No one can deny the logic of In­dia’s Se­cu­rity Coun­cil can­di­dacy

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view, United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral AN­TO­NIO GUTER­RES, who was on a visit to In­dia, spoke can­didly to Group Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor RAJ CHENGAPPA on a range of is­sues con­cern­ing In­dia and the world. Ex­cerpts:

India Today - - INTERVIEW -

Q.Let me be­gin on a neg­a­tive note. In­dia’s for­eign min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj re­cently said at the UN Gen­eral assem­bly that the UN is go­ing the way of the League of Na­tions—it is be­com­ing de­funct. What are you do­ing to make the UN more rel­e­vant? A. I wouldn’t say it is de­funct but it is clear that we face a huge chal­lenge. We live in a mo­ment in which prob­lems are global, but at the same time we need mul­ti­lat­eral so­lu­tions and in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion. To­day, we see coun­tries, we see pub­lic opin­ions, we see peo­ple think­ing it is bet­ter to do it alone, that it is bet­ter to have con­fronta­tion than co­op­er­a­tion. Ob­vi­ously, this rep­re­sents a huge chal­lenge for the United Na­tions. The UN has to re­form it­self. The need now is to be more ef­fec­tive, more able to re­spond to the needs and as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple of the world. There are re­forms that I am try­ing to do in the peace and se­cu­rity sec­tor to make the UN more linked to preven­tion, con­flict res­o­lu­tion and peace-build­ing. This is es­pe­cially for coun­tries that have come out of con­flict, to en­able them to sus­tain the peace. We are also look­ing at re­form at the var­i­ous bod­ies of the UN, and the cen­tral as­pect of that is re­form­ing the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Q. In­dia has been seek­ing a per­ma­nent mem­ber­ship in the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. It has been over a decade now and yet lit­tle has moved for­ward. What is block­ing it?

A. The Se­cu­rity Coun­cil we have to­day rep­re­sents the geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion that pre­vailed at the end of the World War II. The world has changed dra­mat­i­cally since then. The Coun­cil to­day doesn’t cor­re­spond to the re­al­i­ties of the world and is un­able to ad­dress the chal­lenges. It is clear that one as­pect of re­forms would be to in­crease the num­ber of per­ma­nent mem­bers. No­body can deny the logic of In­dia’s can­di­dacy. You have a pop­u­la­tion of 1.3 bil­lion, you are be­com­ing a global eco­nomic pow­er­house, you have one of the largest con­tin­gents of peace­keep­ers pro­tect­ing civil­ians in dif­fer­ent parts of the world, and you are deeply en­gaged in all the cen­tral ac­tiv­i­ties of the UN in­clud­ing cli­mate change is­sues. More­over, you are a vi­brant democ­racy. So there is no rea­son for peo­ple to say that In­dia does not be­long. The prob­lem is, for a change in the struc­ture and com­po­si­tion of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil we need five pos­i­tive votes from the five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the coun­cil. Till now, the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing this change has been blocked.

Q. Are you hope­ful it will hap­pen?

A. I think that peo­ple will un­der­stand at a cer­tain mo­ment the di­vorce be­tween the re­al­ity and the

struc­ture. The frus­tra­tion of so many peo­ple around the world will lead to change.

Q. One of In­dia’s main con­cerns is ter­ror­ism and Pak­istan is seen by many as an epi­cen­tre for ter­ror­ists and ter­ror at­tacks. Yet, the UN has done noth­ing to dis­suade the coun­try from do­ing this.

A. First of all, we have cre­ated a counter-ter­ror­ism of­fice and im­proved co­op­er­a­tion with coun­tries in re­la­tion to sup­port on anti-ter­ror­ist re­sponses. We have also de­vel­oped a very im­por­tant pro­gramme to fight vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism and rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, and this ap­plies to all coun­tries in the world. We are not sin­gling out just one coun­try or an­other. We are mak­ing it very clear to all coun­tries that noth­ing jus­ti­fies ter­ror­ism. There are no po­lit­i­cal rea­sons that jus­tify it, there is no cause, no grievance that jus­ti­fies it. And we will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to make sure that all coun­tries of the world un­der­stand that.

Q. Has the UN taken any spe­cific ac­tion on Pak­istan re­cently?

A. We have been in talks with Pak­istan as well as with many other coun­tries and we think it es­sen­tial to

cre­ate con­di­tions for di­a­logue with these coun­tries to make sure they un­der­stand that ter­ror­ism is some­thing that should be erad­i­cated.

