseph Deiss to discuss Security Council reform.
Deiss has spoken out strongly in favour of reform.
Beijing: As India along with other G4 countries stepped up campaign for urgent reforms of the UN Security Council, China on Sunday warned that forcing "premature" reform plans will not only "undermine" the unity of UN member nations, but also harm the process.
Harping on the "serious differences" prevailing among members on the issue, China called for working out "broad based consensus".
Members of the UN should work for a broad-based consensus on the reform of the UN Security Council, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said, apparently reacting to yesterday's statement by G4 countries calling for finalisation of the UNSC reforms this year itself.
The G4 is an alliance among India, Brazil, Germany and Japan for the purpose of supporting each other's bids for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
Ma said that China held that UN member nations should seek for a package of solutions for the reform on the basis of broad and democratic consultation among member nations to accommodate interests and concerns of all parties.
Though some positive progress had been made since inter-government negotiations regarding the reform of the UNSC were launched, there were still serious differences within all parties over certain important issues about the reform, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Ma as saying in response to the G4 declaration released at the United Nations.
China advocated that the more differences the member countries had on the reform, the more necessary for UN member nations to enhance dialogue and consultation, Ma said.
"Experience has proven that presetting results for the reform or forcing premature reform plans will not only undermine the unity of UN member nations, but also harm the reform process, which will not be in line with any party's interests," he said.
China is ready to maintain contact with all relevant parties, and make joint efforts with other member nations to push forward the reform in a way which can be conducive to safeguarding the overall interests of UN and the unity of the member nations, Ma said.
The G4 statement said most of UN members supported enlarging the council with new permanent and non-permanent members, and insisted tangible results be achieved in this regard during the Current Session of the UN General Assembly.
Pressure is mounting on China to take a clear stand on the UNSC reforms ever since US President Barrack Obama's endorsement of India's bid for permanent seat.
China is the only country among the permanent members which has yet to endorse India's bid for a permanent seat. Last month, China had reacted cautiously to remarks by Hardeep Singh Puri, India's Permanent Representative to UN, that he believed China would not be an obstacle to Indian becoming a permanent member of the UNSC.
Reacting to Puri's remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry said "China understands and supports India's desire to play a bigger role in the UN, including its Security Council."
At the same time, it clarified that there was no change in China's stand.
China was ready to back India on United Nations Security Council reforms and delink its relationship with Pakistan to take forward ties, Chinese officials have said.
China was even ready to support India's move for a permanent seat on the UNSC if India did not associate its bid with Japan, top Chinese diplomats told Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member, in talks this week.
Mr. Yechury, who is here at the invitation of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) International Department, told Indian reporters that top Chinese officials, including State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who is China's highest-ranked diplomat, had made clear that they “sincerely want see a qualitative improve in relations with India.”
Mr. Dai also “bent over backwards” to explain that China was not against India's bid for a seat in the UNSC — a recent sticking point in the bilateral relationship. China is the only one of five permanent members that is yet to back India's bid.
Mr. Dai told Mr. Yechury that China's reluctance to voice support was more sourced in India's decision to put forward its bid along with Japan, Germany and Brazil, under the banner of the G4 group of nations. He said China could never accept Japan's bid because of “historical baggage”, and was hence opposed to the G4 grouping.
Mr. Yechury said Chinese officials also appeared to “give a signal” that they did not want to see ties with India “complicated” because of Beijing's ties with Islamabad. Mr. Dai also assured Mr. Yechury that China's presence in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) had been limited to “humanitarian assistance”.
Mr. Yechury, here on a party-to-party visit, also met with Li Yuanchao, head of the CPC's Organisation Department, to learn about “party building” and how the CPC, which marked its 90th anniversary on July 1, had succeeded in adapting its ideology to changing times.
There were lessons in this for the CPI(M), Mr. Yechury said. “There are certain issues where we have to do serious thinking,” he said. “That will be on our agenda for our 20th party congress next April.”
During India's first nine months on the Security Council, it has worked with the U.S. on broad themes but often differed on country-specific issues. Council membership has a price: many votes inevitably disappoint some of India's constituencies and international friends.
When U.S. President Barack Obama announced in Delhi that the United States looked forward to “a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,” he was met with thunderous applause. This was the most tangible form of U.S. support for India's ambition to be recognised as a major global player. From the U.S. perspective, it was an act of faith. The U.S. and India have always had a harder time working together in the multilateral arena than they do bilaterally, and the United Nations has been especially tough.
How do things look nine months after India joined the Security Council for a two-year term? Finding ways to work together has been a challenge for both countries. India has also had to deal with the costs of being in the limelight — the public choices that come with Council membership, and that inevitably disappoint some constituencies and some international friends.
