THE DIPLO­MATIC DANCE FOR THE HORSE­SHOE TA­BLE

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - SUNDAYCOMM­ENT - MANJEEV SINGH PURI Manjeev S Puri is a for­mer am­bas­sador and for­mer deputy per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive of In­dia to the United Na­tions The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

In­dia will serve a two-year term on the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (UNSC) from Jan­uary 2021. This will be the na­tion’s eighth time at UNSC.

Other than the Per­ma­nent 5 (P-5), UNSC has 10 elected mem­bers, five from Asia and Africa, two each from Latin Amer­ica and West­ern Europe & Oth­ers (WEOG) and one from East Europe. Five of these elected mem­bers re­tire ev­ery year.

There are five re­gional groups at UNSC, rep­re­sent­ing Asia, Africa, Latin Amer­ica and in a hark-back to the Cold War, Eastern Europe, apart from WEOG that in­cludes the United States (US), Canada, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Is­rael.

Most re­gional groups, other than WEOG, usu­ally en­dorse their can­di­dates ahead of the elec­tion. This time, we were the can­di­date for the Asian seat and ob­tained 182 out of 193 votes in the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly. From WEOG, Nor­way and Ire­land knocked out Canada for the group’s two seats.

While the elec­tion is hotly con­tested, the elec­tion process is fas­ci­nat­ing. The bal­lot is a blank sheet. You are sup­posed to know who is run­ning, and write in the name of the coun­try of your choice on the bal­lot. Of course, you can vote for your own coun­try.

In­dia last served on the UNSC dur­ing 2011-12. The team was led by am­bas­sador Hardeep Singh Puri, now min­is­ter in the Narendra Modi gov­ern­ment (full dis­clo­sure: He is also a cousin). I was his deputy. Then, too, we were the only can­di­date from Asia and ob­tained a record 187 votes from 192 mem­bers. We had pre­vi­ously been on UNSC in 1991-1992 and were seek­ing to re­turn af­ter a gap of 19 years and a bruis­ing de­feat at the hands of Ja­pan in 1996. In­dia’s ef­fort was to mar­shal the max­i­mum num­ber of votes.

The widely pub­li­cised story af­ter the elec­tion was of the Pak­istani am­bas­sador, Ab­dul­lah Hus­sain Ha­roon, hav­ing shown around his bal­lot ap­par­ently marked in favour of In­dia. There were oth­ers who took pho­tos on their phones and showed them to us, sig­nalling their sup­port.

We missed five votes. Ob­vi­ously, some were po­lit­i­cal. But strange things also hap­pen. One African coun­try re­ceived a vote on the Asian slate. Un­be­liev­able, but the Am­bas­sador wrote his own coun­try’s name on the bal­lot, think­ing that he had signed his sup­port for In­dia. Then, too, Canada was bested in the WEOG by Por­tu­gal and a late-en­trant Ger­many.

A diplo­mat from a small coun­try told me that while he was await­ing in­struc­tion on his two votes, he was sure one would be Ger­many; af­ter all, his pres­i­dent rode in a Mercedes.

Elected mem­bers head Se­cu­rity Coun­cil com­mit­tees. The P-5 re­fer to these as “good­ies”. For us, ob­tain­ing the Chair of the Counter Ter­ror­ism Com­mit­tee (CTC) was im­por­tant. Strangely, the Bri­tish op­posed this say­ing that we were in­vested in the mat­ter. But, play­ing the diplo­matic game in New York, Delhi and Lon­don, In­dia pre­vailed. Dur­ing In­dia’s chair­man­ship, we es­tab­lished the con­cept of “zero tol­er­ance” for ter­ror­ism. Counter-ter­ror­ism will rightly be a fo­cus for In­dia dur­ing our forth­com­ing term on UNSC.

With mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism un­der pres­sure, par­tic­u­larly as a re­sult of Covid19, UNSC, too, has its chal­lenge set. In­dia’s term on UNSC will also co­in­cide with In­dia host­ing Brics (Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China and South Africa) and G-20 sum­mits. In­dia should use the op­por­tu­nity to push its case on Se­cu­rity Coun­cil re­form to open up the horse­shoe ta­ble that seats the UNSC.

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