In a day marking India’s rising global profile, it assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council — hours after taking over the leadership of the G20, with the promise of working to promote unity in a fractured world.
Echoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on his goals for the G20, India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said on Thursday that at the Council “India will work towards unity”.
As at the G20, the group of major industrialised and emerging economies, India faces the daunting task of presiding over a polarised Council when the world faces dangers from wars and economic crises.
In both of them, the western nations and Russia and China are ranged against each other.
India has been “a very effective first responder” in international crises, she said, and “we will continue to do that in the council as well, to be a bridge builder and to be a voice of moderation”.
“That is the India way,” she said at her news conference after assuming the presidency.
India is a big country that can stand on its own and have its own policies, she added.
Sixtynine years after Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became the woman to become the president of the General Assembly, Kamboj became the first Indian woman to head the Security Council.
India got its Council presidency for December — the last month of its two-year term — on a system of rotation based on alphabetic order.
Kamboj said that during the presidency, India will hold two sessions to highlight issues most important to it: fighting terrorism and reforming the international system, including the Security Council, stuck in the 1940s.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will preside over the two meetings known as Signature events, on “New Orientation for Reformed Multilateralism” – which includes Security Council reform – on December 14 and on “Global Approach to Counter Terrorism – Challenges and Way Forward,” the next day.
India will also be holding two side events, unveiling a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at theAUN headquarters and organising a group of nations to counter attacks on peacekeepers.
The Council has been paralysed on the most pressing issue of the worsening war in Ukraine.
Asked at her news conference about managing the deadlock over Ukraine because of the Russian veto, Kamboj said that India had lines of communication to both sides.
Modi and Jaishankar have spoken to the leadership of both Russia and Ukraine for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, Kamboj said.
“We are among the few countries, dare I say this, which is speaking to both,” she said.
Asked if India could change the direction of the Council, she was candid in expressing scepticism, adding, “Hope that but certainly we will continue to work with a lot of positivity.”
She said that India always for a diplomatic and peaceful settlement on the invasion.
Reacting to a comment about what is perceived by Ukraine President Volodymyr’s remarks on countries being “neutral”, Kamboj said she would not comment on it but laid out India’s position.
She pointed to Modi telling Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that “now it was not the time war”– a statement that received wide resonance – and said that India has also condemned the attacks on civilian infrastructure.
Moreover, it had provided medical aid to Ukraine, while helping other countries hit by the fallout of the war, sending them food assistance.
On reforming the international structure, Kamboj said that it was archaic and in all spheres, from the diplomatic and political to the economic.
India has claims to a permanent seat by virtue of it being the world’s largest democracy, for its rising role in international affairs and its response to global crises, she said.
She gave the examples of the two recent crises, the Covid pandemic where India provided more than 40 million vaccine doses to countries around the world, and the food shortages caused by the Ukraine war, where India has sent food grains to not only neighbours but also to countries in Africa and the Middle East.
She reiterated India’s demand, which also has broad support, for negotiations based on a text that move the discussion forward.
Leaders of 73 countries at the high-level meeting of the General Assembly in September made resounding calls for Council reforms, she said.
“This is not a serendipitous coincidence but a reflection of the thinking of the wider membership”, she said.
“Clearly the multi-dimensional crises facing the world today demand a representative multilateral architecture that is reflective of contemporary global realities and is well equipped to meet emerging challenges”.
The other Signature Event would try to build on the work of the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee meeting in India and its declaration to achieve a global consensus on fighting terrorism, especially the use of new technologies by terrorists, she said.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at @arulouis)