'China won't obstruct UNSC bid'


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Jul 21, 2009
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"We are quite confident that when the matter of choosing new permanent members to an expanded Security Council comes up, India will have the requisite numbers to sail through", Hardeep Singh Puri, India's permanent representative to the UN, tells Ramesh Ramachandran in an interview over email.
Q. On January 1, 2011, India began a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. What are the UNSC's priorities as India returns to it after nearly two decades?
A. The existing agenda focuses heavily on threats to international peace and security in Africa. About 60 per cent of the Security Council's formal meetings are about Africa and about peacekeeping. India has considerable empathy, knowledge and experience when it comes to Africa and will add value to the deliberations of the Security Council.
We are also the leading contributor to UN Peacekeeping, having contributed one lakh peacekeepers to virtually every peacekeeping operation in the last 50 years. The expertise that we bring to this core UN activity is unparalleled.
The Security Council is also focused on terrorism. We have an immediate national interest in the counter-terrorism regimes that are being developed by the Security Council. It is noteworthy that no democracy has as many neighbours on the Security Council's agenda as India. The issue will naturally be a priority for us and we will contribute to strengthening international regimes that support democracy and human rights.
India will work towards strengthening multilateral processes, including a strong and efficient Security Council, and for an international rule of law based on "right" rather than "might". The promotion of the common good of all and not just narrow national considerations will guide us.
Q. Is the permanent mission of India to the UN adequately staffed and resourced to perform duties expected of it?
A. The ministry of external affairs has increased the number of diplomats assigned to the mission by 40 per cent in the past year.
A special team, with officers with the relevant experience, has been created to focus on work relating to the Security Council. Other resources are also being made available.
Q. Do you agree with the view that India will be "on probation" during its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, and that its quest for a permanent seat will depend on how it performs in the eyes of the leading Western powers?
A. I do not agree with such a view. First and foremost, Security Council reforms are a matter for negotiation for the UN General Assembly and are not a subject matter for the Security Council's consideration at present. Two, India's entry into the UNSC stands on its own merits. The spectacular margin of our victory in the election on October 12, 2010, with 187 out of 190 votes stands testimony to our global stature. We intend to bring our diplomatic, political and economic strengths to the working of the Security Council and thereby enhance its effectiveness and efficiency. This is our commitment to the international community.
Q. At what stage is the process of UNSC reform? How many of the 192 UN members are in support of India?
A. At present the process of int-er-governmental negotiations on Security Council reforms is interestingly poised. The large majority of the delegations in New York have called for a shorter negotiating text by the end of January 2011. They have urged the chair of these negotiations to prepare such a text based on the proposals and positions submitted by countries or groups in the first half of 2010 and subsequently streamlined in September 2010.
As for support, let me put it this way: We are quite confident that when the matter of choosing new permanent members to an expanded Security Council comes up, India will have the requisite numbers to sail through.
Q. Is India making efforts to secure for itself veto power or have we given up on that?
A. The issue of the veto is likely to be one of the more contentious points of negotiations, if not the most contentious. My personal view is that it will be very difficult for new permanent members to sell the reform package to their domestic constituencies if they do not have the same rights and obligations as the existing permanent members.
Equally, there will be resistance to the extension of veto to new permanent members from certain quarters. For this reason, in 2005 the G4 (Group of Four, comprising India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) had — in a spirit of compromise — put forward its current position that consisted of two elements. First, that the new permanent members should have the same responsibilities and obligations as the current permanent members. Second, that the new permanent members shall not exercise the right of veto until the question of the extension of the right of veto to new permanent members had been decided upon in the framework of the review mandated 15 years after the entry into force of the Security Council reform.
The position of the "L69" (a diverse group of UN member-states from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific), of which India is an active participant, is that new permanent members should have all the rights and obligations of the existing ones. This brings the "L69" and African Group positions in sync with each other on the issue of the veto.
Q. Have the G4 been able to reconcile the draft proposal with that of the African Group?
A. With each passing day there is increasing convergence between the positions held by India and the African group. The most recent manifestation of this was the statement on December 17, 2010 — at the first exchange of the sixth round of inter-governmental negotiations on Security Council reforms , the "L69" Group aligned its position closely with the African position. This sentiment has been reciprocated by the Africans. Sierra Leone, which represents the African group at these negotiations, welcomed the "L69" statement, while other African countries, including South Africa, Nigeria and Mauritius, aligned themselves with the "L69" statement.
Q. The leaders of all P-5 countries, except China, who visited India in 2010 strongly supported India for a permanent seat in the Security Council. How do you view this?
A. We have a constant dialogue with China on this issue. I can state with reasonable degree of confidence that China will not be an obstacle to India becoming a permanent UNSC member.
Q. Will India be willing to increase its share of contribution to the UN budget?
A. India's contribution to the regular budget of the UN in 2009-10 was $11.4 million, while our contribution to the UN peacekeeping operation last year was $7.7 million. We also make significant voluntary contributions to the UN's development programme, to the democracy and population funds, to Unicef, etc. This clearly makes us one of the most important developing country contributors on a voluntary basis.
There is a complex formula that includes a set of inter-related factors, both economic and non-economic, that determines any change in the share of a country's contribution to the UN.
Needless to say, India is a country that is willing to step up to its responsibilities as and when called upon to do so. But the other side of the equation is that the UN should be able to appropriately respond to India's growing global stature.

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