India and the U.S. have worked most closely together on what one Indian observer called “thematic issues.” Peacekeeping has been an area of strong India-U.S. cooperation for years. This reflects not just India's standing as one of the top three troop contributing countries, but also its strong professional contributions to the U.N.'s peacekeeping capacity. These have earned strong U.S. support and appreciation. Similarly, control of small arms has been a good area for cooperation.
India's time on the Security Council has expanded the list of broad policy themes where the U.S. and India make common cause. Counter-terrorism is an especially important one. The Indian permanent representative to the U.N., Hardeep Singh Puri, sought the chairmanship of the Security Council's Counter Terrorism Committee, and went about guiding its work in a serious way. This included deepening its links to the expert panel that works with it, the Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate. On September 28, Mr. Puri orchestrated a celebration of the committee's work in the 10 years since its creation, an event that provided the opportunity both for garnering civil society support for the group and for good coverage in the Indian press. U.S. policy-makers support this effort, appreciate the results, and look forward to further collaboration in this area.
The more contentious broad themes have to do with trade. These come up more often in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) than at the U.N. The U.S. and India have a strained relationship in the WTO, in spite of extensive efforts at high-level consultations.
When it comes to country-specific issues, however, U.S.-India interaction at the U.N. is more difficult. The Security Council's agenda always contains a large number of debates and resolutions on the Middle East, where the U.S. and India start from different policy positions. The large majority of resolutions passed this year were adopted unanimously. This included some uncontroversial measures on Libya, Afghanistan, and extension of an expert committee established in conjunction with the Security Council's decision on sanctions for Iran.
Of those where voting was contested, however, the U.S. and India were on opposite sides most of the time. On Libya, India abstained on a March 17 resolution establishing a no-fly zone, together with Brazil, Russia, China and Germany. The resolution was strongly supported by the U.S., and passed with the remaining 10 votes.
Somewhat to India's discomfiture, Syria came up during India's term as Security Council president in August. India was clearly pleased that the conclusion of the council's debate took the form of a council president's statement rather than a formal resolution. This obviated the need for a formal vote for or against.
However, India found itself directly at odds with the U.S. in the October 4 vote defeating a Syria resolution that had been under discussion for some three months. India abstained, along with Lebanon, Brazil and South Africa. Russia and China vetoed. The council's other Muslim-majority country, Bosnia, voted yes, together with the U.S. and seven other members.
The most contentious of the country issues before the council this year is Palestine. India co-sponsored a resolution on Israeli settlements, eventually vetoed by the U.S. This type of “split vote” has become routine — the other 13 Security Council members also voted for it. Much more troublesome for the U.S. was India's pledge to vote in favour of U.N. membership for Palestine. The application was eventually referred to the Security Council committee that reviews membership applications, amid speculation that the Palestinian Authority had tacitly agreed to slow the process down.
But of all the hot-button issues for the U.S., this was the most difficult. Washington had announced that it would if necessary use its veto to block a Palestinian membership application outside of the framework of the stalled peace negotiations with Israel. However, the U.S. was urgently seeking a way to sidestep the issue and avoid the damage to its relations in the Muslim world that would follow a veto. India's early public stance, along with the other potential “yes” votes for full Palestinian membership, thus put Washington in a potentially painful and embarrassing situation.
Country issues before the Security Council generate far more political passion than broad policy themes. This has two consequences. For the U.S., negative consequences of India-U.S. differences are felt further up the political ladder, and with greater intensity, than the positive vibrations from Indo-U.S. cooperation on such broad issues as peacekeeping and counter-terrorism. India's position on the Palestinians, on Syria, or on Libya was in keeping with many years of Indian policy toward the Middle East, and was clearly not intended as a rebuff to the U.S. But from Washington's perspective, the fact that India and the United States so rarely line up together on the U.N.'s “hot button” issues is troublesome.
From Delhi's perspective, the country-specific issues confront India's policymakers with the costs of being in the multilateral limelight. Security Council members cast votes in a highly visible forum, on very specific issues, with the full glare of international publicity. Often, these votes force India to choose, not whether to accept international criticism for its position, but which of its friends to anger. In the first third of its Security Council tenure, India has generally sided with the U.S. on issues that are important but not passionate; it has taken the other side on issues that generate greater political heat.
Interestingly, while there is strong consensus in India that the country deserves a permanent Security Council seat, one occasionally hears ambivalence about how useful the seat would be and how much policy priority it deserves. Former government officials occasionally muse that “club membership” carries more costs than benefits. Neither the Manmohan Singh government nor any successor, however, is likely to back away from this campaign.
Assessing the benefits to India of Security Council membership is a complicated exercise. Achieving recognition as a global player is an important policy goal in its own right.
