UNITED NATIONS: A country of the size of India with its independent foreign policy has been a welcome entrant into the UN Security Council, providing "much-needed" balance vis-a-vis the powerful UN body's five permanent members and their inter-se fissures, New Delhi's envoy to the UN said ahead of its Presidency of the Council in August.
India will assume the rotating Presidency of the UN Security Council on August 1, the country's first Presidency during its 2021-22 tenure as a non-permanent member of the 15-nation UN body.
India will again preside over the Council in December next year, the last month of its two-year tenure.
"We are in the Security Council at a very significant juncture where we are not only grappling with the unprecedented COVID pandemic, but also dealing with fissures, both in the Security Council and outside, which need to be bridged through greater collective action rather than individual initiatives," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said.
In response to a question on how India will work to bridge differences and divisions among UNSC members as Council President at a time when the UN body has been found to be divided on several issues, Tirumurti said India has not hesitated in taking a "principled position" on a wide variety of issues over the last seven months of its tenure in the Security Council.
"We have also been unafraid of shouldering responsibilities," Tirumurti said.
"To begin with, a country of the size of India with its independent foreign policy has been a welcome entrant into the Council. It has provided the much-needed balance vis-a-vis the P-5 (the five permanent members of the Council) and their inter-se fissures," he said.
He was referring to the veto-wielding permanent members -- China, France, Russia, the UK and the US.
He said India has been "the bridge to ensure that polarisation of the Council doesn't affect its ability to take a well-considered view".
Tirumurti cited the example of issues in India's neighbourhood relating to, inter alia, Myanmar and Afghanistan, "where, time and again, we have stepped in to ensure that Council discussions and outcomes are focussed, forward-looking and sensitive to the situation on the ground".
India is Chair of the Taliban Sanctions Committee and continues to play an important role.
India is also chairing the Libya Sanctions Committee at a critical juncture in their country, he said.
In the case of Africa, India has always been sensitive to African priorities and the needs of the African countries, he said adding that this is in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ten guiding principles on Africa.
"We are convinced that African countries under sanctions need to be assisted to come out of it rather than be burdened with unrealistic benchmarks and expectations from the Permanent Members," Tirumurti said, emphasising that this is why India had abstained on the UNSC resolution on South Sudan.
In late May, the Council renewed the arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze imposed on South Sudan for another year till May 31, 2022.
The Council also extended the mandate of the panel of experts tasked with helping to oversee those measures for 13 months.
India and Kenya had abstained on the resolution while the other 13 UNSC members voted in favour.
Tirumurti said similarly, in the Middle East, India has leveraged its strong and historical links to convey its views on Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq.
He underlined that developing countries, particularly small states in Africa, have been disproportionately affected in the recent past and terrorism has only increased and not decreased during this period.
The Security Council itself has come under criticism for not playing its role, mainly because of differences among the P-5, he said.
"Consequently, we have been a voice for greater engagement among various member states in the Security Council, a bridge between differing views and coherent and compelling voice for the developing world at a time when they are facing conflict and COVID-19," he said.
"India, during last 7 months, has been a strong voice, inter alia, for combating terrorism, strengthening peacekeeping and furthering peace processes," Tirumurti said.