India's UNSC presidency: Maritime security, peacekeeping, counter-terrorism key issues, says ambassador Tirumurti

Written By: Sidhant Sibal WION
New Delhi Published: Jul 29, 2021, 09:44 PM(IST)

India's Ambassador to United Nations T S Tirumurti Photograph:( WION )

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India will be the president of the top UN body for August and as the president, it decides the agenda for the month, coordinates important meetings and other related issues.


Ahead of India taking the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, India's Ambassador (Permanent Representative) to United Nations T S Tirumurti listed three key priorities of New Delhi which are Maritime security, peacekeeping, counter-terrorism.

India will be the president of the top UN body for August and as the president, it decides the agenda for the month, coordinates important meetings and other related issues. India is a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for a 2-year period starting January 1, 2021.

Speaking to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Tirumurti speaking from New York said, India has "provided the much-needed balance in the deliberations within the Council" and "Our inputs have naturally been of great value."

India's envoy to UN T. S. Tirumurti will be representing India at the Council. India has been president of the body in June 1950, September 1967, December 1972, October 1977, February 1985, October 1991, December 1992, August 2011, November 2012. As the president of the UNSC, India will have a number of signature events including UN peacekeeping. 

WION: It has been seven months since India took the chair at the high table, what has been India's focus?

T S Tirumurti: As you have pointed out it has been seven months since we entered the Security Council and this is the eight time we are in the Security Council.

Given our size, as well as an independent foreign policy, I think it was expected of us to play an important role. In the last seven months, we have tried to play that role.

I believe we have taken a forward-looking approach on various issues of peace and security and have probably provided the much-needed balance in the deliberations within the Council.

As you know we bring with us the expectations of the developing world that we will be their voice in the Security Council both as a co-developing country as well as an emerging economy.

We of course have our own priority as well. For example terrorism, peacekeeping, regional issues-particularly in our neighborhood, Africa, conflict resolution with a special focus on women and youth, reformed multilateralism, etc.

So in the last seven months, I think we have done reasonably well. In our neighbourhood, we have provided the necessary balance and focus to the discussions and the Council's pronouncements, outcome documents for example Myanmar and Afghanistan.

Our inputs have naturally been of great value. On Africa, our emphasis on greater sensitivity to the African priorities and views, including that of the African Union has been welcomed.

We have also been vocal on issues relating to the Middle East, for instance, we always had a very strong and historical link from Syria to Lebanon to Palestine, Yemen or Iraq.

I have been chairing to important sanctions committee namely the Taliban sanctions committee and the Libya sanctions committee. So overall, I can say that our contribution has been quite significant and probably well appreciated as well. 

WIONWhat will be the key priority and signature events of India's presidency at the UNSC?

T S Tirumurti: During our presidency, we will be focusing on three major areas namely maritime security, peacekeeping and counter-terrorism.

We plan to highlight these three themes through the three signature events which we will hold during our presidency. Maritime security has always received very high priority in our foreign policy.

We have been a net provider of maritime security particularly in the Indian Ocean region, consequently, we believe it is time for the Security Council to take a holistic approach with the issue of maritime security, that safeguard's common prosperity and other security aspects.

The Security Council has passed resolutions on different aspects of maritime security and maritime crime. But we feel it's time all these are brought together and discussed in a holistic manner.

Peacekeeping is an issue very close to our hearts given our own long and pioneering involvement with peacekeeping, including the involvement of women peacekeeping.

The peacekeeper function in volatile situations to enforce the mandate of the Security Council. Therefore it is incumbent on us that their safety and security are given the highest importance.

India provided vaccines to all peacekeepers in response to the Secretary General's call. Therefore in the larger context of peacekeeping, we will be focusing on how to ensure the safety of peacekeepers, especially by using better technology and how to bring perpetrators of crime against peacekeepers to justice.

We are strongly advocating proactive measures to protect the protectors. On counter-terrorism, it is a national priority for us. We are firmly against terrorism against all its forms and manifestation and we believe that there can be no justification whatsoever for terrorism and we will continue to keep the spotlight on this matter. We will be discussing the Secretary General's report on ISIL and Daesh. 

WION: India has been calling for reforms at the UNSC, has there been any movement, or has things remain the same.

T S Tirumurti: The short answer to your question is that things remain the same. The simple fact is that it has been 75 years since the UN was founded but its decision-making structure is still stuck in 1945 and they do not reflect the world as it stands today.

The world summit document was adopted in 2005 and it calls for early reforms of the Security Council and it has been 16 years since that document was adopted and nothing has happened.

In the meantime, the world has changed even more in these 16 years. Grouping which is more reflective of a changing world have sprung up like G20 for example and the center of gravity is shifting towards such groupings precisely because the Security Council is still stuck in a time warp.

The overwhelming majority of the UN member states firmly support the comprehensive reforms of the Security Council, an expansion of the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent category is indispensable to make this body more representative legitimate, credible, and effective.

So an immediate and time-bound text-based negotiation is essential. A transparent, inclusive, and result-oriented process is essential if you have to move decisively towards a concrete outcome.

So procrastination is no more an option though it is a strategy being adopted by member states which do not want any reform and they use the current discussion at the IGN (intergovernmental negotiation), that is where we are discussing it, they use these discussions at IGN as a smokescreen to stop all progress not realising that they are destroying the credibility of the Security Council itself.

WION: How will India make sure that a consensus is formed at the high table on Afghanistan. That the world doesn't abandon Afghanistan. The UN report said that civilian casualties are set to hit unprecedented highs in 2021...

T S Tirumurti: You have already heard about our position on the developments in Afghanistan from the EAM.

The situation in Afghanistan is a matter of deep concern for us. The violence has been continuing unabated. The UN report which you referred to says that the number of civilian casualties in the period May to June, it exceeds the number from January to April.

The casualties are only growing, targetted killings are increasing. Women, girls, and minorities are systematically targeted. So as my minister mentioned earlier, India would like to see an Independent, peaceful, democratic and stable Afghanistan free from malign influences.

We have been calling for an immediate cessation of violence and ensure that the neighbours are not threatened by terrorism, separatism, and extremism.

They have consistently underlined that the gains of the last two decades, especially with respect to women and minorities should not be lost.

It is important that any government that comes to power in Afghanistan is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the people and consequently we cannot have the unilateral imposition of the will by any party and the peace negotiations should be taken seriously by all parties.

I believe that these are the common concern of the members of the Security Council as well and we will continue to work with other members of the Security Council towards this front as well as the Taliban sanctions committee which we are chairing. 

WION On the issue of terror, how have things been at UNSC and outside...

T S Tirumurti: We have consistently kept the spotlight on combating terrorism both inside the Council, and outside.

The recent discussions on the global counter-terrorism strategy which we just adopted has strengthened the efforts to combat terrorism, for example in the financing of terrorism and the use of new technology like artificial intelligence, drones etc.

We have also prevented efforts to dilute the focus on terrorism or to provide justification for terror for example. At the Council, we have made sure that terrorism-related issues are not lost sight of and India, as you know, will take over the chair of the counter-terrorism committee of the Council next year.

We will also hold a signature event during our presidency in the context of the Secretary General's report on ISIL and Daesh. So we are focusing on terrorism in the Security Council and outside and we will keep the focus and we will keep the pressure on this.

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