Q. In­dia’s con­cern is that Hafiz Saeed, a UN-des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist, con­tin­ues to roam free in Pak­istan. And re­cently, China blocked a UN move to la­bel Ma­sood Azhar, the Jaish chief, as a ter­ror­ist. For us, it only shows how in­ef­fec­tive the UN has been in its deal­ings. A. The fact that we de­clare an or­gan­i­sa­tion ter­ror­ist does not mean that mem­ber states will take all mea­sures re­quired to im­ple­ment the or­der. One of the prob­lems with the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is that there are ve­toes and they do not al­low us to do what might be jus­ti­fied from the point of view of sanc­tions.

Q. In­dia has pro­posed a Com­pre­hen­sive Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Ter­ror­ism since as far back as 1996. It is 2018 now, 22 years later there has been ab­so­lutely no progress on this. Why is the United Na­tions stum­bling on this? A. The fact that there is no con­ven­tion doesn’t mean there are no le­gal in­stru­ments to fight ter­ror­ism.

There are many par­tial as­pects that have been cov­ered which al­lows the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to fight ter­ror. But it is also true that we have no com­pre­hen­sive con­ven­tion against ter­ror­ism. It is a stum­bling block. The prob­lem is there is no con­sen­sus among mem­ber states on a def­i­ni­tion of ter­ror­ism. With­out a con­sen­sus, it is very dif­fi­cult to move a con­ven­tion in re­la­tion to ter­ror­ism. But I will not give up. This is an area that re­mains a pri­or­ity for me. I will do ev­ery­thing I can to sup­port the process.

Q. Do you have a peace plan for the Kash­mir is­sue? A. The good of­fices of the sec­re­tary-gen­eral is the only thing I have. I have no hard power, I just have soft power and, in some cir­cum­stances, very soft power. For the good of­fices to be ex­er­cised, we need an agree­ment among all par­ties in­volved. If that agree­ment is not there, we can only ap­peal for so­lu­tions to be found. The UN is not di­rectly in­volved in the so­lu­tions.

Q. On an­other front, you have said that In­dia could ac­tu­ally play the role of an hon­est bro­ker in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs?

A. In­dia is a coun­try that has no di­rect in­ter­ests in some ar­eas of global con­flict. It has very good re­la­tions with coun­tries in con­flict or coun­tries fac­ing dif­fi­cult se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tions, and I be­lieve In­dian diplo­macy is very well re­ceived. In­dia is a bridge-builder, an hon­est bro­ker and a mes­sen­ger of peace.

Q. On the Ro­hingya refugee is­sue, In­dia has closed the door on them be­cause the govern­ment be­lieves they are a se­cu­rity threat—that they could spawn ter­ror­ism. What is your view of In­dia’s ap­proach?

A. There are tens of thou­sands of Ro­hingya al­ready in In­dia. In­dia can play a very im­por­tant role be­cause it is a friend of Bangladesh and Myan­mar and can cre­ate con­di­tions for the prob­lem to be ef­fec­tively ad­dressed. Myan­mar needs to make mas­sive in­vest­ments in phys­i­cal re­con­struc­tion and also for the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and re­turn of the Ro­hingya. We are of the view that In­dia take in the flee­ing Ro­hingya and not send back the refugees to their coun­try of ori­gin, where they might still face per­se­cu­tion.

Q. What does In­dia do in sit­u­a­tions like the Paris Cli­mate Change Agree­ment, where the US just walks out of it?

A. Firstly, it is clear that the US govern­ment may go out but Amer­i­can so­ci­ety is still in. We see mo­bil­i­sa­tion of ci­ti­zens, busi­nesses, states and, in all prob­a­bil­ity, the US will fully match the com­mit­ments it made in Paris agree­ment be­cause of this. But at the same time, it is also true that glob­ally we see some coun­tries go­ing slow and that we are in risk of los­ing the race. Cli­mate change seems to be run­ning faster than our ef­forts to com­bat it. In­dia, in my opin­ion, has a lead­ing role to play. Cli­mate change could dra­mat­i­cally im­pact In­dia, so it has an in­ter­est in see­ing that it is ef­fec­tively fought. It can be a world leader in this re­gard.

Q. Let me end with a per­sonal ques­tion. Your wife was born in Goa. Has that made a dif­fer­ence in the way you view In­dia?

A. I have spent five hol­i­days in In­dia go­ing all around the coun­try and what I have re­alised is that it is im­pos­si­ble to know In­dia fully. I must say I have a per­sonal love af­fair with In­dia, with its civil­i­sa­tion, its cul­ture. You are not just one of the pil­lars of the world or­der to­day but a pil­lar of uni­ver­sal civil­i­sa­tion. It’s some­thing you can be very proud of.

“We are mak­ing it clear to all coun­tries, in­clud­ing Pak­istan, that noth­ing jus­ti­fies ter­ror­ism. There are no po­lit­i­cal rea­sons that jus­tify it, no cause, no grievance that jus­ti­fies it”

Photograph by BANDEEP SINGH

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