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A Closer Look at India’s Proactive Presidency of United Nations Security Council

India assumed the Presidency of eminent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the first of August amidst the turbulent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Presidency of the UNSC rotates among both permanent and non-permanent members of the UNSC. During this month India heralded several significant measures to advance global peace, cooperation as well as its geopolitical interests. From taking the lead on drafting UNSC’s statement on situation in Afghanistan to adopting first-ever outcome document on maritime security and chairing separate UNSC debate on global threats due to terrorism and peacekeeping.

PM Modi also became the first Indian PM to chair meeting at UNSC.

First Indian PM to Chair UNSC meeting

India has over 7,000 kms of coastline and 70% of India’s trade in value terms is recorded through maritime route. Thus, maritime security is a very important national security priority for India particularly with respect to the Indo-pacific.

It completed the diplomatic equation when  PM Modi chaired UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on “Enhancing Maritime Security: A Case For International Cooperation which was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with US Secretary of State (equivalent to India’s Minister of External Affairs)

Chairing the High-level open debate, PM Narendra Modi proposed five principles to ensure global maritime security including:

1.     Removing barriers from legitimate maritime trade
2.     Encouraging responsible maritime connectivity
3.     Settling maritime disputes through peaceful means and on the basis of international law
4.     Jointly facing natural disasters and maritime threats created by non-state actors
5.     Preserving the maritime environment and resources

PM Modi highlighted steps taken by India in this context, including creating the maritime information fusion centre, responding to maritime disasters in the region, and settling the maritime boundary with Bangladesh, and said such measures help build cooperation and trust.

After the debate, UNSC also adopted a presidential statement on maritime security which is the first-ever outcome document by the UNSC on the issue of maritime security marking a major milestone for India.

As reported in economic times, India’s negotiators deserved credit to be able to find language acceptable to all, without dropping a reference to UNCLOS and reaffirmed India’s bridging role in the UNSC.

A total of four heads of Government or State (two Presidents and two PMs, including India), and 10 Ministers including (seven Foreign Ministers) participated at the Indian initiative in UNSC. Such a distinguished lineup has not been seen in previous presidency events earlier this year.

The key elements of the Presidential Statement (PRST) that were adopted include the primacy of international law – UNCLOS is the legal framework applicable to activities in the oceans, including countering illicit activities at sea. It encourages cooperation between countries, international organizations and bodies, regional organizations and established international legal instruments.

The statement promotes safe and secure shipping while ensuring freedom of navigation in accordance with applicable international laws. It points to drugs and human trafficking through the maritime route and lays thrust on enhanced cooperation to protect critical infrastructure, including cross-border infrastructure.

Comprehensive Resolution on Afghanistan

India had been constantly monitoring the situation unfolding in Afghanistan as we had shown in our previous article. At the UNSC too as its President, India took the lead here too with UNSC adopting three press statements on Afghanistan on 2nd, 16th, and 27th August.

Yesterday, UNSC resolution 2593 was approved by UNSC with 13 members voting in favour and Russia and China alone abstaining.

 

As Livemint  reported,  India played an “active role” in ensuring the passage of Resolution 2593. It “demands that Afghan territory not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter, train terrorists or plan or finance terrorist acts. It specifically mentions individuals and entities designated pursuant to UNSC Resolution 1267, i.e., Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), etc.

Resolution 2593 also holds the Taliban responsible for its statement of 27 August in which the Taliban committed that Afghans will be able to travel abroad and expects that the Taliban will adhere to these and all other commitments, including regarding the safe, secure, and orderly departure from Afghanistan of Afghans and all foreign nationals.”

Foreign Secretary Shringla also said that the resolution recognizes the importance of upholding human rights, especially of Afghan women, children and minorities as well as to inclusive negotiated settlement and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

EAM Jaishankar Chairs Two Key Sessions

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar presided over two high-level signature events on August 18 and 19. The first event on August 18, 2021 was an Open Debate on ‘Protecting the Protectors: Technology and Peacekeeping’ while the second event on August 19, 2021 was a high-level Briefing on ‘Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts’, both of which are high priority for India.

As reported by Economic Times, India  exchanged an MoU with the UN in support of the ‘Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping’ initiative and to UN C4ISR Academy. India’s Permanent Representative to UN Tirumurti highlighted the several “historic firsts” that India achieved through this event as well with India drafted a resolution on peacekeeping focused on ensuring accountability for crimes against peacekeepers.

The resolution was sponsored by 80 member states, including all 15 members of the Security Council which is not often seen in the Security Council.  Also, for the first time, the Security Council held an Open Debate focused exclusively on how technology can aid in peacekeeping and for the first time, the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement on the topic of technology and peacekeeping.

Following the August 19 Ministerial level briefing on ISIL/Da’esh, the Council unanimously issued a press statement that reiterated that they condemn in the strongest terms all instances of terrorism and noted with concern that ISIL (Da’esh) could regain the ability to launch or orchestrate international terrorist attacks. “The members of the Security Council also came together to agree on a press statement which sent out a key message that, as far as terrorism is concerned, the Security Council is united. There was also a clear reference to the regional affiliates of ISIL, including ISIL – Khorasan,” Ambassador Tirumurti said.

In the press statement, the Council members had deplored the continuous attacks on civilians, towns and military camps by ISIL’s regional affiliates such as IS in West Africa Province (ISWAP), IS in Greater Sahara (ISGS), and ISIL in Central Africa, and expressed concern over the presence of, and threat from ISIL-Khorasan.

India advanced each one of its security priorities at the UNSC during its presidency including on maritime security, terrorism, peacekeeping forces and Afghanistan.

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