But when one looks for the vision of global governance that India seeks to advance, the picture is clouded. Policy documents and analyses from Indian academics speak in familiar terms of defending sovereign states against interventionism and of creating a world order in which poor countries are as able as rich ones to make their voices heard. But the role that many Indians are most comfortable with draws heavily on the concept of “sovereign autonomy” — balancing powers that seem too strong, and relishing a solo role where possible.
This is hard to do in the multilateral arena, where successful diplomacy relies on giving others credit and on the constant building and rebuilding of coalitions. India's diplomats are among the world's best at navigating U.N. procedures, and are masters of the drafting process. Nonetheless, apart from its skillful stewardship of the Counter Terrorism Committee, it is not clear that India has been a major broker of contested issues in the Security Council itself. The August statement on Syria, for example, seems to have been largely orchestrated by Brazil and France.
India has decades of practice in building support in the Non-Aligned Movement, an important constituency for it at the U.N. (Interestingly, there is a special tab on the website of India's U.N. mission devoted to the NAM.) It has come to rely more heavily on more selective groups, notably BRICS (with Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa). All these countries are on the Security Council in 2011. It is perhaps significant that BRICS accounted for all but one of the abstentions on the Libya and Syria resolutions. Working in coalition with the U.S. is a more unfamiliar pursuit. India's goal of a larger global role would be well served by adding this to its repertoire.
The U.N. is of course not the only multilateral forum where the U.S. and India work together. Their relations have been more harmonious in the G-20 and the multilateral development banks — and more difficult, as noted, in the WTO. It would be naïve to expect these two large countries, whose interests are closer than before but still have important differences, to line up in lock-step in any multilateral organisation. But their ability to manage their differences and find mutual accommodation on a reasonable share of country-specific issues as well as big foreign policy themes will be an important test of how well their partnership can work outside the strictly bilateral realm.
(Teresita and Howard Schaffer are former U.S. Ambassadors, with long years of service in South Asia. They are co-founders of southasiahand.com. Teresita Schaffer is a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Institution; Howard Schaffer teaches at Georgetown University.)
India, which assumed the rotating Presidency of the UNSC today, hopes to reach out to other nations in garnering support for expansion of the world body's top decision-making arm besides seeking a comprehensive anti-piracy strategy to tackle the maritime menace.
India will have a "very full agenda" as President of the powerful 15-nation UN Security Council this month, with every troubled spot in world, including Yemen, Libya, Syria, Sudan, the Palestinian question and terrorism expected to be discussed at the UNSC in November, India's Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri told PTI.
India had last held the Council presidency in August 2011.
Its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council would end this year.
Puri said India has been steadfastly undertaking outreach efforts with the African countries, mainly the L-69 group and C-10, for the last several months on the issue of expansion in the permanent and non-permanent membership of the UNSC.
Puri stressed that permanent membership for India at the UN high table "will not come from goodwill of the five permanent members, which is important, but it will come from traction in the General Assembly.
"We have to complete our groundwork to prepare our\ outreach, after that it requires political courage and will to put it to vote. It will be time to test the waters in an open vote."
Puri said the outreach efforts are "almost nearingcompletion to our full satisfaction," which would lay thebasis for securing the required 128 votes in the General Assembly.
"Once we get that done, hopefully very very soon, rest will be political decisions."
Expectations were high when India joined the Council last year in achieving considerable forward movement in expansion of the Council's membership.
A short resolution that seeks expansion in both the permanent and non-permanent categories and improvement in the Council's working methods has received support from more than 84 signatories.
Puri said when India came to the Council after a gap of 19 years, "we had every intention of seeking a more permanent presence.
"We have every intention of utilising our period of Security Council membership in working towards laying a solid basis for more enduring presence."
He, however, added that the process has been "tough" and one has "to fight every inch of the way. But our ground work and the hard work we are putting in will bear fruit."
During its presidency, India will also be holding thematic debates on working methods of the Security Council, piracy and peace and security.
"Maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea is a major concern for the international community. For a country like India, the problem is particularly severe," Puri said.
With a bulk of India's trade going through the Gulf of Aden and Indians constituting seven per cent of the world's seafarers, India has been at the receiving end of the impact piracy has on trade and its citizens.
According to a report by the UN Secretary General, currently 259 hostages in 18 ships are being held by pirates and of these hostages 43 are Indians.
Puri said the debate on piracy will look at the issue comprehensively and push for a counter-piracy strategy.
On Syria, Puri has already had a request for a briefing within the next 10 days on the situation in the crisis-ridden country.
With the UN headquarters also bearing the brunt of the superstorm Sandy, Puri said he would have initial bilateral meetings of the Council in the Indian mission here.