India reaffirms commitment to 'reformed multilateralism' after winning UNSC seat

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India reiterated Wednesday that forging “a new orientation for reformed multilateral system” will be its “overarching” mission for its eighth term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council to which it was elected easily with 184 of the 192 votes polled. It begins the new two-year term on January 1.

India has sought reforms in multilateral systems ranging from the UN Security Council to the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization and others arguing for more inclusive leadership to make them represent better changed global realities from the time of their founding.

“We have received overwhelming support and we deeply humbled by the tremendous confidence that the member states of the United Nations have reposed in India,” T S Tirumurti, the Indian permanent representative to the UN, said in a video-recorded message shortly after the election results were clear.

“India will become a member of the United Nations Security Council at a critical juncture and we are confident that in the Covid- and the post-Covid world India will continue to provide leadership and a new orientation for a reformed multilateral system,” he added.

In a separate statement issued in New Delhi hours after, the ministry of external affairs described the commitment to a reformed multilateral system, which reflects India’s long-running ambition and demand for a permanent seat on the council, which has been described by India and countries with shared objectives, as a body completely out of sync with changes global realities

“India will be guided by the five priorities under the overarching theme of NORMS: New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.,” the ministry said in the statement, adding they would include “new opportunities for progress, effective response to international terrorism, reforming multilateral systems, comprehensive approach to international peace and security, and technology with a human touch”.

It described Covid-19-related circumstances in which the election took place as the most “pressing crises this generation has faced”, and said it “made us rethink how we can use multilateralism and international cooperation to make this a better world a better place”.

“The current crisis offers India a window of opportunity to make critical contribution to the Security Council’s work, guided by Prime Minister Modi’s vision for reformed multilateralism,” it added.

India was the endorsed candidate of the Asia-Pacific Group of UN member countries and faced no competition. The others who went through were Mexico, which was also a endorsed candidate from its Latin American and Caribbean Group and Ireland and Norway from the Western European and Other Group. Neither Kenya nor Djibouti garnered enough votes to win the African Group seat, which is expected to be settled by another round of voting Thursday.

Asked which were the eight countries that did not vote for India, a diplomat closely associated with India’s campaign for the seat said dismissively, “It doesn’t matter”.

The voting took place in a phased manner for the first time in the world body’s 75-year history. Member countries were allowed on to the floor of the general assembly, where the voting takes place, in smaller groups or 20 or so because of the social distancing norms in place because of Covid-19. New York city, where the UN is headquartered, was, and remains, the epicenter of the US coronavirus epidemic and has only recently started lifting restrictions on businesses and public life.

UN diplomats were not certain how many of the member countries who can vote — some like Venezuela are barred for non-payment of membership dues — will actually show up to cast their ballots, which must be done physically and not virtually or remotely through an electronic button. They needn’t have worried — 192 countries showed up..

Candidate countries such as India had needed two-thirds of the votes cast to win; no-shows will not count as yes, no or abstention, said officials familiar with the rules. India won 187 votes in 2010, and started its seventh term on January 1, 2011. Its previous terms were 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985 and 1991-1992.

The Security Council has 15 members. Five of them are permanent members — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China — and 10 are non-permanent. Half the non-permanent members are elected every year, each for a two-year term, starting January 1.

India expects to use its eighth term to further build its case for a permanent seat in a reformed Security Council, something that it has been pushing for years now along with other claimants such as Japan, Germany and Brazil — the G-4 — calling the current council outdated and out of sync with the changed global realities.

“Reformed Multilateralism to reflect contemporary realities” will be one of India’s priorities, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said June 5, as he released a brief document laying out India’s priorities and approaches as it sought another term on the Security Council.

Responsible and inclusive solutions and “concrete and result-oriented action at the Security Council for an effective response to international terrorism”, a “comprehensive approach” to peace and security, the key responsibilities of the body and technology with a human touch, were the other four.

India will pursue these priorities through a Five-S approach, according to the “priorities paper”: Samman (respect), Samvad (dialogue), Sahyog (cooperation) and Shanti (peace); to create Samriddhi (Prosperity).

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